a Contagious Christian
Discovering your Style : The Preacher
This weeks storms have aroused much speculation about global warming. Are we are in for warmer or cooler weather in Britain? The jury is out on that one because it could actually go either way..... (show Times map of North Atlantic Drift). We worry about the effect of ozone depletion and rising temperatures but I'd like to suggest the fluctuations in our weather system could be caused by much smaller factors... The Butterfly Effect illustration. Last week David helped us consider the intellectual style of evangelism and the example of Paul.
Six Evangelistic Styles in the New Testament
Paul's Intellectual Approach (Acts 18)
Peter's Confrontational Approach (Acts 2)
The Blind Man's Testimonial Approach (John 9)
Matthew's Interpersonal Approach (Luke 5)
The Samaritan's Invitational Approach (John 4)
Dorcas's Servant Approach (Acts 9)
Tonight as we learn more about another style of evangelism - the confrontational preacher and the example of Peter. I know you may be thinking to yourself "well at least that one isn't for me". So just remember the butterfly effect and do not underestimate the power of God at work through you and I.
One short evangelistic conversation with a friend in the Cafe Blu tomorrow might lead to a revival in China next week, all because of a series of innocuous conversations which were actually divine encounters. Never underestimate the power of God at work in and through you. God has custom designed you with your unique combination of personality, temperament, talents, and background, and He wants to harness and use these in His mission to reach this messed-up and confused world.
So what is your image of a preacher? The stereotypical evangelist is an animated, extroverted, finger pointing, Bible pounding preacher spewing out hellfire and brimstone sermons. Not an attractive picture. According to one national survey in America, respondents were asked to rank various professions for their honesty and integrity. TV evangelists came out almost at the very bottom, below lawyers, politicians, car salesmen, and even prostitutes. Out of 73 occupations compared in this integrity rating, only two ended up lower on the scale: organized crime bosses and drug dealers. But lets be more charitable and think of the impact of some of the godly preachers God has raised up. Preachers like Charles Wesley and George Whitfield, D.L . Moody, Billy Graham and Luis Palau. I know it may be hard to imagine that God might be calling you and I to this particular style of evangelism. But he is calling some of you. Indeed I am convinced he wants us all to be preachers in some way. For the Bible itself is God preaching. When we read or quote from the Bible and share God's word with seekers we are allowing God to preach through us. Remember the butterfly effect and don't underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. His work in and through you could be just as powerful as the greatest evangelists who have sparked off hurricanes and winds of revival.
Lets look and see what we can learn from the example Peter. Its no secret that Peter was a "Ready-Fire-Aim" kind of guy. What ever he did, he never hesitated, but gave everything with full force. When Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:15 who they thought he was, Peter didn't mince words. He declared flat out that Jesus was the Messiah. Then a few verses later he challenged Jesus' stated mission head on. Can you imagine trying to correct the Son of God? You might if you have a confrontational style like Peter. On another occasion when Peter wanted to be with Jesus, he didn't hesitate to do what ever it took to get close to Him, even if it meant trying to walk on water. And when their enemies came to take Jesus away, Peter was there ready to cut off their heads. All Peter needed was to be convinced he was right, and there was no stopping him. He was direct. He was bold. He went straight to the point. He went for the jugular. Is it any wonder that God chose him as his spokesman on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2? It was a perfect fit. God needed someone unafraid to take a stand, right there in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus had been crucified a few weeks earlier. He wanted top let the thousands of people who were there know in no uncertain terms that they had crucified the Messiah, and that they needed to call upon him for his mercy and forgiveness. Peter's personality was custom-designed to fill the bill.
1. He Corrects their Misunderstanding about Christianity (2:14-15)
Peter could not stay silent when he saw people mock and ridicule the Christian faith. He is sober and serious. 'Listen carefully to what I say' (2:14) Effective preachers correct people's misunderstandings.
2. He Convinces
them of the Facts about Jesus (2:22-36)
Read 2:22, 29, 36. Notice the words Peter uses. 'Accredited' (2:22) 'confidently' 2:29) 'be assured' (2:36). Peter is familiar with the historical facts concerning Jesus and can quote from them with conviction.He told them like it is. Effective preachers correct people's misunderstandings. Effective preachers focus on Jesus.
3. He Confirms these Truths from God's Word (2:17-21, 25-28, 34)
Half of Peter's sermon is made up of quotes from the Old Testament. He relates the contemporary events to the eternal word of God. This is that. This is what God said would happen. Even though Peter was a fisherman who probably left school at 12-13, he knew the Bible. He may not have had an academic education but he had memorised the important passages of Scripture. He pointed people to the Bible. Why has God used Billy Graham so mightily? What is the most frequent sentence Billy Graham says? 'The Bible says...' Effective preachers correct people's misunderstandings. Effective preachers focus on Jesus. Effective preachers quote the word of God.
4. He Confronts them with their Sin and Need of Forgiveness (2:36-41)
Read 2:36, 40 'whom you crucified..' With many other words... He 'warned' them, he 'pleaded' with them. He warned them to turn away from sin. He pleaded with them to come back to God. Peter applies the Word of God to their situation and makes it personal. Very personal. He holds them accountable for their sin. He calls for a response. Read 2:38-39. Peter preached for a decision. And God miraculously used his preaching. Three thousand people trusted Christ and were baptised that same day. Effective preachers correct people's misunderstandings. Effective preachers focus on Jesus. Effective preachers quote the word of God. Effective preachers will confront people with their sin and need of a Saviour.
There are many people in our world too who won't come to Christ until someone like Peter confronts them with the truth. Some people are just waiting for a contagious Christian who won't beat about the bush, who will clarify the truth of Christ and challenge them to do something about it, today, now. With training could that be you? Do you resonate with Peter's approach?
Last night Wentworth opened its grounds to the community for their annual fireworks display. It was impressive. There were thousands of people there. Adults and children. Seeing all those people together gave me a thrill. It was probably the largest gathering of people from around Virginia Water for the entire year. After the fireworks were over and people were milling around they looked like lost sheep without a shepherd. I began to imagine what it would have been like if we had got out our PA system, set up some spot lights, put up some staging. Jane and the music group could have played some songs, the cool kids choir could have sung their hearts out and then I would have got up to speak. And introduced you as our guest preacher. How about next year? What do you think? True, some of those listening will scoff at you. Others will not even bother to listen, but there will be some who will listen, and if you give them an invitation to trust in Christ, there will be some who will repent and believe - there and then on the driving range of Wentworth. I believe it could happen. How about it? See me afterwards if you are interested - we can give it a go at Carnival Capers.
Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, ''No thank you, Stephen, that is very definitely not my gift. I'll remember to avoid you at next years bonfire. All you have done is convinced me I was right - I could never be like Peter.' Then let me show you another way in which you can preach the love of God to every person in Virginia Water. Not just once a year at the Wentworth bonfire. Write me a page about yourself for Connections magazine. You don't have to stand up in front of thousands of people to preach to thousands of people. You can do it in their own homes through the magazine. Peter used 623 words in his sermon.
Can you write me 600 words on what Jesus means to you? In this month's Connections Andrew Wells shares his story. If you know Andrew you will appreciate he is a quiet chap, doesn't like to attract attention. Didn't even want his photo taken for the article. But he said 'yes' to God. He became a Christian last January and has found a way to tell others about Jesus. He hasn't had to change his personality or try and become the person he was not meant to be. What do you say? 'Sorry Stephen I cannot write for toffee.' Then let me ask you - can you read? Good - then you can still be a preacher. Let me show you how... (share KGP booklet)
As I said earlier, God has custom designed you with your
unique combination of personality, temperament, talents, and background, and
He wants to harness and use these in His mission to reach this messed-up and
confused world. God has built diversity into the fabric of His Church. Until
we discover our particular style and our place in the body, we will find ourselves
either paralyzed by guilt or needlessly imitating each others efforts, wastefully
duplicating some approaches while harmfully squelching others. You may have
a confrontational preaching style like Peter. You may not. You can be a preacher
through Connections and a hundred other ways. All we lack is the imagination.
If you want to know more then beg steal or borrow this book, 'Setting hearts on Fire' Its by one of the greatest preachers in the world today - John Chapman - known to his friends as 'Chappo'. It will tell you everything you need to know about giving evangelistic talks. Ask God to guide you to know how, when and where to direct your words and challenges. Ask Him to give you the wisdom you'll need to do it with both grace and truth. And don't ever forget the butterfly effect. Lets pray.
I am grateful
to Bill Hybels and 'Becoming a Contagious Christian' for material used in this