If you love Jesus, I’m sure you puzzle over how you can spread the good news of salvation. We all want our friends, relatives, colleagues, and neighbours to know the forgiveness of sins, but we wonder how.
In that context, this comment by Al Martin stood out to me:
“The book of Acts shows that most recorded instances of the church’s growth through conversions is found in connection, not with the generic witness of the individual saints of God or the corporate witness of the church functioning as salt and light, but with the proclamation of the Word by the appointed servants of God”Al Martin, the Man of God, Pastoral Theology, p.59.
1. I’m currently preaching through the book of Acts, and I think his observation is correct. It’s clearly not just God’s appointed servants who bring people to faith. The flames of persecution led to a mass of Christians being scattered and gossiping the gospel (Acts 8:4). Unknown, unnamed groups of Christians started the powerful missionary congregation in Antioch (Acts 11:19-21). But still, the big picture is that it’s the proclamation and teaching of “appointed servants” that does the heavy lifting of evangelism in the book, whether it’s Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:12), or Paul in the cities of Antioch Pisidia (Acts 13:48), Corinth (Acts 18:8), or Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10).
2. This observation pushes against what many of us have been saying for the last 20 years. We’ve emphasised that it’s every believer being trained to share the gospel that’s going to help us bring people to Jesus. We’ve encouraged Christianity Explored/Alpha courses, realising the importance of community in evangelism. As people have struggled to sign up to a course, we’ve encouraged reading the word “one-to-one”. There’s friendship evangelism, door-to-door evangelism, street evangelism. “People won’t just walk in to church, so it’s down to you, individual believer”, we say.
Now, it’s clearly a “both/and” situation rather than an “either/or”. We can obviously believe in both evangelistic preaching and equipping every believer to speak about Jesus to others. Likewise, I’m sure living godly lives in a pagan world will make a massive difference to our witness. If every Christian in England was living the “salty” life Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount, it’d be the start of a revival.
But what the Book of Acts is showing is not a simple “both personal evangelism and public proclamation” approach. It’s saying: “especially public proclamation”. It’s teaching there is something special about the risen Jesus sending preachers (Rom 10:15). Yes, our friends might not like a “preachy” tone, but that’s exactly what a living encounter with the Lord requires! The Book of Acts wants to give us a confidence in, conviction about, and prayerfulness for preachers preaching the word.
3. This means when you invite someone to hear a minister preach and teach the word (and this isn’t just on a Sunday in church), it’s not a cop out! It’s a very significant thing. You’re not a second-class Christian, who’s leaving evangelism to the experts. Rather, you’re trusting that this is the method Jesus has specifically designed to use to advance his kingdom.
Remember, in the Bible, simple invites do big things:
- “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!” said the servant girl in the hearing of Naaman (2 Kings 5:3). That invite led to her master being wonderfully healed by Elisha.
- “Come and see!” said Philip to Nathanael (John 1:46). That invite led to Nathanael’s salvation.
- “Come, see…”, the Samaritan woman said to her city (John 4:29). Her testimony was an invite that led to many in her town believing in Jesus.
Do not underestimate the power of thoughtfully, prayerfully, and deliberately inviting people you know to listen to the ministry of the Word.