My state, Louisiana, is known for it. Our food. Our celebrations. Our hospitality.
While I acknowledge and enjoy those things, my heart’s desire is for Louisiana in general, and Louisiana Baptists in particular, to be known for a culture where lives are transformed by people who are transformed – by the power of the gospel. I’m calling this a culture of evangelism.
What does this look like? What are some characteristics of a culture of evangelism?
We have a great example of this in the early church as is recorded for us in the Book of Acts. The book’s purpose seems clear. Luke wanted to show the expansion of the Gospel as outlined to the disciples by Jesus in Acts 1:8. The concluding word on this matter is the book’s last verse. Paul was “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered,” (Acts 28:31). Though Paul was under house arrest, God’s purpose was being carried out in that the Gospel was going to the ends of the earth.
As I identify principles of this evangelistic culture in the early church, this much is clear . . .
Every person is an evangelist.
Someone is going to protest, “Not me.” Let’s follow the text. Acts 8:1 says that “all except the apostles were scattered.” Let’s skip down to verse 4 which reads: “So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word.” So, who was scattered? All, except the apostles. Who preached? All who were scattered. If anything, this text teaches us that the first evangelists were not the professionals.
In this scattering of the church, we are introduced to Philip. Philip is the same as Philip the Deacon in Acts 6. The highlight of Acts 8 is Philip’s witness to a sorcerer named Simon and an Ethiopian official. We don’t hear about Philip again until Acts 21:8, where we see him as Philip the Evangelist. Philip the Deacon (Acts 6) becomes Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21)!
The example of Philip in chapter 8 illustrates the principle of personal witness. There is no real substitute for the advancement of the Gospel outside of one-on-one witnessing. Before I became the pastor of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia in 1999, the Pastor Search Committee sent me a preliminary questionnaire of about eight questions. One of those questions was, “How many people have you shared the Gospel with in the past year?” I was not offended by the question. In fact, I would say this question created a great deal of interest for me in the position. I was excited that a church would have this question as a primary standard-bearer.
When I became the Executive Director for Louisiana Baptists, one of the search committee members asked me during the in-person interview, “Tell us about the last two times you shared the Gospel with an individual.” The great evangelist, Billy Graham, was asked if he had to live his life over, what would he do different? He answered, “Teach more people to share the Gospel.” Billy Graham recognized that even with all the people that had been saved through his preaching, more could have been saved through one-on-one witnessing.
There is more to having a culture of evangelism, but don’t miss the point that this culture starts with every Christian being a witness.
So, as the popular evangelistic emphasis in SBC asks, “Who’s your one?”
This article originally appeared at the LBC blog