Tag Archives: evangelism

The Parable of the Sower and Evangelism — Donnie Vick

The Parable of the Sower stands as the quintessential parable of our Lord. It has been recorded in each of the first three Gospel accounts (Mt. 13:3-9; Mk. 4:2-9; Lk. 8:4-8). It is one of only two parables for which the Lord provided an interpretation. The other is the Parable of the Tares. The Parable of the Sower, which is sometimes called the Parable of the Soils, was given an interpretation to serve as a guide to understanding the other parables; Jesus said, “Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables?” (Mk. 4:13).

While the primary force of this parable is to emphasize that the results of preaching the Gospel depend upon the hearts of the hearers, lessons abound in this rich passage. We want to examine ten of these lessons, especially as they pertain to personal evangelism. Let us begin with examining the responsibilities of the evangelist and the hearer.

As the sower sowed, the evangelist is responsible for sowing the Word (2 Ti. 4:2), and as the ground received the seed, the hearer is to receive the Word (Ac. 2:41). The evangelist is not responsible for the results. It is God who provides the increase (1 Co. 3:6). If we preach the Truth clearly, then we do our part. If none visibly respond to the Lord’s invitation or a personal Bible study ends without a baptism, that does not mean we have failed. God’s Truth has been declared, and that is all God requires of us. There is always a response when the Gospel is preached, and God’s preaching never returns void, accomplishing exactly what God pleases (Is. 55:11).

Additionally, the hearer has a responsibility to obey the Truth. Jesus often refrained as He did at the end of the Sower, “Who hath an ears to hear, let him hear” (Mt. 13:9). In other words, if one has the capacity to understand and obey the Gospel, he has a responsibility to submit to the Gospel. The evangelist is not obligated for the hearer’s obligation to obey but only to speak and encourage the obedience of the Truth.

Second, we see that the sower went out to sow (Mt. 13:3). The evangelist must go (Mk. 16:15). If he never went out to sow, he would not be much of a sower. Likewise, an evangelist is not an evangelist, a good-news teller, if he does not go and evangelize. A farmer cannot produce a crop staying inside the comforts of home; he must get out in the elements. Likewise, we cannot convert the world from our couch or behind our computers.

Third, the sower sowed the Word (Mk. 4:14). Luke called it the “word of God” (Lk. 8:11), while Matthew “the word of the kingdom” (Mt. 13:19). God requires that we plant His Word into the hearts and minds of the lost. Only the Gospel is God’s power to salvation (Ro. 1:16). Only the Gospel can answer the world’s greatest problem, sin. Only the Gospel can produce the kingdom of God, the Lord’s church. Therefore, let us dispense with testimonials and storytelling, and preach the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.

Fourth, the sower is broadcasting seed. There are different ways to broadcast seed. You could use a large spreader, an handheld spreader, or your own hands. In the same way, there are different ways to broadcast the Word of God, such as radio and TV programs, weekly worship services, tracts, and newsletters sent to the community. The public preaching of God’s Word is a tremendous weapon in our arsenal (Ti. 1:3).

We may not think of the weekly sermons and Bible classes as personal evangelism, but they certainly can be if members are actively inviting people to worship with us. Unbelievers visited Corinth’s worship services, and the preaching needed to be understandable, so they could believe (1 Co. 14:16, 23-25). Individuals who visit our worship services, especially more than once, are our best contacts. Hearing the Gospel preached sometimes has a softening effect on the hearer. He may not respond immediately, but he may be ripe for a personal study that will eventually lead to a conversion.

Fifth, we should remember that soil does not always remain the same. Once fertile soil can become wayside. Wayside soil can become fertile. Fertile soil can be covered in thorns. Jeremiah wrote, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Je. 23:29). Hosea also recognized this point when he urged his audience, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground: For it is time to seek the Lord, Till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; Ye have eaten the fruit of lies: Because thou didst trust in thy way, In the multitude of thy mighty men” (Ho. 10:12–13).

Hard hearts can soften, and soft hearts can harden. When we preach to someone and their heart is hardened against the Truth, that is not necessarily the final chapter. They may respond in time. So, we sow seeds, and we may reap sheaves years later. Many of us could name individuals who heard the Gospel, rejected it, and years later obeyed it.

Sixth, the wayside heart failed to grow and produce fruit because Satan snatched the seed away from this heart.  However, Matthew’s account includes an additional detail.  He states that this individual “understandeth it not” (Mt. 13:19).  People do not understand the Gospel for a number of reasons.

Some simply do not want to understand. They have seen enough to understand that obeying the Gospel means they must submit their wills (which may include continuing a wicked lifestyle or desiring to remain in a false religious group) to the will of Christ, and this is totally unacceptable for these individuals. If one is able to engage one like this in a study, this person may try to quibble with the personal evangelist over the significance of baptism or instrumental music. On the other hand, he may just listen quietly to the instruction not asking many questions, while anxiously awaiting the evangelist’s departure or his departure. Both situations can be equally frustrating as they both produce the same results: nothing.

Other accountable persons do not understand the “word of the kingdom” because sadly they cannot understand it. Some have waited too late, being in such a physical condition that prevents their acceptance of the Gospel. This person could be on his deathbed or an individual who has suffered some tragedy that hinders him from obeying. Others have so damaged their minds through drug use that their capacities to comprehend the simple facts and commands of the Gospel is totally lacking. Frankly, their minds have literally been blown-away. Not all drug abusers will be in that situation, but some do irreparable harm to their minds. While all cases of non-conversion are sad, these cases are especially sad. The personal evangelist will find himself thinking, “If only I could have had the opportunity before such and such took place.”

Seventh, others do not understand the Gospel because of the presentation of the Gospel has been unclear. While the personal evangelist is not responsible for the bedrock underneath the soil nor the thorns choking the Gospel nor the birds waiting to snatch the Gospel, he is responsible for presenting the Gospel clearly. Our teaching must be done logically. Sermons must be clear, orderly, and applicable expositions of Scripture and not muddled, disjointed irrelevant opinions. When we our having personal Bible studies, we need a system.

Many methods for teaching the lost have been produced by faithful brethren over the years. Find one that works for you. You may need to find a few. Sometimes a video series works well, but for others working through a worksheet would be better. Fishermen use the lure that is catching fish, and personal evangelists need to use the method that will catch men. Whenever one does not use a method, there is a tendency to go everywhere preaching and arguing the Word with the prospect. This accomplishes very little. Leave questions for after the study. Many times a prospect’s question will be answered as the study progresses.

Eighth, both the stony and thorny ground received the seed, but these could not ultimately handle outside forces. When we have the privilege of assisting someone in his obedience to Christ, we need to be ready to help this new convert deal with the trials and temptations that will come his way. Hopefully, we have helped this individual count the cost prior to his baptism. Afterwards, we cannot leave this babe in Christ to figure things out on his own. Paul wrote that we fulfill the law of Christ when we share one another’s heavy burdens (Ga. 6:2).

While becoming a Christian is not a heavy burden (Mt. 11:28-30), dealing with ongoing consequences from one’s old life and the reaction of friends and family to one’s new life in Christ can be. We need to assist the young Christian by helping them become better acquainted with others in the congregation. Perhaps some in the congregation have dealt with similar issues when they became Christians and can be a source of great encouragement.

Ninth, when we study with an individual, we may see the potential dangers that lie ahead if this individual becomes a Christian. We may see the thorns already creeping in to choke the Word. If that is the case, try to help the individual see what obstacles he will need to face. The thorns are the “cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in” (Mk. 4:19). These items may not necessarily be sinful but have been given the wrong emphasis. It may be a work situation, where they have a choice about working overtime during services to make a little extra income. Some get involved in sports leagues and civic clubs that have events during assembly times. These are some of the things that we need to help prospects see so they can continue after their conversions to be fruitful.

Finally, we are looking for the honest and good hearts (Lk. 8:15). My father, Ben Vick, Jr., when teaching on this passage will often point out that before a heart can be made good it must first be honest. It can be difficult at time to know if a person is honest. Unlike Christ, we do not know the thoughts of those with whom we study (Jn. 2:25). However, sometimes in the course of a study their honesty or dishonesty will be made known.  When we learn of someone’s lack of honesty, we should move to more fertile soil.

What valuable lessons pertaining to evangelism can be found in the Parable of the Sower, but let us, as we go forth sowing the Word, not forget the primary lesson, which is that the reception of the Gospel depends upon the heart in which it is sown.  Remembering this lesson will help us do as the honest and good heart does, bringing forth fruit with patience (Lk. 8:15).

heydonnieray@yahoo.com

Donnie preaches for the Edgewood Church of Christ in Greenville, SC.

 

Advertisements

Editorial: “It Is Better To Take Refuge In The Lord Than To Trust In Princes…” (October, 2016) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

At the time of this writing, the 2016 election for president of the United States and other elected governmental offices on the federal, state, and local level will take place in a little over a month.  Much attention has been given to the presidential race over the past fifteen months or so since the first candidates in each party announced their candidacies.  Many in the brotherhood, myself included, follow politics closely, especially in presidential election years, and like to discuss the various candidates and races in person and online via social media and the like.

There was a time when I never thought much, if at all, about any connection between my Christian faith and political views.  However, that changed in 2000 when I became a preacher and, not coincidentally, began to take my Christian walk more seriously.  During that first year of full-time work I read and for the first time personally applied to myself Jesus’ command and promise in Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  I also read for the very first time ever Paul’s charge to Timothy:  “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Ti. 4:12).  These verses became very important to me, and still are.  I was 24 years old, a brand new preacher who had never planned to become one and had received no purposeful formal training.  My personal biblical studies and burgeoning experiences in dealing with brethren and the lost were, along with advice from older, more seasoned preachers and brethren, all I had to guide me.  I knew how easy it would be for people to condescend to me due to my age and inexperience, and so I was determined to do the best I could, however imperfectly that would be, to set the proper example before them in all areas of my life.  The only way I could do that would be to put God and his will as the top priority in every single aspect of my life as best I could.  That is still my goal today, and I still fallibly try to meet it.  It’s a good goal for all Christians to have.

I realized that if I as a Christian first and preacher second were going to “set the believers an example” by “seek(ing) first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” then my politics would have to completely coincide with God’s revealed will.  Otherwise, I would be guilty of choosing to follow Matthew 6:33…except in the voting booth.  Christ’s condemnation of the hypocritical example the Pharisees set before those who sat at their feet (Mt. 23:2-3), at the time newly discovered and studied by me, weighed heavily on my heart and I did not want that same condemnation.  Thus it was that during that 2000 election year I started diligently researching God’s Word for guidance as to what governmental policy positions God would approve of and what kind of leader God would want America or any country to have so I could vote accordingly.

Something God said in the Psalms jumped out at me:  “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (118:9), and again, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (146:3).  This was a stark contrast to how I had looked at politicians previously.  An honest retrospection of how I had viewed my choices for president in the 1990’s and in 2000 made me realize that I had thought them to be the only ones who could not only  save America from its woes, but also make my personal life more abundant and fulfilling.  My political discussions with my brethren that year—and every election year since, especially this one—made it clear that I am far from the only Christian who thinks this way.  If I was going to truly trust Jesus’ promise that he would provide for my needs if I put his will first (Mt. 6:33), then I would need to follow God’s directive to put my trust in him instead of princes and politicians.  Christians, please take this to heart.

David’s inspired words also caught my attention:  “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me:  ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’” (2 Sa. 23:3).  Solomon wrote something similar:  “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (Pr. 16:12).  God wants men who are just, righteous, and who fear him to rule over nations.  My initial reaction to this was to wonder if I could only vote for faithful New Testament Christians since only we by the blood of Christ are completely justified and righteous…until I saw that the Bible also spoke of non-Christians possessing these attributes to a lesser degree (cf. Mt. 13:17; Ac. 10:1-2, 7, 22).  I concluded that I could follow God’s parameters if I supported a candidate who, as best as I could tell, showed by the fruits or evidences of his personal and political life that he was just, righteous, and feared God (cf. Mt. 7:16-18).  Any candidate whose personal life, personality, and policy positions were proven to be unrepentantly ungodly could not receive my support if I was to truly heed Matthew 6:33, 1 Timothy 4:12, Psalms 118:8 and 146:3, 2 Samuel 23:3, and Proverbs 16:12…no matter how much they promised to make my own life and the country better.

As I continued to study, I noted with interest how little the Bible had to say about the pros and cons of various domestic and foreign policy philosophies which held such prominence in what people looked for in candidates.  I couldn’t find guidance on which specific economic, educational, healthcare, or foreign policies God would endorse.  Rather, I found that God would rather his followers live in an impoverished nation which was rich in righteousness instead of a wealthy, unrighteous nation (Pr. 16:8).  I also saw that he was looking for leaders who surrounded themselves with wise counselors whose advice they would be willing to heed (Pr. 25:5; 29:2; cf. 1 Ki. 12:6-15), men and women who were tough on crime and evildoers (Pr. 20:8, 26; Ro. 13:3-4) and who would not oppress the poor while also refusing to enable the lazy (Pr. 28:15; 29:14; 31:9; cf. 2 Th. 3:10).

Thus, I realized that if I was to put God’s righteousness first in the voting booth, a candidate’s positions on promoting what God calls righteous in our nation would have to matter more to me than their domestic, economic, and foreign policies per se.  All my life, the killing of innocents in the womb and the legitimizing of the abomination of homosexuality have been matters of governmental policy.  Both have been promoted and fought to be further legitimized, by various candidates, even though God condemns both (Ps. 139:13-16;  Ro. 9:11-13; Ez. 18:1-20; Pr. 6:16-17; Mt. 19:4; Ro. 1:26-28; 1 Co. 6:9-10).  In addition, I’ve seen candidates excuse away or defend certain crimes and criminals, candidates who themselves have oppressed the poor and needy or have promoted policies which do the same, while also enabling the lazy to continue to avoid honest work.  Keeping Jesus’ and James’ admonitions to heed all of God’s will in mind (Mt. 23:23b; Ja. 2:10-11), I realized that I could not support a candidate unless I could see that they were making an honest effort to promote and defend God’s righteousness in all of these areas and  humbly listen to wise counselors who upheld the same.  This would have to be top priority, more important than any attractive promises about healthcare, education, foreign policy, taxes, and the like.

The last biblical truth I found was that God ultimately decides who will rule America (Da. 2:21; 4:17, 32, 34-35; 1 Ti. 6:15; Re. 1:5; cf. Ro. 13:1ff).  If it is his will that an ungodly person rule our country, he will make that happen and, as Habakkuk also taught me, will do so likely to punish our country in an effort to bring us back to him (Hab. 1:1-11).  Since righteousness exalts a nation and God abhors evil rulers (Pr. 14:34; 16:12), the only reason he would allow an evil ruler is to bring a nation low in order to motivate it to come back to him (cf. He. 12:5-11).

Normally as far as I can tell, there has always been at least one candidate who has come across both personally and in the policies he promotes as just and fearing God.  This year is different.  For the first time in my adult life, it is generally agreed in both religious and secular circles that both major candidates are personally abhorrent by biblical standards, and both promote various ungodly policies.  Both have recently been under investigation for wrongdoing.  Both are well known for personally saying and acting both publicly and privately in ways that are extremely ungodly.  Still, both are loudly supported by those who wear the name of Christ…and the lost in the world are noticing.  Social media and the blogosphere show that many  are turned off to Christianity by what they (correctly) perceive to be our inconsistency.

Many Christians loudly support these ungodly choices because they are understandably scared.  Yet, let’s remember that God wants us to live by faith (Hab. 2:4), to put his righteousness first, even if it seems that doing so will bring harder times, and trust that he will still take care of us.  He doesn’t want us to put our trust in princes, in Trump or Clinton or anyone else.  He just wants us to put our trust in him.

God doesn’t ask our help to put the ungodly into power…but he does want us to bring souls to him.  The Bible doesn’t require us to vote, but we are commanded to let our light shine, set the proper example, bring souls to Jesus, and put his righteousness first.  Lost souls are watching us to see if God’s standards matter outside the church building.  Let’s not give them a reason to think they don’t.  If we choose to vote, let’s trust in God and put his standards first.

— Jon

Evangelism: Reaching Out To God’s Glory — Allen Webster & Matt Wallin

A six-year-old boy restlessly struggled to listen to what seemed like a very lengthy sermon.  After the service, the little boy asked, “Dad, what does the preacher do the rest of the week?”

Dad replied, “Well, he’s a very busy man. He takes care of church business, visits the sick, studies the Bible, teaches Bible studies, and counsels with people. And he has to take some time off to rest up. You see, preaching in public is not an easy job.”

The little boy thought about that for a minute and said, “Well, listening ain’t so easy either!”

Evangelism “ain’t so easy either,” but it is a work God blesses.

The words to the song “Lead Me to Some Soul Today” remind us of the great task we have before us:

Lead me to some soul

today;

O teach me, Lord, just

what to say;

Friends of mine are lost

in sin,

And cannot find their way.

Few there are who seem

to care,

And few there are who

pray;

Melt my heart and fill my

life;

Give me one soul today.

 

Lead Me To Some SOUL Today

Asking the Lord to lead us to some soul indicates that we recognize the value of every single person (Mt. 16:26). Your most valuable asset is not your house, your car, or even your family. Your most priceless possession is your soul. Every person you know, every person you love, every person in your life has a soul. That soul will live beyond this life and will enter into the next one.

Since as Christians we have greater knowledge of the future than those around us, we have greater responsibility to tell them how to prepare. George Sweeting tells of John Currier who in 1949 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Eventually, he was paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee. In 1968, Currier’s sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told of it. Although life on that farm was hard and hopeless, John kept doing what he was told, even after the farmer for whom he worked had died. Ten more years passed. Finally a state parole officer learned about Currier’s plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man.

Would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message — the most important in your life — and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?  As Christians, we know that Jesus died to set all men free (Jn. 8:31-32).  He has put the letter in our hand to deliver it.

LEAD Me To Some Soul Today

The average Christian comes into contact with 1,783 people in a week.  Of those, perhaps, a thousand or more are lost (cf. Mt. 7:13).  How many of those thousand could be saved with the right conversation?  One hundred?  Nine hundred?  One?  The answer is unknown, but even if it is a single soul — and surely the answer could not be zero — the possibility is exciting.

Think of the opportunities that you may have today to find a soul for the Savior.  When Jesus sent the Twelve out on the Limited Commission, He included this admonition, “As ye go, preach” (Mt. 10:5-7).  Instead of setting up scheduled speeches at synagogues or lecture halls, they were to preach as they went along each day.  Their audiences would be anyone they happened to encounter as they moved from street to street, village to village, house to house.

Our daily business takes us to many places and places us in contact with many people.  That is how the “go” command is fulfilled.  There is nothing magical about a movie or a plane ride; but when our eyes are opened to souls, every journey, errand, and encounter is an adventure.

Lead Me To SOME Soul Today

The U.S. Center of World Missions reports that in AD 30, when the church was just getting started, there were 200 million people in the world and only about 5,000 Christians.  That is a ratio of 40,000 to one.

John 4 is a good case study in evangelism:

  • Jesus did not let culture close doors to souls (Jn. 4:4).
  • Jesus overcame fatigue (Jn. 4:6). Most of the great things done in the world are done by tired people.
  • Jesus began by engaging in friendly conversation (4:7).
  • Jesus chose a time when others were not around (4:8).
  • Jesus was not put off by potentially offensive statements (4:9).
  • Jesus offered the woman something more than she had (4:10).
  • Jesus had to gain her trust (4:11-12).
  • Jesus did not ignore sins that potentially could close the door (4:16-18).
  • Jesus emphasized sincerity and truth (4:23-24).
  • Jesus identified the Savior (4:26).
  • Jesus used one contact to lead to many others (4:28-29).
  • Jesus took advantage of a spiritual opportunity at the cost of physical loss (4:31-34).
  • Jesus believed that there are always souls ready for harvest (4:35).
  • Jesus saw joy in the future of both the soul winner and the soul won (4:36).
  • Jesus recognized that some conversations require time and more than one teacher (4:37-38).
  • Jesus rearranged His schedule when souls were at stake (4:39-41).
  • Jesus knew that one person cannot reach all types of people and that a team is more effective (4:42).

Lead ME To Some Soul Today

Why many people don’t evangelize:

  • Ninety percent have failed in attempts in the past.
  • They are biblically illiterate.
  • They leave it to the professionals.
  • They don’t want to impose their faith on others.

There is no soul-winning without people.  Every person saved heard the gospel from someone else.  Somebody was involved.

There is something here for ME to do.  We cannot afford the attitude of “Let someone else do it.”  There is no one else.  We cannot afford to procrastinate.  Sometime is not on the calendar.  Someone is not in the phonebook.  Ultimately, we must decide whether we are going to be involved or not; whether we will touch a soul or not; whether evangelism is important to us or not.

Lead Me To Some Soul TODAY

This song was often used as a campaign song to urge us in our evangelism.  Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (Jn. 9:4).

It is easy to make excuses:

  • In summer we say, “Wait till school starts.”
  • In school we say, “Wait till summer when we have more time.”
  • In summer it’s too hot; in winter it’s too cold.

Raymond Kelcy said, “It is better to wake up five hundred Christians than to convert five hundred sinners, for if five hundred Christians really wake up, they will win more than five hundred sinners.”  It is time for us to “lift up (our) eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”

Lord, lead me to some soul today.

allen@housetohouse.com

Editor’s Note:  While talking to Matt about writing this article, we discussed how much political talk is taking place during this election year.  Matt and Allen work to put together an excellent evangelistic publication, House to House/Heart to Heart.  An upcoming issue will discuss, “If Jesus Were Running For President, Would He Win?”  They want to reach 3.2 million homes with this issue and thereby encourage our communities to look for spiritual strengths in those we elect, and to ultimately allow Jesus to be their Lord.  Only Jesus can provide the answers people look for!  Email them to learn more about this work.          — Jon

 

My Most Memorable Moment As A Missionary — Various

The people of Chuuk Island are a poor people.  Outside of the one “town area,” the road is virtually unusable except with a 4×4. Medical care on the island is meager. The people make do with what they have.  We have seen railroad wheels being used as weights on a weight bench, a turned-on-its-back freezer used as a bathtub, and banana leaves used as eating plates.  One very creative use of resources is sewing rice sacks into purses and backpacks.

Epinupe village is remote.  The best way to get there is to take a boat ride followed by a hike over some jagged rocks. My 12-year-old daughter was privileged to make this trip in the summer of 2015 and quickly made friends with the other girls there her age.  Many of their clothes would be considered sub-standard by most of the world.  Some of the girls needed obvious medical attention, but with a difficult trip to town and medical treatment on the island being what it was, they simply did not go.

We were able to visit that village every day for a week, and friendships were formed between the girls.  When it came time to leave, a rice-sack purse was given to my daughter.  It was what they had to give; it was from the heart; and it was the most beautiful purse my daughter and I had ever seen.  Like Mary when she washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears, these teenage girls did what they could (Mark 14:8).  My daughter continues to keep that purse which reminds her of the friends she has in Epinupe village, Chuuk.

jtntreat@yahoo.com

————————————-

I was on a Bible study in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.  This Bible study was with an individual by the name of Jones. Scott Shanahan, a friend and local missionary, had been teaching Jones.  Jones was always very hospitable and had good questions.  The culture in Pohnpei is very open.  Doors and windows are usually open.  Houses are very close and people are roaming around everywhere.  While we were studying, a man by the name of Edgar came to listen at the door.  Once Jones recognized he was there, he invited Edgar to join us. Edgar accepted Jones’ invitation.  Later, Scott and I went by to visit Edgar, but he was not home.  We went by another day and he was there.  He agreed to study and it went great!  Edgar had been exposed to many denominations.  As we read the scriptures, he recognized the truth and would point out the false teachings by various denominations.  Edgar really understood the truth, and, thankfully, he obeyed the gospel.

One might wonder why this particular moment is such a memorable one.  As far as I know Jones, the man I originally was teaching, never obeyed the gospel.  Edgar was a man merely passing by, and, yet, he is the one that obeyed.  This event has made me more aware of the fact that we never know who will have the honest and good heart.  Five months later, something else occurred that caused these events to stick in my mind. I had been emailing Scott to see how Edgar was doing.  He was attending worship and doing well. I then received an email from Scott informing me that Edgar had died.  I was shocked.  I have thought many times since then of where Edgar would be had he not stopped by Jones’ house that day.  What if Jones had not invited him into the house? What if Scott and I had not gone back to see if Edgar wanted to study?  What if we had not been out teaching?  As far as I know, Edgar is saved.  Those turn of events made the difference in his eternal destiny.  These events remind me to always be looking for every opportunity to teach others the truth.

staceyferguson@bellsouth.net

————————————–

My most memorable moment as a missionary occurred in Guyana while still engaged in local preaching in the US. Having already been to Guyana on a short-term campaign, I was determined to return. In July 2012, my wife and I traveled to Moruca in Guyana’s northern region for a ten-day campaign. The days were hot, and the nights were terrible. The spiders and roaches kept us alert. We walked everywhere along dirt roads, paths, and trails that lead to nowhere in particular except to the next Bible study.

At first, people were hesitant to study the Bible, but then they began to open up to our presence in the community as well as the gospel. Half of the persons that were ready to be baptized made the decision to do so during the last two days of our campaign. By the end of the week, there were 20 baptisms. My wife and I had the privilege of studying with half of those 20 souls that I was later blessed to baptize. I had not been a part of an experience such as that in all of my years of local preaching in the U.S. That event was the single biggest factor in my decision to transition from being a local preacher in the U.S. to being a full-time missionary. This decision has left no regrets.

Returning to Moruca in July 2015, we campaigned around the newly constructed church building in the Mora community. There were 16 additional baptisms, and I had the privilege of immersing seven of those being baptized. Five of the seven were of the same family. As I remained in the river awaiting the next family member to wade out to me, the passages in Acts where complete households were immersed into Christ flooded my mind (Acts 16:15, 34; 18:8).

At that same 2015 campaign, I was able to see and follow up on a few of the ten persons I had baptized three years earlier. It was a joy to know that they were still faithful to the Lord. These visits answered the questions I had about those I had previously baptized. I look forward to returning in order to check on those baptized and to set up additional studies with others. Moruca ranks among the top of my most memorable experiences.

David@livingwater414.org

———————————

While working short-term with a preaching school in Lethem, Guyana, I made an offer to the congregation there to study with anyone who was willing. A sister asked if I could come visit her non-Christian son, Kenny. Kenny was staying with his mother because he had broken his leg while drinking. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to highlight the need for repentance, and Kenny was certainly a captive audience.

To reach Kenny, I had to cross a river on what locals called the “monkey bridge.” It consisted of a fallen tree and some crudely nailed together planks. I went to visit Kenny two or three times during my stay, and each time I had to cross that bridge. On the last Sunday I was there, Kenny came on crutches to hear me preach. His mother later told me that he said, “If Patrick can come across the monkey bridge to see me, I can go to church to see him.” Unfortunately, he did not obey the gospel that day, and I have yet to return to find out if he did. However, this event reminds me that I need to cross bridges myself if I expect others to do so in coming to Christ.

swayne@gmail.com

——————————–

It is truly difficult for me to determine which moment as a missionary is the most memorable one given that God has blessed me with an amazing number of memorable moments. Perhaps, however, my most spiritual memorable moment happened in a small Russian village in 1991.  The weather outside was 30 below zero. We were sitting in a small, warm, and cozy apartment teaching a 92-year-old Russian babushka. This sweet lady told us how she had hidden a Bible in her fireplace behind a loose stone for many years. She told of how she would take it out to study it and then hide it again. We noticed that when she talked about spiritual things, she used the same verbiage that well-studied New Testament Christians use. She had not had any teaching from any source other than her own study of the Bible. Her knowledge and discussion of the Bible were absolutely amazing!

As our study with her was drawing to a close, she looked right into my eyes and said, “I have been waiting for years for someone to come and baptize me into Christ. Why have you waited so long?” With tears in my eyes I answered, “I came as soon as your government would allow me.”

demar.dixie@charter.net

Training Locals in Mission Work — Demar Elam

Many wonderful leaders in the Church have made the mistake of bringing young men from other countries to the U.S. for their Bible training. The goal of this approach is to prepare the men trained in the states to return to their native country in order to teach and to evangelize. Often, however, this plan does not work. The plan may sound like a good idea, but, in the long run, it is not at all a good idea. This missionary wishes the church to know of the importance of training locals in mission work in their homeland. The term “locals” will be used in this article to refer to Christians in foreign lands who have been converted in a mission area of the world outside of the U.S.

The number one reason for training locals in their native land is because of the effects the American lifestyle has upon foreigners. Once foreigners come to the U.S., most of them are not happy once they return to their native country. This observation is especially true if they come from a third world country. For many people around the world, the U.S. is the “promised land.”  Unless an individual has spent time in some of these third world countries, he or she cannot really comprehend the vast difference between the lifestyle of those in U.S. and other countries around the world.  Often, the men trained in the U.S. that go back to their own country usually find a way to come back to the U.S. as quickly as possible. Thus, by bringing them to the U.S. to be educated, American Christians are in effect robbing the mission fields of their most talented and capable leaders. Some have coined the phrase “brain drain” to identify what American Christians have been doing to deplete the mission fields of their best leaders. Instead of the “cream of the crop” working in their home countries—where they are so desperately needed—they wind up working in the U.S. Frankly, the U.S. already has an abundance of talented, dedicated, and zealous Christians to accomplish the work at home.

In truth, many of the men who have been brought to the U.S. to be educated have had every intention of returning to their homeland to work. Undoubtedly, they are good men. However, after four years of being assimilated into the American way of life, they most often change their minds and decide not to go back home. The statistics prove this observation to be true. Admittedly, there may be some reading this article that know of a situation where the missionary family did return to their homeland.  Most likely, however, that situation would be the exception and not the rule. Even in those cases, an individual would probably discover that over time that family returned to the U.S. through the contacts they made while living in the U.S. for four years. Unfortunately, those coming from foreign lands allow themselves to become incapable of ever being happy while living in their homeland. For them, the daily comforts of living in the U.S. are unimaginable in their country. They have experienced love and hospitality from so many Christians in the U.S. They have benefitted from good medical care, police protection, excellent transportation, elders to guide them, and fellowship in American churches. They have had material blessings in abundance that they have never had in their native country.  If they do decide to go back home, they expect an American salary which would result in them living considerably above the locals in their homeland. Unfortunately, this situation often results in jealousy, friction, and strife within the mission congregations.

The way to avoid this outcome is to train locals in newly established congregations in their native land. Bringing foreigners to the U.S. to educate them in the word of God is not the answer. It is far better to develop preacher training schools, colleges, and universities in their own lands so that they can receive the education that they need without leaving their native environment. This missionary believes that the key to worldwide conquest for Christ is: New congregations, new congregations, and new congregations! God is the great door opener (Rev. 3:8; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). It is best for a missionary to go into an area like the apostle Paul, baptize individuals into Christ, establish a new congregation made up of those who have been baptized, and teach them what they need to know about the organization and worship of the church. The newly converted Christians should be the ones leading the singing, the prayers, and the Lord’s Table. Locals should be taught how to carry on without the American missionary holding their hand or doing it for them.  Locals should be taught to give financially to support their own congregational works. After all, Paul taught locals and left them to carry on without his presence. He established indigenous congregations. He left them but he did not abandon them. Instead, he and Barnabas revisited them in order to comfort, strengthen, and edify them. Paul’s methodology worked in his day and it is working around the world today. It works in third world countries as well as in the highly developed and industrialized nations of the world. Paul’s pattern of evangelism works in all cultures!

The challenge for American Christians deals with educating locals in newly established congregations in other nations.  In 2006, Philippine Theological College (PTC) was established in Salomague Sur, Bugallon, Pangasinan Philippines to specifically train young men to be preachers. In January of 2015, PTC became Asian Christian University (ACU) and began offering the Master of Divinity as well as the Doctor of Ministry degrees. Currently, ACU is seeking accreditation.  Lord-willing, it will become a fully accredited University in 2016. At the March 2015 commencement exercises, 19 faithful, dedicated, and well-trained men graduated with their degrees in Theology. These men, along with five other graduated classes, are already preaching in the Philippines. Additionally, they are prepared for the great day of evangelism that will occur when God opens the door to China. The dream, goal, and vision of ACU is to have hundreds of well-trained, educated, and effective minsters of the Gospel (Philippine missionaries) to cross the South China Sea in order to go throughout China to preach and teach Christ. Ultimately, they will establish new congregations, new congregations, and new congregations! These same missionaries are being taught Mandarin Chinese in order to properly prepare them for the time when this amazing avenue of evangelism opens. However, as has already been established, these young men would have been lost to this great opportunity if they had been sent to the U.S. for their Bible education.

Historically, churches of Christ have not done so well in planning for evangelistic opportunities and fully executing the plan. Sometimes, men are motivated, educated, trained, and prepared to do the work of Christ, but failure occurs when these same men are not activated. The locals in the Philippines that are trained in their homeland, by contrast, will be able to continue a lifestyle that will not hinder them in their service to their native land as well as to China one day.  Likewise, wise decisions must be made that will advance the cause of Christ throughout the world. Therefore, it is this missionary’s sincere belief that it is only logical and prudent to educate and train locals in their homeland.

demar.dixie@charter.net

The Local Church and Supporting Mission Work — Patrick Swayne

The building is paid off. The preacher is paid well. Additionally, he is surrounded by a supporting cast including two secretaries, an associate minister, a youth minister, and a family and involvement minister.  Somehow, there is still some money left in the budget. What should be done with it? The logical conclusion is to get involved in mission work. Several questions immediately come to mind. Who should be supported? Who does the preacher know? Who has sent a letter in the mail, and which letter has the most attractive font? How can the most number of people be reached and/or achieve the most number of baptisms with the least amount of money?

While admittedly this scenario is a caricature of how a congregation might come to support mission work, for some congregations it is a little too close to the truth. It goes without saying, however, that such should not be the case. The local church has a God-given mission to support, uphold, and spread the truth (1 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). God could have caused Bibles to rain down from heaven upon the unconverted, but instead He left the church with the responsibility of getting the truth to them. What should the church know about supporting mission work?

First, the church should know that prioritizing mission support is intrinsically tied to blessings. Many congregations of God’s people take a reactive approach to supporting missions. Normally, they wait for a missionary to come to them, and then they decide whether or not to help based upon the resources they already have at their disposal. However, reactivity rarely results in world changing activity—only proactivity does. Mission activity is not a vestigial organ to be kept only if it does not cause any problems. Instead, it is the lifeblood of a healthy church. When God’s people are challenged to give to worthy causes, they respond and subsequently are blessed.

The church at Jerusalem illustrates the power of proactivity. This church heard that some wonderful things were happening at Antioch (Acts 11:20-21). They responded by proactively sending Barnabas to help (11:22). No doubt, sending Barnabas was a high price to pay for missions in both money and manpower. After all, the Jerusalem congregation lost the “son of encouragement” (4:36)! Sending Barnabas, however, paid dividends. Not only did the church there grow (11:23-26), but it was also able to turn around and help the church at Jerusalem when famine struck there (11:27-30). Later, the church at Antioch even began its own mission program (Acts 13:1-3), and the congregations this formed also sent money to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-26). What if Jerusalem had kept Barnabas at home?

Second, the church should know the wisdom behind a targeted approach to mission work. Many congregations take a “shotgun approach” to world evangelism. In other words, they give a little money to a lot of missionaries. This practice seems to follow the adage, “Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.” Doubtless, it feels good to help twenty places to receive the gospel. However, when those twenty places are actually twenty missionaries receiving $50 a month each, it probably translates into twenty missionaries needing a lot more to survive. As a result, these twenty missionaries are going to spend a lot more time fundraising, reporting to supporters, and worrying about making ends meet. Missionaries love small churches that give $50 sacrificially, but they struggle when larger churches could do more but choose otherwise.

Though a “shotgun approach” appears to be “safer” and “better,” it usually is not. It is actually incredibly difficult to keep up with twenty or so different works. What often results is poor stewardship as funds are sent to works that are not truly advancing the cause of Christ. A more targeted approach (ideally, picking a field) gives a congregation something upon which to focus. It leads to powerful prayer (less names and places to remember) and a greater connection between said congregation and the missionaries it supports.

Third, the church should know that there are no shortcuts to evangelizing the world. Increasingly, brethren are turning to mass media and short-term mission trips with their mission dollars. This effort often results in less support for long-term missionaries. The justification for this approach is the speed and ease of reaching people when compared to long-term efforts. No doubt, souls are won to Christ through mass media and short term missions. However, one wonders how often vibrant and autonomous churches are established through such efforts alone?

This missionary heard of one short-term campaign in Ukraine which yielded 200 baptisms in two weeks. Amazing, right? A year later, however, campaigners returned and found that there was not even one soul worshipping as the Lord’s church. Essentially, 200 babies were born (John 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:2) and abandoned. Had a long-term missionary been there, these babes in Christ could have been cherished and fed (1 Thess. 2:7-8). Short-term missions and mass media ought to work in conjunction with long-term missionaries, but not in lieu of them.

Fourth, the church should know the dangers of supporting third world missions. Brethren often favor supporting third world missions because, as more than one elder has told this missionary, “You get more bang for your buck.” “Bang” generally refers either to reports advertising large baptismal figures or to the relatively little money required to support indigenous preachers. However, the question must be asked: Where are the vibrant and autonomous churches from third world efforts? In particular, where are those vibrant and autonomous churches in which the American church has paid an indigenous preacher? Such congregations do exist, but fewer of them than one would expect. Too often, third world missions are plagued with corruption and/or result in anemic churches which will forever depend on America for guidance and support. Americans going into the third world need to go in with eyes open (cf. Tit. 1:12-13) and with an exit strategy for their support so that planted churches can learn to stand on their own two feet.

Fifth, the church should know that supporting mission work is more than just sending a check. Ideally, supporting mission work is a partnership. Paul thanked the brethren at Philippi for their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5). Paul did not work for the brethren at Philippi—he worked with them. Yes, they sent him financial support (Phil. 4:16-18), but they also appear to have collected funds for him from others (Phil. 4:15). They were not content to just get a report from him. On the contrary, they sent Epaphroditus on a short-term mission trip both to deliver support and to help him (2:25). Though not explicitly referenced in Philippians, a supporting congregation should also be a partner in prayer—praying specifically and frequently for the needs of the missionary (Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1).

In conclusion, this missionary wishes the church knew one more thing about supporting mission work. Simply stated, he wishes that brethren knew of the many congregations which are already applying these thoughts and achieving great things through their mission programs. May God bless reader’s congregation as it strives to support missions meaningfully.

swayne@gmail.com

The Benefits of Foreign Missions to the Local Church – David Paher

American Christians are sometimes misguided when it comes to foreign mission work. Some might believe that money, energy, and resources are better used at home in spite of the fact that more dollars are spent in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. Some folks might even point out that unsaved people reside in U.S. communities in an effort to limit global outreach. Furthermore, some brethren will claim that the congregation’s budget contains no room to commit to foreign mission work but somehow it has plenty of funds for padded pews, cradles, decorative tables, large kitchens, pavilions, awnings, and playgrounds. If congregations of the Lord’s church only knew of the benefits of foreign missions to the local church, there would be more effort to support them.

The first benefit of foreign missions is that it helps the local church follow the Lord’s directive. The church’s spiritual directive is soul-driven. God is mindful of the lost when he waits patiently and delays judgment (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). Paul was mindful of the lost in his anticipation to preach the gospel to others (Romans 1:15-16). Therefore, the church should be mindful of the lost since the members of it are considered the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13).

The Lord’s directive is clearly seen in the Great Commission. Thus, foreign missions reminds the church of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19-20. The Limited Commission of Matthew 10 concentrated exclusively on the Jewish nation in Jesus’ day. In contrast, the Great Commission directs Christians to go to the ends of earth for the cause of Christ in the present day. The Great Commission is called “great” for at least three reasons. First, it is great, because the Lord, himself, uttered those words. Second, it is great, because it is a noble calling. Third, it is great, because of the grand scope of its application. Without a global outreach, Christians are not practicing the Great Commission. Simply stated, the church’s mission is the Great Commission!

The second benefit of foreign missions is that it helps the local church find purpose in identity. The church’s unique business is people.  Foreign missions helps to connect saved people to lost people. Rather than focus on money, time, success, efficiency, or social or political agendas, missionaries help people draw near to God (James 4:8). They help people in foreign lands who are outside of the body of Christ to develop and confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10). For those who are already Christians in foreign lands, missionaries encourage and assist their growth in the Lord (Hebrews 5:14).

Additionally, foreign missions helps the church to develop its purpose in saving souls.  Everywhere Jesus went, he sought lost souls (Luke 19:10). He talked to individuals and groups. He talked to rich and poor. He talked to Jews and Gentiles. He talked to males and females. He talked to urban folks and rural folks. Indeed, he talked to everyone about God and his kingdom.   From the book of Acts, one observes that the early disciples followed Jesus’ example of what he did and taught (Acts 1:1). As a result, nearly every chapter speaks to the growth of disciples in some way (Acts 2:41; 4:4; etc.). In this way, foreign missions helps to further connect the church to soul-saving. Physicians heal the body; counselors restore the mind; but evangelists save the soul. There is no higher vocation than sharing the gospel with another person. Not surprisingly, the Apostle Paul wrote of evangelists’ feet being beautiful (Romans 10:13-15).

The third benefit of foreign missions is that it helps members of the local congregation to focus on others rather than on self. It is easy for human beings to become self-absorbed. In the realm of Christianity, for example, Christians sometimes stop sharing the faith with others. Foreign missions, however, proves that Christians are still interested in religious things. Christians in the US often encounter those who are uninterested in spiritual truths. Unfortunately, Christians sometimes allow these encounters to relax evangelism’s urgency. However, when missionaries visit the local church to give their reports, it can serve to remind the members of the fact that the fields are still white to harvest. An even greater reminder of this truth comes when members visit the foreign mission fields.  Both of these efforts can help to increase the church’s fervor to reach the lost just like the early Christians.

Similarly, missions shifts the church’s focus from pettiness to people. How many disagreements have risen over personality conflicts? Ditch-diggers don’t seem to argue over the details of their shovel as long as they do their best at their job. Likewise, effective soul-winners seldom resort to pettifoggery because the stakes of salvation are simply too high. Paul’s words are clear, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).

Christians can also become self-absorbed congregationally. When congregations merely keep a preacher, pay the utility bills, and mow grass, evangelism has gone from history to myth. Where can a struggling church turn to but to soul-winning evangelists? Foreign missions can pull the church out of “maintenance mode.” In some places, the 21st-century model seems to have replaced missions with do-good, be-seen, outreach. Yes, the local church should strive for a positive influence in the community; but it will only thrive by firmly handling the plow (Luke 9:62), setting the eyes on the harvest (John 4:35) and carrying the gospel with beautiful feet to some soul in need of Christ (Romans 10:15).

Moreover, missions feeds local evangelism. In places where congregations are evangelizing the lost, commitments to foreign missions exemplify the results of soul-winning efforts. While fruit and number will vary greatly from mission point to mission point, the results unify and energize the efforts in the local congregation.

The fourth benefit of foreign missions is that it helps the local church reach its full potential. Naturally, Christians understand that a congregation cannot be the Lord’s church without the biblical plan of salvation. Equally important to the Lord, however, is having a scriptural eldership in place in local congregations both at home and abroad. The benefits of having a congregation with biblically appointed elders is clear. In addition to helping souls be taught the gospel in order to be saved, foreign missions helps to mature men in the faith to qualify for the role of elder.

There are several conclusions and observations that might be noticed. First, neither foreign mission work nor local work is more important than the other—both are equally important to the Lord’s church. Second, foreign missions simply cannot exist without a healthy local congregation. Third, local congregations without foreign missions is neither light nor hope to the world beyond the local community. Congregations that want to engage in the benefits offered by foreign missions may call a missionary today.

David@livingwater414.org