Tools of the Trade — Vision Sunday 2016

Posted: January 4, 2016 in Acts, Uncategorized
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Acts 2:40-47, “Tools of the Trade” — Vision Sunday 2016

If you’ve ever been around me during a construction or renovation project, you know that my very best skill is that of ‘gopher.’  I am happy to assist those who are skilled in craftsmanship, and I freely acknowledge I am not one of them.  That said, I learned a long time ago that the right tools make all of the difference.  Although many issues can be solved with either a 20 pound sledgehammer or a roll of duct-tape, they aren’t always the most effective tools for the job.  If you have the right tools (along with the skill in using them), then the job can get done quickly and successfully.

That principle is true whether we’re talking about home construction, automotive repair, website/graphic design, gourmet cooking, or whatever.  The right tools along with the right application makes all of the difference.  That same principle even applies within the church.  We, as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, have a job to do – we’ve even been given the power in which to do it – and in addition to this, we’ve also been given tools to use in getting it done.  But the tools have to be used if the job is to be done effectively.  Otherwise, we might find ourselves spinning our wheels and going nowhere.

That brings us to our topic for today.  For our visitors, you need to know that we’re doing things a little differently today.  Normally we would be proceeding through a verse-by-verse study of the Bible (and we will be doing that a bit, though not to our usual extent) – but today, we’re going to take a bit of a break and address some things that apply specifically to the family here at Calvary Chapel Tyler.  Like any group, it’s good to sometimes stop and make an assessment of where we’ve been & where we’re going, to ensure that we’re on the right track – and the 1st Sunday of 2016 is an appropriate time to do so.

The tools that we’ll be looking at today are prayer and evangelism.  These tools were foundational to the birth of the church – they are essential for the grown of the church – they are simply non-negotiables.  If the job is the Great Commission, then they are the right tools to get the job done.  When they are absent, what happens?  Nothing.  Not “nothing” as in “no harm,” but “nothing” as in “no activity.”  The church cannot thrive without prayer & evangelism.  It may not die, but it sure won’t live.  Prayer and evangelism are vital to Christian vitality.

So why are we talking about it?  Because honestly, this is a weak area for our church fellowship.  It may be difficult to hear, but it needs to be said.  Problems that remain unrecognized remain unsolved.  And this is too important to let alone!

First, let’s set the context with Scripture.  Nothing of the opinions of men (especially pastors!) matters if it is not grounded in the word of God.  Thankfully, the Bible has much to say on the matter – especially in regards to how prayer and evangelism is linked with the very birth of the church.

Acts 2:40–47

  • The birth of the church

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

  • It had been the end of an incredible morning among the followers of Jesus.  After being told by the Lord to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them, empowering them to be witnesses of Jesus to all the world, that was exactly what they did.  They waited & prayed – prayed & waited.  They determined the will of God regarding a replacement for Judas Iscariot & before long, the day of Pentecost arrived.  Acts 2:1 seems to assume the believers were already praying, in that they are described as being “in one accord in one place.”  It was at that time that the Holy Spirit filled each of them, accompanied audibly with the sound of a mighty wind & visibly with tongues of fire resting upon each of them.  The noise of the wind gave way to the sound of new tongues spoken from the believers themselves, and this attracted the attention of all of those nearby in the streets of Jerusalem who were surely out & about on their way to worship God on this feast day.  The passers-by were amazed by what they saw & heard, not understanding how it was that these Galileans could be praising God in what were certainly unknown languages – the very languages of the lands from which many of the foreign Jews had arrived.  Their amazement provided Peter the perfect opportunity to begin preaching the gospel to them.  He first explained the gift of tongues as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, showing the Spirit’s power as proof of the Son of God who had come among them, was known by them, rejected by them, crucified by them, and then who rose from the dead & walked among them.  The people of Jerusalem were cut to the heart (2:37), knowing everything Peter said was true, and they begged to be told what they needed to do to be saved.  That’s when Peter told them to turn away from their sins & believe upon Jesus Christ (via repentance & baptism), and the promise from God was forgiveness & salvation.
  • That’s where the author Luke picks up in his narration.  We are not given the remainder of Peter’s sermon that day, but he obviously wasn’t done speaking at the moment.  He went on to teach & exhort them to be saved, and thousands responded.  What an amazing moment!  If only to see it from the perspective of Peter, who weeks earlier was afraid to admit to a little girl that he believed in Jesus – now Peter boldly proclaimed his faith & the dire necessity for others to believe as well.  He proclaimed the truth of God, preaching the good news of Jesus.  He engaged in evangelism.  Just the word “evangelism” can be scary to some people, but it really ought not to be intimidating at all.  The word descends from the Greek word ευαγγελιον, which simply speaks of “good news.”  “Good news” doesn’t sound nearly as scary, does it? J  It shouldn’t!  And the news we have to share is indeed good!  Just as Peter told the Jerusalem crowd that day, it was the news of how they could be saved.  They needed to be saved, because they were lost.  They were immersed in a crooked, perverse generation & culture.  They were a people who had actually executed their awaited Messiah – they nailed the Son of God to a cross & mocked Him as He died.  If there were any generation that was perverse, it was their own!  (BTW – ours is no better.  Our generation routinely mocks the Lord God, scoffing at the idea that God actually exists & if He does, that He must be cruel, bigoted, and incompetent.  Truly our generation is crooked & perverse, and people are just as much in need to be saved from it!)
  • There are many ways to share the good news.  For Peter that day, it was through testifying & exhorting – other translations say that he bore witness & strongly urged the people.  In this context, that meant a public proclamation as he preached to the multitudes – but the same things can be done in quieter conversations, one-on-one with our friends and neighbors.  We testify/bear witness of Jesus.  We speak of who He is, and what He’s done.  If nothing else, we simply point to Him, just like a witness might identify someone from the witness stand.  When we put the attention of someone else upon Jesus, we are witnessing of Him…it’s that simple.  Hand-in-hand with the witnessing is the urging, the application of what to do with Jesus.  After all, it’s one thing to be told who Jesus is; it’s another to be told how to respond to Him.  For instance, we may tell someone “Jesus is God,” and they might reply “Great…now what?”  Them knowing that we know that Jesus is God isn’t the message of salvation – they need to know & believe that Jesus is God as well.  Once they’ve heard the good news, they need to know what to do with it & how to use it. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be done.
  • And again, it worked!  “Three thousand souls were added” to the church that day.  When the sun rose that morning, there were around 120 believers – by the time the sun set, the church grew 2400%!  It’s difficult for us to wrap our minds around numbers like that & certainly it is rare to see that kind of conversion rate today.  The point isn’t to intimidate us by our lack of comparative results – it’s to encourage us & help us remember that people ARE ready to be saved.  Whether it is the generation in Jerusalem that day, or the generation in which we ourselves live – some people will hear the gospel and be saved.  Be it 3000 or 3, some people are ready to hear…they just need to be told.
  • BTW – there might be some listening today that aren’t listening from the perspective of Peter, but that of the crowd.  Maybe you are one that could be included among those 3000.  Just as Peter told the crowd that day, the promise of God is available to anyone who is willing to respond to the call of God.  You too can be saved, if you but turn away from your sins & believe upon Jesus Christ as God – the One who died for your sins on the cross & rose again from the grave.  You can do that right now & have the same assurance as Peter or anyone in the church throughout the ages, knowing beyond doubt that Jesus has saved you.  I urge you…believe upon Him today!
  • The work of the church

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

  • Whereas earlier Luke summed up the sermon of Peter on the morning of Pentecost, now Luke sums up the activity of the church once they believed.  What happened to those 3,120 believers in the Lord Jesus?  What happened after they were evangelized & saved?  They dedicated themselves to four things: doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers.
  • Don’t pass over how they dedicated themselves: “they continued steadfastly…”  The word Luke uses to describe this is a strengthened form of the word for “enduring, persisting.”  Louw-Nida, “to continue to do something with intense effort…despite difficulty.”  IOW, these four activities in which the church engaged weren’t things they just “happened” to do.  These were not random activities, or things they took lightly & just did as they came around.  These were things they purposed themselves toward – that they made intentional efforts to do.  When they studied doctrine, that’s what they meant to do.  In the same way, they purposed to gather together, and to spend time with one another – be it in general meals or in celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
  • As for us, we can say much of the same thing.  We purpose to study the word.  Continuing in the doctrine of the apostles is not something that we take lightly, and just hope to do every once in a while.  We labor over the word, endeavoring to teach the Scriptures rightly, to the glory of God.  Likewise with fellowship & the breaking of bread.  We intentionally gather together, not forsaking the fellowship.  We understand we need to be around one another in worship & just generally in life.  Even the Lord’s Supper is not something we forsake, as we intentionally celebrate it twice each month – ensuring we do it on a regular basis.
  • But can we say the same about prayer?  Do we continue in prayer with intense effort – or is it something we just “happen” to do casually?  Don’t misunderstand – it isn’t that every prayer needs to be formal, but it certainly ought to be intentional.  After all, this is what the original church did.  The whole context leading up to 2:42 was the group of believers gathering to pray.  They were praying after Jesus ascended to heaven – they were praying as they sought a replacement for Judas – they were almost assuredly praying when they gathered in the room on Pentecost Day prior to the Holy Spirit falling upon them.  We might even argue that all the evangelism that took place on Pentecost via Peter took place precisely because they spent so much time in prayer, waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  They were ready to share the good news of Jesus because they had already done their preparation work in prayer.
    • Prayer so often becomes an afterthought.  We know we ought to do it, so we do – but it’s done with anything except intense effort.  We say grace before eating because we’re “supposed” to – we pray before starting church assemblies simply because that’s “what’s done” – we pray prior to bedtime just because it’s our ritual.  That’s not to say those prayers are wasted, or that habitual prayer is even bad or unwanted (it’s good to make prayer a habit!) – but where is the intense prayer?  Where is the purposed, intentional, seeking-God-in-one-accord prayer?  That is the sort of prayer the early church did, and that is the same sort of thing we ought to be doing as well.
  • The result of the work

43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

  • What happened when the church did what God intended the church to do?  Worship!  Fear, reverence, awe – all of this swept over the church, and they watched the apostles do amazing things as God empowered them to work.  “Many wonders and signs” were done in the presence of the believers, and among the public in Jerusalem.  God was doing a new thing in establishing His church, and miracles were common as He gave proof of the gospel message.
  • The apostles may have performed the signs & wonders, but the credit didn’t go to them.  The fear shown among “every soul” was fear & reverence that belonged to God.  It was obvious that God was working, and that only caused the gospel to go out even more strongly.
  • The point isn’t so much about the miracles, but the reverence.  When God’s people do what God calls us to do, the results are going to be obvious both inside & outside the church.  Inside the church, people’s lives are going to be changed & Christians will be built up & strengthened in the faith.  Outside the church, people are going to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ & be saved.  Either way it’s a supernatural work.  Every salvation is a miracle – even if it isn’t seen as a “sign & wonder” by the world.
  • Love in the church

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

  • This is another result of the church doing what God had called them to do.  As they worshipped God in reverence, learned of Him through the doctrine, gathered with other believers for worship, remembered the sacrifice of Jesus through the Supper, and prayed fervently in one-accord, it only follows that love would flourish among the believers.  How could it not?  They would see one another’s needs, and if someone was hungry, they would be fed.  If someone was cold, they would be clothed.  It’s rather difficult to worship & pray to God right next to your starving brother in Christ who’s doing the same thing & not respond in some fashion.
  • At this point, it was all organic.  It wasn’t forced among the rich within the church, nor was a distribution system organized among the poor.  As the church grew, the organization would necessarily grow as well – but it was always based upon the love and willingness of the people.  After all, the best way to meet a need is simply to meet it.  If you see it & God moves on your heart, then you do something about it.  Don’t wait for someone else to get involved – you do what God leads you to do.
  • Daily life & growth

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

  • So the church was unified in mission, in worship, in doctrine, in fellowship, and prayer – they were joyful & made an impact on their community around them.  What followed?  Conversions – salvations.  Not just one or two on occasion, but constant, steady, daily growth.  To be sure, it was a different time – it was a specific time in church history & God was doing amazing things as He gave life to the church He was building.  But there is nothing in vss. 46-47 that is so specific to 33AD that could not also be said of today, if God so blessed us with revival. 
    • They worshipped God daily – so can we.  Even if we meet 2 times per week, we can still be in one accord together as our hearts are knit together in prayer, purposefully praying for one another, staying in touch with one another.  Can you imagine what the early church would have done with email, facebook, and texting?  Surely we can strive to be unified together in our prayers and worship!
    • They spent time together – so can we.  They ate together in various homes, and spent time getting to know one another so they could love each other more.  Whether that takes place at an “official” worship service, a home fellowship, or just over coffee isn’t the issue – just as long as it happens somehow.
  • When the church loves God & when the church loves each other, something very special happens: people get saved.  Evangelism is a natural outgrowth of all of that.  The more time we spend in prayer seeking the God who saved us – the more time we spend glorifying & worshipping Him, thanking Him for His love for us – the more time we look outside ourselves to one another, seeing how we might bear one another’s burdens – the more we do those things, the more natural it is for us to speak the good news of Jesus to our neighbor.  We might even find them asking us what it is that makes us different, because at that point the difference will be obvious.

The issue:
So what does all of that have to do with us?  Simply this: prayer and evangelism were foundational to the birth & growth & life of the early church.  It was that way with them, and it needs to be that way with us.  Moving into 2016, this is something about which we want to be intentional.  This is something to which we need to be dedicated, focused – to give intense effort.

Keep in mind, we do many things well here at Calvary Chapel.  We have a high priority on teaching the word of God & thus remaining in the doctrine handed down to us from the apostles.  That has always been an emphasis for us, and will always remain so.  When we stay in Scripture, then we remain true to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  All of the evangelism in the world will do no good if we are not ourselves grounded in the gospel.  What gospel will we preach, if we do not start with a solid foundation from the Scripture?  This is a primary issue for us, and we thankfully do it well.  From our main worship services, to our children & youth ministries, to our home fellowships, all the way through to our radio outreach – we teach the word of God & we will always do so.

We also love one another well here at Calvary Chapel.  To love one another is a preeminent command in the New Testament.  This is what Jesus specifically called His church to do, and it is one way how the rest of the world will know who His disciples truly are.  This particular church is (and always has been) a loving church.  We spend time with one another – we help one another in times of need – we come alongside one another to bear our burdens – we forgive freely & love deeply.  Our love for one another shows that we ourselves have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is a wonderful thing! 

Finally, not only do we love one another, we also love the Lord our God.  This is seen beyond our proclamation of His word, but also in our worship.  Our worship is sincere & Scriptural.  The worship here is something that goes beyond singing & music (though it certainly includes that).  It is shown in the way people live God-honoring lives – in the way that the Scripture is valued – in the way that the people who serve, serve willingly & sacrificially.  People have truly given themselves to be living sacrifices unto God, and (prayerfully) that will always be the case.

But if we’re being honest (and we must), then we need to admit there are other areas that are challenging for us as a local church fellowship.  Primarily, prayer and evangelism.  It’s not that there is a lack of knowledge, or necessarily even a lack of desire – but a lack of use.  We know the tools that have been given to us, but we aren’t doing a good job of putting them into practice.  Our lowest attended services are prayer services, and our lowest attended studies have had to do with evangelism training.  Obviously, prayer & evangelism is much bigger than what can be seen in public events at Calvary Chapel Tyler – but if this is any indication of where we stand generally, then it’s something we need to address.

Keep in mind, it’s not just us.  These two areas are weak areas throughout the church at large.  A 2012 Lifeway survey found that although 80% of evangelicals knew they were responsible for sharing their faith, 61% never did so in the previous six months.  A full 83% were hesitant to even let other people know that they themselves were Christian.  The statistics regarding prayer were no better.  According to a 2014 Lifeway survey regarding prayer habits, 82% of evangelicals regularly prayed for family & friends, 42% prayed regarding their own personal sin, only 37% prayed regarding God’s greatness, and just 20% ever prayed for people of other faith or no faith.

If only 20% of people ever pray for conversions (out of those who pray at all), it is any wonder that 61% of Christians never share their faith?  And of course, that’s if these surveys are even accurate at all.  Based on his own experience, Dr. Bill Bright (the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ & the author of the 4 Spiritual Laws) estimated that that only 2% of Christians ever personally shared their faith.  Christians simply are not burdened for those who are lost, and it neither expresses itself in prayer nor evangelism.

The lack of prayer and evangelism is a problem – not just for one church, but for THE church!  But it only changes one church at a time, with one Christian at a time.  Let it begin with us!  Let us use the tools God has given us to reach the world!

The solution:
If that’s the challenge, what do we do about it?  Some of it comes down to the old Nike shoe ad: just do it.  Of course it’s a lot easier to say than to actually put into practice.  Many Christians get overwhelmed at the thought of intentional prayer and evangelism.  Maybe they feel unequipped to share their faith, or uncertain how best to go about prayer.  They might feel intimidated with the thought of sharing the gospel, or inadequate with public (or even private) prayer.

In the end, much of our fear is just that: fear.  And if so, it’s unnecessary.  It’s good to have a fear of God; it’s useless to have a fear of anything else.  It’s not that fear is uncommon – nearly every Christian is hesitant to act out at any given point in time, but it is unnecessary.  God has already equipped us with what we need to serve Him, and we need to walk in that equipping.  Even Timothy, a disciple of Paul who had travelled extensively with him on various mission trips, experienced his own bout with fear.  Paul wrote to encourage him to be bold: 2 Timothy 1:6–7, "(6) Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (7) For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." It’s safe to say that if Timothy had to be encouraged not to fear, then we might have our own struggles with it as well.  But like Timothy, we also need to be exhorted to use what God has given us to do what God has laid before us, especially in regards to prayer and evangelism.

So let’s be exhorted!  The early church in Acts didn’t wait to engage in it, it was simply what they did.  They prayed, and they preached the good news.  Isn’t it interesting that although some of what they said is recorded, most of it is not?  We already saw Luke’s summary in 2:40 regarding “many other words,” but it goes beyond that.  3000 may have come to faith on the day of Pentecost, but how did the others daily come to faith?  It was because Christians were praying & sharing the gospel.  We may not know the words they used, but we certainly know the results that came.

Prayer and evangelistic outreach can be formal, but it doesn’t have to be.  We can have prayer meetings gathered as a church, or we can simply be a group of two or more.  We could even be in our own prayer closet, pouring out our heart to God & waiting to hear from Him.  Likewise with evangelism – it could be done at a church-wide outreach, or as you’re handing a shirt to someone who needs it, or as you’re leaving a gospel tract for your restaurant server.  It doesn’t have to be formal, and it never has to be complicated.

And that’s Scriptural.  In regards to prayer: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, "(16) Rejoice always, (17) pray without ceasing, (18) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  How is someone to pray without ceasing, if we always wait for formalized prayer?  The kind of prayer Paul writes of here is ongoing, conversational prayer.  It is still intentional, but it is informal.  It is intentionally including God throughout your day.  Theologically, we know that God is omnipresent (always with us), and omniscient (He knows all things, including our thoughts).  Do we pray to Him as if He is?  If He is always with us & hearing us, that means we can pray to Him constantly.  Prayers don’t have to be formalized or long – they just need to be prayed.  When Peter walked on water & began to sink, he didn’t have a long prayer…he just cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Mt 14:30)  And that was enough.  In the end, prayer is simply our intentional conversation with God.  So let us converse!

It is no different with evangelism.  Evangelism can indeed be formal, as it was as Peter boldly proclaimed the gospel to thousands on the day of Pentecost.  But it is vastly more than that.  Think about it: if the only “proper” way to share the gospel was to wait for crusades, formal outreaches, and invitations at the end of a church service, the vast majority of the world’s population would never hear the good news of Jesus.  The very best (and most effective) way for people to hear the gospel is for individual Christians to share it.  It doesn’t have to be a presentation of the 4-laws, or walking someone all the way through to the point of a “sinner’s prayer,” – it can simply be the process of showing someone Jesus.  A wonderful example is found in Peter’s brother Andrew, who literally brought Peter to Christ.  John 1:41–42, "(41) He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). (42) And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone)."  Andrew’s method of evangelism wasn’t complicated – he just took his brother to Jesus.  Likewise with the Samaritan woman at the well, after Jesus personally revealed to her that He is the Messiah.  She simply went to people in her city, inviting them to come see Jesus for themselves. (Jn 4:29)  It was all still intentional, but it was informal & natural.

That’s all well & good generally speaking, but how do WE go about doing it as a church?  What is Calvary Chapel Tyler going to do in 2016 that will make things any different?  As with anything else within a church congregation, there are two ways to approach issues: organically, and organizationally.  BTW – neither is bad, and both are necessary.  Sometimes there’s a tendency to think that one is always better than the other, but that isn’t true.  Efforts that begin organically among the people are wonderfully creative, but they are often short-lived.  Efforts that begin organizationally can sometimes be slow to get started, but are able to involve a greater percentage of people.  So both are good, and we want to encourage all of it.

Organizationally: There are some things we do well in regards to prayer, and these are things we don’t want to change.  We have small groups that spend much dedicated time in prayer, and we want to not only see them continue, but encourage greater involvement.  We have several prayer services a year, specifically designed to devote dedicated time to prayer & that is also something we want to see continue.  Our online prayer list (via facebook & email) is very active, and that’s a good thing.  That said, we want to do better.  We’re going to try to find ways of incorporating more prayer time in our worship services, hopefully to respond to what God is saying to us through the Scripture.  We’re going to organize our dedicated prayer services better, providing more focus to the evening – and we will highly encourage people to gather together to participate.  These are things we need to do together as a congregation, and we cannot see it neglected.

In regards to evangelism, we also do certain things well.  We intentionally weave the gospel throughout the messages that are preached, and our radio ministry has a clear gospel invitation at the end of every weekend broadcast.  We make gospel tracts freely available (as well as Bibles), and we are happy to purchase as many gospel tracts that are needed.  Where we have been lacking from an organizational standpoint this past year have been outreaches.  This is something we will strive to improve in 2016.  It’s time that we get back to basics, and part of that includes getting out into the community.  At this point, we don’t know what it looks like, but whether it’s at the park or in a parking lot, we will have hands-on opportunities to share the gospel this year.  In doing so, we will need people willing to serve every step of the way, from concept to clean-up.

Whatever we do together as a church body, we truly need to do together.  I need to hear from you – our elders need to hear from you.  We not only need your prayers, but we need your voice.  If God lays something on your heart for the church, bring it to us in order that we might also determine if/how to proceed.  (And of course, if God puts it on your heart, He’s likely giving you an opportunity to personally serve!)

And that takes us to the organic side of things.  Organically, there aren’t many things that we can plan, but much that we can encourage.  As a pastor, one of the things that truly thrill me is when people come up with an idea, and then just take the initiative to see it done.  Recently, we had a great example with the Star Wars opening, and someone took the initiative to make customized tracts…  There have been other times when men purposed to get together to pray, or other Bible studies crop up.  I love this.  A ministry/outreach doesn’t have to have the name “Calvary Chapel Tyler” slapped on it to be done by people at Calvary Chapel Tyler.  Our church (like every church) are people; not entities.  WE are the church, and we can act as God moves us to act.  If it is going to represent/involve the church congregation, then by all means come to the elders – and of course we are more than willing to help any time help is required.  But other things can simply be done.  Permission isn’t required to pass out gospel tracts, or to pray for a brother or sister in need, or whatever.  WE are the body of Christ, and we can minister as such.

With that in mind, we want to encourage personal prayer and evangelism as much as possible.  When was the last time you prayed for the personal opportunity to share the gospel, or even just generally for the lost?  When was the last time you actually engaged in it?  I don’t ask to impart guilt, but to get us thinking.  All of us (myself included) need to be spurred on to do good works, so let’s be exhorted together to get moving.  We desperately need to seek God in prayer, and the world around us is desperate to hear the good news of Jesus.  If we personally and individually do not do it, who will? 

Conclusion:
This year, let us commit ourselves again to prayer and evangelism…tools that God has given, that are perhaps underutilized.  Maybe you start small, using the time around your dinner table to do more than pray the same thing every time, but intentionally bless God, thanking Him for your food prior to eating.  Maybe you start using the Lord’s Prayer as the tool for which Jesus gave it: a model & outline for personal prayer.  When you don’t know what to pray, pray through that.  Maybe you pray for one lost person every day, thinking through who you encountered through your day & praying for their salvation before you go to bed at night.  Be intentional about your prayers individually, and we will be intentional about our prayers corporately.

We can do the same thing in sharing the gospel.  Again, you can start small, asking God to make you more aware of the opportunities He gives you every day.  Maybe someone is talking to you about a difficulty, and that’s your cue to tell them how you’ll pray for them (and then do it!).  Maybe someone is new to town, and you’ve got an opportunity to invite them to church.  Maybe you start to keep gospel tracts in your pocket & look for opportunities to simply leave them behind.  As you do, ask for boldness to do more.  If there is one prayer we can be assured that God will answer, it is that His people would have opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Beloved, we have wonderful opportunities ahead of us in 2016!  Every single day we are given is a new day that we have the privilege of talking with our God in prayer, and sharing the good news of Jesus with the lost.  Let us be intentional about moving forward!  Can you imagine the things God will do if every single person here commits him/herself to intentionally growing in our prayer lives and personal evangelism?  Can you imagine what happens when God brings us in to one accord as we seek His face, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and faithfully point people to Jesus?  That is a year to be excited about!  That’s the opportunity that is before us…let us take it!

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