MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER.
"The Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” St. Luke x. 1.
This is not the first time Jesus has sent out his followers to talk to the people. You may recall that in St. Matthew chapter 10 we were told that Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them power against unclean spirits. He sent them out not amongst the Gentiles or the Samaritans but rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And he told them to preach to the people that ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Then in St. Luke’s gospel reading today we were told that Jesus called together seventy of his followers and sent them out two and two into every city and place. Two things are strikingly different about the two missions. First the number being sent out. In the first mission it was just the twelve disciples. The number twelve is symbolic to the Jews as it is the number of tribes of Israel. Now Jesus is sending out seventy loyal followers. The number seventy is also symbolic; it was the number of elders who were chosen to help Moses, it was the number of the Sanhedrin and it was the number of nations in the world at that time.
The second difference is who the target was for these missions. In the case of the disciples it was the lost sheep of Israel. For the seventy it was it was every town that would listen to them Jewish or Gentile, it did not matter.
What the two have in common is they are both examples of evangelism. For some denominations St. Luke’s account is the basis of their evangelical program. They send out two people to knock on doors and spread the word of God just like Jesus has instructed the seventy to do. And their message is strikingly similar, ‘The kingdom of God is coming’. So if Jesus is expecting his followers to be evangelists how can a small church like Grace Anglican do anything worthy?
Prayer is the basis for evangelism. Without prayer, the church will not have the divine empowerment or divine motivation to be involved in evangelism. The early church was effective in reaching their world because they first prayed for their world and for the boldness to proclaim Christ fearlessly (Acts 2:42; Ephesians 6:19,20).
Evangelistic efforts can be focused upon the community where the church is located. Rural communities pride themselves in their demonstration of mutual concern and care for one another. Farmers assist other farmers in harvest; people give generously to those going through a crisis; businesses are supported faithfully because they are "locals" even though the prices are not always competitive with big box stores. That which strengthens this sense of community is welcomed; that which threatens it is fiercely opposed. For the church to be effective in outreach, it needs to become part of the community, and be a center for fostering a spirit of community within the region. Being a good neighbor is the springboard for evangelistic efforts (John 13:35). Having a bake sale or other fund raiser for a family going through a medical or financial crisis not only is a testimony to that family, but to the whole community.
For a small church a focus upon people rather than programs may be more effective. Doran McCarty points out that, "Small-church approaches to evangelism need to be people centered. This is the pattern and strength of the small church. Super churches attract people through their winsome pulpiteer and their glamorous programs. The small church attracts people through the contacts people have with its members." (Doran McCarthy, Leading the Small Church, p 142)
A couple of weeks ago we helped out a family in need by providing them with some food. This person centered or targeted approach may be a more viable approach to evangelism for Grace Anglican Church than starting a food bank or soup kitchen would be. I know of an individual who is rebuilding his life after hitting rock bottom. Just when he saw things turning around he was told he has a limited number of years to live. I have spoken to him and prayed with him since he received the news and he is going to fight to make the years he has left the best they can be. Grace Anglican can be a part of his journey and this would be another person centered approach to evangelism.
When we are talking to others we have a wonderful opportunity to talk about our church and our belief in God. A question I get quite often is ‘What is an Anglican?’
This past week I met with a supplier who upon looking at my business card said so you are ‘Angelican’. This gave me an opportunity to explain Grace Anglican Church and Anglicanism. I first pointed out that we are not angels yet but it is something worth working toward. For the time being we are Anglican which means English and like the Episcopal Church are roots are in the Church of England. From there I was able to explain a bit of American history about Boston, the King of England’s tea and how the Church of England left the church in Rome. We all need to be able to answer a few basic questions; What is an Anglican? Are you Episcopal? Are you Protestant or Catholic? We all need to put these answers into our own words and have that three to five minute story ready whenever we are talking to others. The information you need is available to you on our web site under the tab ‘About Us’. And you can always point them to our web site for further information.
This is what is meant by a small church attracts people through the contacts people have with its members. And this is how each of us can be evangelists in our own right. We will find that the people we meet are at different levels of responsiveness to receiving the gospel of Christ. Not all evangelistic events should be focused on a direct appeal to accept Christ. For the antagonists, such an appeal would only further turn the individual off. For the ignorant or unknowing, such an appeal would be confusing and embarrassing.
Just like fruit needs to be ripe before it is harvested people need to be ready to accept Christ. Harvesting unripened fruit only results in spoiled fruit. In evangelistic programs, the church needs to plan to help people when they are in the process of ripening, accepting Jesus as our savior, not just harvest them when they are ready to accept him. Evangelism is difficult, requiring diligent labor to attain fruitfulness. If those involved in the church focus only upon results, they will soon become discouraged and unmotivated. Since producing fruit is the responsibility of God, then the focus of the church should be upon faithfulness in proclaiming the gospel to the lost and those in need. (Isaiah 6:9-13).
Let us pray.
O God, our heavenly Father, who dist manifest thy love by sending thine only-begotten Son in to the world that al might live through him: pour thy Spirit upon thy Church that it may fulfill his command to preach the Gospel to every creature; send forth, we beseech thee, labourers into thy harvest; defend them in all dangers; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN