Study Guide 4


Life of Christ Small group series

The beginning of Jesus ministry is a great place for us to learn how to begin ours!

It saddens me to admit that we live in a “post-Christian” culture. It’s a place where most people receive multiple “gospel” messages by the time they reach 21 years of age. Many of these messages are perceived as offensive and judgmental, coming from people who care less about the person than the promotion of their particular cause. This combined with humanistic philosophy leaves many individuals very disinterested in the gospel message. Even more troubling are the number of good people who erroneously believe they are Christians. According to George Barna’s book, ‘The index Of leading Spiritual Indicators’, “Almost 9 out of 10 people consider themselves to be “Christian”. But only 3 out of 10 say they have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior in any form. Less than that really live a life like Christ has called us to live from his word. To say the least someone’s confused!

If you have been involved in any efforts to reach those who need Christ you know that we are fighting an uphill battle.  The tactics and successful methods of the 1950’s are now much less effective because our cultures idea of Christians and the Church have been so radically altered.  The words ‘church’ and ‘Christian’ have lost their original meaning. What was once considered to be respectable and honored institutions have become to many, undesirable things?

Hang on don’t lose heart there’s good news!!

What our culture is willing to accept are followers of Jesus!   In the first part of the book of acts whenever the Church was referred to by their culture they were described as “Followers of the Way”.  I’ve found that it’s that original idea of the Church many in the day are hungry for. I’m proud to say that much of the philosophy of Forest Park is built on the concept of a congregation modeled after the Church of the first century found in the book of Acts. The question is how to effectively get the message out in a culture oversaturated with information and opinion.  I believe the foundational keys to successful evangelism really haven’t changed much. In this lesson we will observe the start of the master evangelist’s ministry, how did Jesus function in a world fighting some of the same challenges as our own?

This is a key to remember as we unpack this lesson, every follower of Jesus is a Christian, but, sadly, not every “Christian” is a follower of Jesus.

Principle 1:

Following Jesus is a way of life, not a doctrine, program, or goal.

We will examine just two types of outreach every one of us can do:

  1. Lifestyle Evangelism
  2. Lifestyle Discipleship

1. Lifestyle Evangelism:

Jn 1:36-37, 41, 44-46

“When he saw Jesus passing by, John said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.”

A: Natural:

1. Lifestyle evangelism is not forced.

Several times I have been witnessed to by well meaning people who didn’t realize I already had a relationship with the Lord.  We would begin to naturally talk about subjects of which we were passionate, religion would be one of them, I would ask a leading question and then “Bam!!!” they broke into “Evangelism Mode”.  What had been a natural and comfortable conversation became very awkward and uncomfortable and even as a believer I wanted out!

When Jesus delivered the great commission at the end of his ministry he called us to “ Go into all the world” Literally in the Greek it says “as you go”!  As you go to the grocery store, carry the Gospel. As you go to work, carry the gospel,  as you go to school, carry the gospel.

An effective witness is not something we force into a situation, but rather something that is such a part of who we are that it’s just there, whether we acknowledge it or not.

2. Lifestyle evangelism is not a program.

Did you notice anywhere it says Jesus told the disciples to bring their friends and relatives to Him? Can you imagine Him saying, “We need to knock on 100 doors, loan 1,000 tapes, or hand out 10,000 tracts.”? He left that up to each individual follower. He didn’t start a campaign, He didn’t need to. He knew the Holy Spirit would lead disciples to contact exactly the right people. It’s like using a shotgun and a rifle. The shotgun scatters the pellets across a wide area, in hopes of hitting the target. A rifle focuses the blast to propel one bullet directly to the target. The rifle is much more effective for two reasons: No unintentional damage due to the scattered shot. Much more force applied to the intended target. That’s the way natural evangelism works.

The “first thing” Andrew did was bring Peter to Jesus. It’s like, when you’re in real relationships with people who…like to eat crawfish. Each year in the spring we all start to talk about Crawfish season. We discuss the price, methods of boiling, our favorite sides and dips.  When we find a good price on crawfish we call our friends to let them know,  If we happen to boil a little extra we invite a few people over to help us clean that up.  It’s natural and appreciated because we all like crawfish and are eager to share the good news. It’s the same thing with sharing Jesus. Someone you know expresses a need you know Jesus could fill, so you tell them.

3. Lifestyle evangelism is focused on their need, not ours.:

Jn 1:38 “ Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

Mt 9:12 “ Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

People know when they’re being hunted! True evangelism matches people’s needs with God’s answers. It’s done out of a motivation of love, not compulsion, and certainly not judgment. Jesus was criticized for helping the truly needy people, rather than pumping up the religious ones. As we continue to browse the gospels, we’ll notice, in most cases, Jesus met people’s needs first, then He taught them. This is why, as a Church we focus on needs, like alcoholism, drugs, marriage, money, first. We try to help the need, then teach them about God’s plan for their lives.  My Dad and Mom always used to tell me “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” The longer I live the more I know they were right!

4. Lifestyle evangelism is Non-threatening:

The accurate translation for the word “gospel” is “good-news”. Although the subject of our salvation is the most serious thing we will ever consider, the message of the cross is one of hope and forgiveness. One of the most famous preachers of the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards, used manipulation to get people to commit to Jesus. In his most famous sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.” He famously used his abilities to verbally, “Dangle their feet over the fires of hell.”  Although I don’t doubt Mr. Edwards intentions I’ve found the few make “lasting” change from this form of rebuke.  I have personally witnessed several who made decisions for Christ under such circumstances, never to be seen again in the Church or to return to their former way of life after the pressure is off!

Look at the example Philip set for us in verse 46

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.”

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Philip didn’t threaten his brother or feel threatened by him. If we had someone say such a critical thing about our Savior, how would we respond? Would we verbally beat them up with the Bible or tell them they’re going to hell? All Philip said is ‘Come check Him out for yourself. Find out if anything good comes from there. You see, God’s big enough to defend Himself.

After Lifestyle Evangelism has begun to bear fruit, we move on to…

2. Lifestyle Discipleship:

Jn 1:43 “The next day Jesus…said to him, “Follow me.”

I believe, based on all the other references in the Gospels, this means more than ‘come with me’. It was a rabbi’s invitation to become his student. It was an invitation to a new lifestyle of following Jesus.

1. Showing-not just telling:

We rarely see Jesus just telling the disciples what to do. ‘You go do that…I won’t, but it’s good for you.’ Jesus said of the religious leaders, “do what they say, not what they do.”

My Mailman growing up was a smoker.  Those were simpler times and Charlie would stop on his route to visit with us neighborhood kids from time to time. He would lecture us about smoking, saying, “It’s a nasty habit. Don’t ever start!” We knew it was a nasty habit! Yet, there must have been something really good about it because Charlie was doing it. A bunch of us neighbor kids smoked when we were older. I wonder if it would have made a difference, even if he failed, if he had just tried to quit. If he had spent those talks telling us how hard it was to quit, and what the smokes were doing to his body. Would that have proven he believed it was a nasty habit.

Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Can we say follow me as I follow Christ. I’m not perfect…neither was Paul. Follow me because I’m committed to following Christ. When I fail, I’ll admit it, ask for forgiveness, put my head down and press even harder for the goal of Christ-likeness. Follow me in that!

2 . Living-not just teaching:

I Co 8:1-3: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.”

It’s amazing how often discipleship is considered just teaching. Even some translations of the Bible use the word ‘student’ in the place of ‘disciple’. They aren’t the same!. A disciple was someone who followed their mentor (better word than teacher) for years, trying to emulate them. They went where they went, ate what they ate, slept where they slept and did what they did. Yes, there was teaching, too, but there was a lot more to it than just a lecture or lesson.

Discipleship is caught, not taught.

Many careers, today, require an internship or apprenticeship, before you are allowed to serve as an independent professional. It’s because they know a student only learns about the subject. To actually learn the subject, you must do what you’ve studied. Jesus and Paul wanted people to follow them because in following, the disciple becomes the subject. Finally, after becoming a follower, we are able to serve in a meaningful way.

3. Serving-not just striving:

Lifestyle discipleship demands that we be servants. Have you ever noticed how people strive for ‘position’ in life? Those not striving for their own position are scratching and biting to get close to the ones who have position. You can even find that in churches; people who have their chest out in pride over all the authority and admiration they command. You can recognize them because they’re strutting around; taking positions at the head table, getting reserved parking and reserved seating, letting everyone know just how special they are to God.

The positions of leadership in the early church were not about rank, power, or control,  but were offices of service.  Take for example the word decon used in this culture as a position of importance within a religious organization, but in the original language it simply means a servant.

Jesus said the greatest leaders among us will be the greatest servants, even becoming as a slave. Jesus taught it and lived it by washing the disciples’ feet and giving up His life for us.

Matthew 18:1-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

So as Jesus began reaching His early followers, He showed us true evangelism is natural, need-centered and non-threatening, a matter of lifestyle rather than a project or goal. As they began to follow, Jesus shows us discipleship is a showing, living and serving lifestyle. The important question for us to ask ourselves is are we such a disciple? His example makes it clear that following Jesus is a way of life, not a lifeless doctrine, project or goal.