Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

Considering Philip

Posted: April 29, 2014 in evangelism

The Evangelist

I have been reflecting lately on the word ‘evangelist’ found in the New Testament. It appears only three times – in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministry gifts; in Acts 21:8 naming Philip as an Evangelist; and finally in Paul’s instruction to Timothy: ‘Do the work of an evangelist’ (2 Timothy 4:5). Given that this commandment to Timothy is really God’s word to all of us, to ‘do the work’ of the evangelist, whether we feel gifted/called or not, it may be worth exploring Philip’s activities in Acts 8 and beyond. What does it take to do the work of an evangelist?

Preparation. Luke tells us of Philip earlier in Acts, that he was selected to serve because he was ‘filled with the Spirit and wisdom’ (Acts 6:3-5). In any age of the church, it takes more than just zeal or even spiritual empowerment to be a successful witness, we also need to be wise! Those zany Corinthians had the Spirit, no doubting it, but needed to be ‘adult’ in their thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20). The lost deserve a church who are intelligently seeking for them. That’s what I would want if I were lost at sea, or in a desert: a smart rescue operation! Get anointed but get wise too.

Public. When Philip steps out from the preparation place to the public place, we notice he is able to minister in differing contexts – in large public gatherings (Acts 8:6) with great demonstrations of miraculous power (Acts 8:13), and in private conversations (Acts 8:27) with a single individual. Not everyone is at home with either, or both. But God may call us into these, within the space of a single day as with Philip. Miracles follow the message, expect them, be bold.

Preaching.  The New Testament rarely gives us a verbatim report of what the apostles preached on each and every occasion, but there are a number of clues about the content of Philip’s message: ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Kingdom of God’ (Acts 8:12, 35). Not the church, not his favourite theology or pet doctrine, but the powerful truth of the Son of God and the life He came to give. Whether he was a ‘hell fire and brimstone’ speaker we don’t know, but the crowds were left with ‘joy’ when he spoke (Acts 8:8, 39) so there’s a hint! He could also explain difficult Bible passages (Acts 8:35). Oh and let’s be clear – you can’t share the Gospel fully without words.

Progress. Philip’s story doesn’t take up too much space in the Bible, but on both occasions when he finishes preaching, we are told that baptism in water followed accordingly (Acts 8:12, 36). Perhaps modern day evangelists like us could take a leaf out of his book. Let’s see conversations turn to converts, and decisions turn to disciples. When Philip preached, they left with a baptism certificate and a wet face, not just the planting of a seed. Let’s stay on the journey until the water tank where possible. We are ‘disciple makers’ in the Great Commission.

Private. Finally, in later chapters of Acts, Luke gives us a tiny but helpful insight into Philip’s family life. He had four daughters, each of whom were prophets (Acts 21:8-9). Imagine going to their house group, or even just ‘saying grace’ in their home…  But the dedication of these girls is very special information. Perhaps they saw that the public ‘preacher Philip’ was no different from ‘Dad’ at home. Perhaps he made sure that his first and primary converts were the members of his own family. Whatever the truth, these girls didn’t hate church, or resent God, or find the claims of Christ to change lives to be false. The faith of their father was in them, and the Spirit had gifted them too. It’s good when faith starts and finishes at home. As for me and my house, well… you know the rest.

Philip’s life, both public and private, was full of surprises to me. Let’s be encouraged to do the work of an evangelist. All the time.

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I have recently been teaching my 2nd Year ‘Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies’ class at Mattersey Hall Christian College, and we have been discussing speaking in other tongues from the Book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. One of the unspoken questions, especially among Pentecostals, might be this: why did God choose such a peculiar spiritual gift to accompany the Baptism in the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6) and the ongoing devotion of praying with one’s spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14)? Let’s face it – speaking or praying in a language that the speaker does not understand is… well… a little strange! What may lie behind God’s purpose in bestowing such an unusual ability when His Spirit comes upon us for the first time? Here are some thoughts:

  • Speaking in tongues at the Baptism of the Spirit reminds the believer that they have been empowered to take the Gospel to foreign lands. This was the response of many early Pentecostals at the beginning of the twentieth century. Each time you speak in tongues, let it be an indicator of your own missionary call – yes to your closest neighbour, but also to the ends of the earth too. When the Spirit came on people in ‘Acts’ they invariably left town to preach Jesus elsewhere. Speaking in tongues should draw your attention to the urgent spiritual needs of those far, far away.
  • Similarly, speaking in tongues is an indication that all kinds of people need to be reached for the Lord. In the Book of Acts there was religious racism – a prejudice against sharing God’s word with the Gentile peoples. That is unlikely to be an issue for us today, but we can still have a reluctance to engage with certain ‘types’ of people – whether they are too rich or too poor, too sinful or too religious, too dangerous or too pious, to speak in tongues is to remember that God’s word is for people who aren’t at all like me!
  • Speaking in tongues is an instruction that we are to share God’s love in the language of our hearers. At Pentecost this meant in their own national tongue (Acts 2:11), but there can be a broader application. The unchurched world do not share some of our religious language and ‘Christianese’ and we must learn to break down the Gospel message, without compromise or dilution, into a form that our contemporary culture can fully understand. That is all part of being Pentecostal.
  • Finally, speaking in tongues is a thrilling assurance that a supernatural God is with us for the task ahead. In a post-modern Western society, significantly penetrating our culture can perhaps seem a complete impossibility – a battle that simply cannot be won. But take heart, the Lord of the harvest Himself is with us, willing to stretch out His hand to perform miracles and confirm the word with accompanying wonderful signs.

So, the next time you are speaking to God in your ‘unknown tongue,’ just maybe your mind need not be completely unfruitful. Perhaps you can catch afresh an exciting burden for reaching others for Jesus Christ, people who are far, far away, powerfully demonstrating that ‘everyone who calls upon’ His Name shall be saved (Acts 2:21).  Just be sure that when you go, you speak in their language. That’s completely Pentecostal!

Awesome_God_by_KPMoorse

Often in the New Testament we read that upon encountering Jesus or the Early Church the people were “filled with awe.” We’ve had a saying in Cambridge for a while – hopefully, not a catchphrase or soundbite, but a heartfelt prayer – “Lord, we need the awe back!”  Despite common usage, few things in life are really awesome. According to Webster’s Dictionary, awe is: “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder, that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” Another reads: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.”

In the Bible, great acts of God inspired a deep awe in the people, leading them to praise God (Matthew 9:8; Luke 5:26; Psalm 65:8); sense God (Luke 7:16); share God (Luke 1:65); and seek God  (Acts 2:42-47). That’s why we need things to be awesome; not to entertain the crowds but to transform people’s broken lives. Awe speaks louder than anything to say: “God has come to help” (Luke 7:16).

This week, one of my prophetic friends was at work, making casual conversation with a builder in the men’s toilets. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit revealed all manner of private and personal details about the builder, which my friend dared to share. He was a complete stranger to him and completely unchurched. Everything was accurate, and the man – totally shocked and grasping the taps – exclaimed: “How do you know all this stuff?” My friend went on to pray for him and assure the man of God’s love. He pointed him to his local church. Awesome!

This may sound incredible but it leaves one suspecting the Holy Spirit might want to do much more, that those who come to church might say “God is truly in this place” (1 Corinthians 14:25) while others with whom we mingle for the Gospel might say, as they did in the Bible, “We have seen remarkable things today” (Luke 5:26). After all, it’s not just a song. Our God is an awesome God!