Tuesday, February 17th

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”  Acts 2:37-39

 

When you read through the book of Acts, looking for the ways that God brings people to faith, you discover four different scenarios.  These verses come at the end of a sermon Peter preached to a large gathering of people on the day of Pentecost.  The first way that God brings people to faith is through hearing a message proclaimed in the midst of a large gathering of people.

 

This scene points out some misconceptions that people often carry both about this story and about evangelism in general.  Regarding the Pentecost story, most people remember Peter standing to preach when suddenly tongues of fire appear on the heads of those gathered in the large upper room.  Suddenly everyone is speaking a foreign language but, at the same time, everyone understands what everyone else is saying.  Clearly God is the one in charge here, the Holy Spirit the one doing the talking.  But that isn’t the place where Peter’s sermon will reach the masses.

 

Instead, a large crowd gathers outside of the room.  They’ve been drawn by the babbling noises they have been hearing on the inside.  Only then does Peter leave the room and speak to the crowd.  It is Peter’s voice, the Spirit speaking plainly through Peter, that results in thousands coming to faith.

 

The evangelism misconception that this story reveals is two fold.  First, the word “evangelism” literally means “to carry a good message.” Evangelism is a good message that is carried OUTSIDE the church.  Too often we have “evangelism committees” in our congregations and we think it is their job to “do evangelism.”  That isn’t God’s plan.  At best, an evangelism committee can see that hospitality happens and visitors to the church leave with a willingness and interest in coming back again but the work of “carrying the message” is shared by all.

 

Second, it is common to think of evangelism as “making disciples.”  But those are two different things.  Making disciples BEGINS with baptism or the affirmation of baptism as someone new joins a congregation but then it continues through a lifelong process of learning and worshipping and serving and giving.  Everyone in a congregation, from the pastor on up, remains a “disciple in the making.”  Evangelism is that initial contact, that repeated invitation, as one person bears witness to another about the life changing power of God’s love.

 

This first way that God brings people to faith happens when people hear a message proclaimed in a large gathering of people.  How do we help that happen?  First, we provide opportunities for large gatherings of people to hear the good news, including Sunday morning worship.  Pastor Mike Aus of Living Word Lutheran Church, a highly respected and fast growing congregation in our synod, calls it “creating a buzz.”  Doing things that people will be naturally inclined to invite others to.

 

And then second, we invite others to come and see.  We become the ones who have heard the buzz in the room and then rush out into the city calling others to come and see, drawing the crowd within earshot of the gospel.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we are often tempted to stay so quiet about our faith.  We forget the role we play in inviting others into following you.  Our world gets too small and we get too caught up in the demands of life.  Maybe there isn’t much going on and we’re just going through the motions.  So we pray that the power of the Spirit be unleashed in us, that our tongues might be loosened and that you give us opportunity to invite others to come and see.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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One Response to “Tuesday, February 17th”

  1. Mary G Says:

    I get it. And I try to “wear my faith on my sleeve”. Around these parts, though, most people already belong to a church, or they live too far away to visit. Maybe I don’t get out much.

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