12 July 2012

Biblical Evangelism (3 of 3)

by Frank Turk

The most interesting phrase in Acts 2, it seems to me, is this: there were added that day.” There were added that day. The Greek word there means “added to a group,” or “joined together.” And we might take it for granted that Luke here meant that these people confessed their sins are were added to the invisible church – to total number of people who are saved for all time. Amen?

The problem is that the text won’t let us get away with such a general reading of what happened at Pentecost. It goes on from there:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Think about this: the point of Peter’s evangelism was not simply to hand out Jesus tickets for people to now sit and wait for his return. The point of Peter’s evangelism was to get people convicted of sin and also of Jesus’ authority over them not merely to judge them, but to also forgive them and then teach them. That’s the great commission, after all, right? That’s how we can make sense of this passage – by what Jesus commanded. But look: Peter was not looking for a mere confession of sin: he was looking to cause people to be joined to the body of the church.

You know: one of the themes you will read about on the internet when it comes to evangelism is the fear of false conversions. There’s a worry that there’s a type of evangelism that will give people a false sense of security regarding their state before Christ. Let me admit that, in one sense, that talk offends me. It seems to me that the right confidence of the believer is that whatever sin there is in me, however great my sin is, Jesus Christ is greater still. Jesus Christ is greater than my greed. Jesus Christ is greater than my lies. Jesus Christ is greater than my sexual sins. Jesus Christ is greater than my anger and hatred. Jesus is overcoming all those things for me in the ultimate sense, and Jesus is overcoming them in the immediate sense – even when I am weak. This is Romans 7 and 8: Wretched man that I am, I am delivered from death by Jesus Christ – there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Amen? In one sense, because Jesus is Lord and Christ, we cannot be overconfident in his ability to overcome our sin. 

But here’s the thing: Jesus himself says there are those who will cry out, “Lord! Lord!” in the final day, but he will tell them, “I never knew you.” And Peter’s hedge against that here at Pentecost is not to merely get these people to feel guilty, or to ask for forgiveness, or to write a date down in the front of their Bibles. His purpose, as commanded by Christ, was to make disciples of these people – and actually add them to the church.

In 1973, John MacArthur delivered a sermon on Acts 15 & 16, and in it, he said this:
[QUOTE]Now when we think in our minds today of a pastor we think of a guy who stays around a long time and lives in a house in the neighborhood and teaches the Bible. When we think of an evangelist we think of a guy with a briefcase and a handful of sermons. You hear him in several different cities and he gives the same message. You think of a kind of traveling guy, see? That's really not the Biblical picture of an evangelist. We think of an evangelist as a guy who runs around and gets people saved and then leaves them around for Christians to follow up.

But you know what Paul was in terms of an evangelist? He was a Biblical evangelist in so far as he saw his responsibility not only as winning people but as maturing them, … Do you know what his priority was in evangelism? Discipleship.

I think one of the things that very often is missing in our evangelism … is a failure to really love the individual that we've led to Christ to the point where we feel this tremendous responsibility.

If you don't learn anything about evangelism, learn this. The best way to evangelize is to produce one reproducing disciple. You got that? Paul knew that this running around creating spiritual infancy all over everywhere and leaving a whole lot of spiritual babes lying on their backs screaming was not the way to go at it because they weren't mature enough to reproduce but better to spend yourselves on some individuals that they might become mature and that they might carry the Gospel. You know Jesus didn't speak to large crowds very often and even when he did he spoke in parables and they didn't understand it. He spent most of his time with 12 individuals, didn't he? That's really the heart of evangelism. He was committed to the priority of maturing the believers. He himself knew that was his calling. [UNQUOTE]
Let me say this as plainly as possible: as human beings, we have a great eye for the faults of other people’s way of doing things, and not much of an eye for what we ourselves are doing poorly. The challenge in the balance of our key passage from the book of Acts is to see that all kinds of evangelism falls so far short of the first act of evangelism that we ought to be embarrassed by all of them rather than justifying our way over another method which, obviously, gets so much wrong.

True evangelism is going to get people convicted of sin and get them grateful to God – and draw them into a community of believers. Let’s think about this soberly: we’re at a conference about evangelism and discernment today. Somehow our friends at Grace Family Bible church thought these two great and good ideas belong together like some kind of theological Reese’s Cup or an Oreo Cookie. I utterly agree with them. The problem we as believers face is that we don’t act like these things go together. And this contributes to the problems that exist in the church today.

Here is what I am not about to say: I am not about to say that there is no value in personal evangelism or open-air preaching. I am not saying you ought not to declare the Gospel, and also never to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you. Evangelism is necessary and important. But Evangelism that saves people to a solitary life of independent Bible reading and no connection to other believers, no way to mature in the faith, no accountability to Elders and to other people who love them and Christ is a recipe for failure – and a model found no where in the New Testament.

When Peter evangelized the Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost, he did not save them to some kind of smug and solitary lifestyle. Peter preached to them so that the following things must happen:

• Those evangelized must repent and be baptized be baptized into the family of God o Look: there is nothing magical or metaphysical about baptism. It is utterly right to say that the thief on the cross was saved and entered into the kingdom of God without even a mere sprinkle, let alone a proper full-body submersion in water. But unless you are evangelizing on death row just before someone is executed, your message ought to be Peter’s message: repent and be baptized. Get added to the assembly of God’s people – not in theory, or in your head, but into a real body of local believers. If Christ’s commands are commands and not requests, you yourself ought to belong to a local church, and the goal of your actions ought to be to add people to a local church. Getting a confession of sin from people without turning them over to local elders and pastors for the care of their soul is spiritual malpractice.

• Those evangelized must be devoted to the apostles' teaching.  I guess I don’t understand how any activity is called “evangelism” or can pose as “obedience” when what it does is cause people to be accountable to no one and set up for failure rather than success. Think about this: if you hire somebody at work, you don’t tell them, “well, thanks for you application: we accept you! Now you set your own schedule, you define your own work, you tell me when you’re successful and when you’re slacking off.” The very least you do for someone new to a job is to train them in the basics and give them a schedule so they know when and where they need to show up. We can’t expect someone who knows nothing about Jesus or the Bible to do self-service discipleship.

Ad Lib: My Personal Testimony (see audio)

• Those evangelized must be devoted to corporate worship.  Acts tells us those Peter evangelized did this: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” That is: they spent time together making God the most important thing.  It also says they were “together and [had] all things in common -- They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

Look: that’s a commitment to other people bigger than an intellectual commitment to the idea that God has an invisible church of truly-saved people which (you hope) you are adding people to. It means that in some way Christ dying for you doesn’t simply give you a right to call God “Father”: it gives you a role in a family, a place in a close community where we ought to be willing to suffer for and suffer with each other through the challenges in Life. It paints a picture of worship which is greater than the temple, a kind of worship which is both in Spirit and in Truth.

Listen: Luke ends the second chapter of Acts by saying, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” That is: Someone preached, some were convicted, some repented and were baptized, and those baptized lived as if the preaching was true – their lives changed, and their priorities changed, and the “centrality of the Cross” or the “centrality of the Gospel” as some would say it was not simply some kind of bumper-sticker slogan or t-shirt that they wore: the Cross and its power were made to be the central matter of their lives, and everything they did was structured around that.

Let’s wrap this up briefly: The Christian life is an uneven field full of ups and downs. Even Paul said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” He knew what it meant to be brought low because he had been brought low; he knew how to prosper because he had in fact prospered. But let’s be certain not to miss this: Paul knew these things in spite of being an apostle, chosen by Christ, and specially gifted to serve God’s people. The apostle abounded, and the apostle knew hunger and need. If that’s true of the man who God used to write 30% of the New Testament, how much more is this true of us who, frankly, have a long way to go in our running the race to keep the faith?

Yet it is unmistakable that Christ is the cause and foundation and resource for us to have what it takes to do all things and face these ups and downs. Yet when Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ,” he says, “yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”

One of Christ’s provisions to strengthen us to do all things is the one most obvious, yet hiding in plain sight: being together as a local church. It is kind of you to share in each others’ trouble, and much more so that you can take hold of and revive a concern for the lost not just to convict them of sin, or hope that Christ will comfort them after the have prayed a prayer, but that you will also devote your lives with them to the teaching of the Apostles, the breaking of bread and prayers, and the sharing of all things in common so that many will be added to the church daily.

My friends, be faithful to that calling. Thank you for your time today, and may God’s grace and peace be with you as you go now and do these things in the name of Jesus.


donsands said...

Excellent word Cent.


This hit me between my spiritual eyes: "..we [I] have a great eye for the faults of other people’s way of doing things, and not much of an eye for what we [I] ourselves [myself] are doing poorly."

I pray God my Abba Father will help me with this, as Jesus prayed for us in Gethsamane. John 17:15-21

Have a terrific Lord's Day in the Lord's house, with the Lord's people.
I actually long for Sundays, so I can be in the midst of worshipping our Father in Spirit and truth with His beloved saints.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I listened to the whole thing on my Blackberry last night (yes, I can't afford an iPhone for myself after paying for one for everyone else in my family!)

WOW! I was raving about this message to my wife last night, like, "Frank Turk is anointed!" and I'm not one who is prone to saying such things, especially about preachers.

Having heard the message about that we are winning souls not only into the Kingdom but also into the local church, so that they can learn what being a Christian actually is, and isn't (e.g., TV preachers). That being an evangelist has to do with that and not with running around getting people to make a confession and then wish them good luck while you move on to put a few more notches into your belt...


I'll be listening to this over and over again, there is so much in there. What a great message. Really!

FX Turk said...

Credit where credit is due (and a short long story):

I am uncomfortable with my new opportunities to speak to other churches without any accountability in my local church, and I discussed it over lunch with my pastor. We discussed how to stay accountable at our church, and then we discussed what I would be saying.

It was his insight that evangelism is not merely mid-wifing for the new birth. After that chat, I attended T4G, and I got the new 9Marks books on evangelism and the local church.

Without those influences, this talk would never have taken this course because, exactly: we have a giant blind spot on this issue as English-speaking evangelicals. We are so focused on the new birth that we forget we are born into a real family under one Father and his good and great Son -- not just in theory but in actuality, in person, in our bodies as Matt Anderson might say (or wish he had said) (ha!).

Finding the MacArthur quote at GTY was the easy part.

Tom Chantry said...

Excellent point.

When I was in college I started running into the attitude: "Evangelism shouldn't be about inviting people to church, but about inviting them to Christ."

I get that. Church doesn't save; Christ does. Church isn't perfect; Christ is. A person can have church without Christ.

The question is, can he have Christ without church? If the church (the "assembly") is the body of Christ on earth, how is that even possible? It seems that an unbiblical conclusion was reached, and now it has been pushed to its logical extreme: a largely churchless "Christianity" which never functions as Christ intended, and thus, perhaps, is not really Christianity at all.

Tom Chantry said...

(Oh, and - five stars. You finished well.)

Paul Nevergall said...

Appreciate you Frank Turk. Very good post(s).

CCinTn said...

What an excellent message you gave Frank!
It is so encouraging to see how the doctrine of the Church is being recovered, embraced and taught.

The recent books and materials 9Marks has put out on Church Membership (I'm thinking of Jonathan Leeman in particular) and the Church being the visible expression of the Gospel with several books by Dever and others should be required reading by church leaders and the members of churches themselves.

Frank, your 7:02 a.m. comment about the actuality of our being birthed into a real family is spot on.

Mr. Fosi said...

I like the talk and sent some quotes to my wife and her first response was the Paul Washer seems to be one of those briefcase evangelists that you are speaking against.

I wasn't sure how to answer that, so I'll pose it to you: How does Paul Washer fit into the framework as you've laid it out?

FX Turk said...

I actually spoke to Paul about that at dinner the night before the conference. HeartCry ministries is actually a church-planting organization which evangelizes, plants churches with elders, and makes disciples who are part of a local church.

I think the people attracted to Paul and his ministry are not as much like he is in this respect. They only see the passionate plea to be reconciled to God and to see sin through the lens of the Law -- they don;t see any of the hard work of discipleship that comes after that.

Andrea said...

Thanks, Frank, for providing this to those of us who could not make the event itself. Thank you for using it to help relieve Mr. Phillips, who must find it very hard to continue this gig with his important full time commitment. Any time you find ways to keep supplying us good content without interfering with more essential kingdom work we praise God for it.

Just checking-- you have already fully considered asking Chantry to contribute officially and there are good reasons why he is not doing so, right?

I thought so. Rats.

Please pass on to your pastor our thanks for providing you the accountability so that you could feel comfortable to speak on this subject. Your willing submission to your shepherd, when in so many ways you are already obviously well equipped, is an excellent model to others in the body.

That's what it looks like to graciously submit. This is what gives your words in this matter so much weight-- you draw your principles from scripture, you teach commitment to the church passionately and consistently, and you walk the walk. This makes me want to be better at being discipled, as well as better at evangelism.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank Turk is a menace to itinerant briefcase evangelists and must be stopped.

FX Turk said...

Again? Aw man ...

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Thanks for posting the link to the audio. It was great to hear the inflection in your voice that all caps and italics just can't make up for in ink. The last seven minutes or so are especially worth it. I know there just wasn't room to include the ad lib here, but it really does drive home your point.

There is a lot here to mull over, and my husband is keeping me too busy this summer to hang out online like I'm used to, so I can't quite put my finger on it. But it has something to do with the comment,

It means that in some way Christ dying for you doesn’t simply give you a right to call God “Father”: it gives you a role in a family, a place in a close community where we ought to be willing to suffer for and suffer with each other through the challenges in Life.

Maybe it's because of the word "ought.". It's there. For good reason, unfortunately.

FX Turk said...

I have a friend named Pat who is a very clever fellow. He gives a lot of good advice, but his best advice to me ever is this: "'Ought' is fine. The problem is getting from 'is' to 'ought' - how do we get from 'is' to 'ought'?"

It's the best piece of advice I have ever gotten about thinking about the real life of faith.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Hmm. That may be too deep for my feeble mind at the moment. I'm thinking of my current situation, where it's hard to see whether we truly are willing to suffer for and with one another rather than bicker or keep a safe distance and call it good. Perhaps if we were oppressed like the early church was...

But what you (and by extension, Pat) are saying is I need to just move on to "ought" and work on what I know I "ought" rather than get caught up with the "is." I need to promote "ought" in my circle of influence, and trust the Lord to cause the growth and bring about the "is." N'est pas?

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I had some similar wise instruction by an elderly man who encouraged us to find opportunities to end negative sentences with the word yet.

For instance, "I've been studying this language for 6 years now, and I still don't speak like a native, yet."


I don't share DJP's love for 70's music...

you get the idea.

Shane Dodson said...

"I think the people attracted to Paul and his ministry are not as much like he is in this respect. They only see the passionate plea to be reconciled to God and to see sin through the lens of the Law -- they don;t see any of the hard work of discipleship that comes after that."

Based upon what do you think this?

I am very interested how you arrived at that conclusion...but allow me a follow-up statement.

FYI, I was sitting out in the room when you gave this message. It left a few street preachers scratching their heads. I defended the totality of the message, and I think--overall--it's an important one.

However, if you could answer the above question and then explain exactly what role street preaching/street evangelism plays in the paradigm you laid out...I would appreciate it.

Thank you!

FX Turk said...


Your question is good enough that I will made a weekend extra of it as a blog post.

And thanks for coming to the event!

trogdor said...

Excellent message. It's so easy to get caught up in quibbling about the best methods of evangelism that we can forget the point - to produce 'converts' who are truly converted, abandoning their former rebellion against their sovereign Lord and being folded into his family.

Submitting to Christ's authority includes submitting to the authority he establishes over us - the local church.

Larry Geiger said...

Day in and day out. I come here and I find consistency. Unity. Over and over again. This message is just one more sentence in a continuing story that started way back with Phil's first post. Thank you.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Some of the street preachers I've witnessed probably should be scratching their heads. Or maybe thinking about what Frank said. Of course there are good ones, but most aren't.

Shane Dodson said...

"Of course there are good ones, but most aren't."

The times, they are a'changing, Nash.

Praise God, He is raising up more and more preachers whose doctrine is sound and whose ecclesiology is healthy.

There are certainly still the Kerrigan Skelleys and Ruben Israels...but thankfully they are no longer the majority.

Nash Equilibrium said...

You must be in a very much more sophisticated area than I am. Here's the local street preacher in my area: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A46J9EBMRz4
A well-meaning guy? Absolutely. Effective? No. Typical? Yes.

Mr. Fosi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nash Equilibrium said...

Shane, I read your entry on the other post, and it sounds like what you are engaged in is great. If you are even able to get people to listen (and not just for the purpose of jeering) then you're gifted. Wish there were more like you!