Saturday, May 06, 2006

evangelism training for women in the local church


It should never be assumed that members within the local church have a thorough knowledge of the truths of the Gospel. Too many ministers take for granted that those within their flock have the head knowledge plus the ability to communicate the Gospel eloquently to their friends and neighbors. This is not the case. Thus, the need for equipping women to know and share the Good News of Jesus Christ necessitates a solid evangelism program. Within such a program, women should feel equipped in a thorough knowledge of the Gospel message, the ability to communicate it clearly, the vision for the necessity of sharing the Good News, and the wherewithal to answer difficult questions they may encounter. Four weeks of two hour weekly sessions ought to be a good springboard for ladies with the church to feel more confident in sharing their faith.


The Gospel Defined

At the beginning of a new study within her women’s ministry, Barbara Hughes gave each of the godly women involved the assignment to write a concise description of the Gospel message. One would think that it would be such a simple task. However, the difficulty of the task both surprised and humbled Hughes and the other women. Some of the women wrote multiple pages on how they came to a saving knowledge of their Lord and Savior, while others described witnessing techniques. Hughes remembers the experience by stating that the Gospel got “lost in that fog of words.” There even seemed to be confusion as to who was the focus of the message. When asked how the women knew they were Christians, the words “I” and “me” appeared to be predominant (Hughes, 21). Is the church preaching a man-centered Gospel? Is it training its members to proclaim God’s plan of redemption by using such phrases as “I accepted” or “I prayed” or “I went forward?”

The truth of God’s call for reconciliation is that the Gospel is not focused on man. Rather, the Gospel is God’s Gospel. It is focused on Him and His work. This is the message of the entire Bible: God reconciling with, redeeming, and restoring His image-bearers. Unlike other world religions, Christianity focuses on God’s saving work, revealing that man can do nothing to obtain God’s favor and salvation. “A gospel that primarily focuses on man’s needs or guilt or feelings or wants or ambitions is not God’s Gospel. God’s Gospel is amazing news about what His son Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. It is about what God has done” (Hughes, 22).

The purpose of the first session is to explain the Gospel to the women and enable them to communicate the Gospel in ordinary, everyday terms. Before the first session of evangelism training, instruct the women to come prepared with a definition of the Gospel (much like what Hughes did with her ladies group). When the women arrive have them share with the group their definitions. Each will be different. Together narrow the definitions down into one concise definition of what the Gospel means. Compare this to

1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

This is the Gospel in a nutshell. Point out the emphasis of Christ’s actions within the passage. The repeated phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” serves to place Christ’s actions in context. This was the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption from the beginning of time, not a random act of God. The work of Christ is the climax of all of history. The Old Testament Scriptures looked forward to fulfillment to the promises of God in the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Savior of sinners. The New Testament, and beyond, looks back at the cross as the reason for the hope of the elect.

Once the women comprehend that the focus of the Gospel is God, divide the women into groups of three. Provide each group with a God-centered presentation of the Gospel (a witnessing tract). “Two Ways to Live” by Phillip Jensen of Matthias Media and a copy of Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth “Come Home” diagram are good examples. Allow them time to study the tract, noting the portions that emphasize God. Have each group share what they have observed with the others.

Following this activity, ask the women to share some difficult, theological words they may use when sharing the Gospel. Make a list of these words on the chalkboard (or have them write them down on paper). Such a list may include terms such as

lost
saved
born again
repent
justified
atonement
righteousness
spiritual
holy
sin
salvation
saving faith
redemption
believe
God
Gospel
the finished work of Christ on the cross
inviting Christ into your heart, etc.

In the same groups of three, provide the women with dictionaries and thesauruses and give them time to work within their groups to define these terms in ways that people who have not attended church might understand. Call on the different groups to help define the terms on the board. This exercise will help the women communicate to their family, friends, and neighbors in a vocabulary they can understand.


Weekly Assignments

Following the training sessions each week, give the women in the group the assignment to conduct a Spiritual Interest Questionnaire with three people who are not believers. An example of such a questionnaire can be found in Metzger’s Tell the Truth in Appendix A. His questions are as follows.

1. What is your religious background?
2. Do you think that various good things you’ve experienced might be due to God’s love?
3. Do you think God might be a source of help for the problems you face?
4. Can you give one example of how your religion affects your behavior; that is, how it makes a practical difference in your life?
5. Do you think of yourself as a person created by God and therefore accountable to him for the way you live?
6. Do you ever think of yourself as in need of God’s forgiveness for things you’ve though, said or done?
7. In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
8. Summarize in one sentence what you think is the main theme of the Bible.
9. When it comes to spiritual matters, would you describe yourself as unconcerned or interested? (Metzger, 228)

Such a questionnaire allows the women to understand the mindset of those who do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is particularly beneficial to the women who have grown up in the church and have taken their knowledge of God for granted. Metzger worded each question in such a way so that the interviewee does not feel manipulated. The interviewer merely asks the questions and listens as the person responds. This is not the time or place to judge people for their beliefs. They do not know Christ. At the end, the interviewer has the opportunity to ask the person being interviewed if they’d like to hear how they would answer the questions. This is a good way to create a friendly dialog. Metzger even suggests the following way to move into sharing the Truth:

“What you’ve just said interests me. I’d like to know more about why you think that way. I wonder if you’ve ever considered this as an answer (or alternative view) to the point you just made” (Metzger, 227).

At this point, the interviewer may be able to spend the next fifteen minutes laying out the Gospel using one of the Gospel presentations covered during the first week’s session, if the person is willing to listen. Leave your contact information so that they may contact you if they have any more questions or would like to talk about it more. It is important to be relational. Christians are called to make disciples, not mere converts.

For the first week’s assignment, assign the women to interview three people who they know well, i.e. family members, close friends, neighbors, etc.


Worship Is the Goal

John Piper begins his book Let the Nations Be Glad with this radical statement: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is.” As a result worship then becomes the “fuel and goal” of missions. A passion for God’s glory in worship is the beginning and end of missions. Worship drives people to share the Gospel through missions. And the worship of the nations to God their Creator is the goal of missions. Missions is the means God has intended to bring people to worship Him (Piper, 17-18).

It is easy for women to love and show compassion on those they are close to who are not believers. However, a woman’s love for God ought to be the highest motivator to share the Gospel. This enables her to not only share those who already have a place in her heart, but also spurs her on to evangelize the lost stranger out of love and passion for her Savior. Christians often speak of “loving the lost;” however, John Dawson of Youth with a Mission suggests that this is impossible to maintain as the dominant motivator. In his book Taking Our Cities for God, Dawson writes,
“Don’t wait for a feeling of love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps in evangelism because you love God. It is not primarily out of a compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God…. Humanity does not deserve the love of God any more than you or I do. We should never be Christian humanists, taking Jesus to poor sinful people, reducing Jesus to some kind of product that will better their lot. People deserve to be damned, but Jesus, the suffering Lamb of God, deserves the reward of His suffering” (Dawson 208-209).

The purpose of the second week’s session is to make women aware of the urgent need to
share the Gospel to make worshippers out of love and passion for God and His glory. At the beginning of the allow time to discuss the encounters the women had during the week using the questionnaire. Ask the women if they noticed a difference when they shared the Gospel as God-centered, rather than man-centered. Discuss what they learned about the spiritual state of the unsaved people they interviewed.

Paul writing to the Romans stated in Romans 2:24, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles.” Discuss what it means to blaspheme God and write on the board different ways non-believers blaspheme God, giving the women the opportunity to volunteer the answers. Supplement their list with Piper’s list from page 206 in Let the Nations Be Glad.

The glory of God is not honored.
The holiness of God is not reverenced.
The greatness of God is not admired.
The power of God is not praised.
The truth of God is not sought.
The wisdom of God is not esteemed.
The beauty of God is not treasured.
The goodness of God is not savored.
The faithfulness of God is not trusted.
The commandments of God are not obeyed.
The justice of God is not trusted.
The wrath of God is not feared.
The grace of God is not cherished.
The presence of God is not prized.
The person of God is not loved. (Piper, 206)

Piper states that the opposite of this disrespect for God is worship. Share with the women this quote from Let the Nations Be Glad:

“Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world—
a valuing of God above all else that is valuable
a loving of God above all else that is lovely
a savoring of God above all else that is sweet
an admiring of God above all else that is admirable
a fearing of God above all else that is fearful
a respecting of God above all else that is respectable
a prizing of God above all else that is precious” (Piper, 206-207).

The church’s mission is not to save people from ultimate death (this is Christ’s work), our mission is to make disciples … worshippers … if you will. Christians can communicate the Gospel to the world through our own acts of worship. Essentially, Christians are called to live the Gospel.

As a group analyze the following verses that make up the three stages of worship (Piper, 207).

Matthew 15:8-9
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

John 4:23
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 15:8-9 reveals that the essence of worship is not action. Worship comes from the heart. John 4:23 shows that worship is “right affections rising for God, rooted in right thinking about God” (Piper, 207). Finally, the third stage of worship is lifestyle. Piper says that the Lord intends for His glory to be public. “His aim is that his glory be openly reflected in the deeds of his people, whose thoughts reflect his truth and whose affections reflect his worth.”

Second, split the women up into different groups of three and give them time to look at the list. Using Piper's “Worship is” list instruct the women to brainstorm ways in which they can worship under each point in the list. At the end, allow the women to share how they can communicate the Gospel by living each of these ways of worship. Encourage them to live the Gospel during the week so that their thoughts are always on God, their speech is permeated with language praising God, and their actions show the love of God, etc.

At the conclusion of week two’s session, assign women to complete three Spiritual Interest Questionnaires of three people they work with or regularly encounter during the week but do not necessarily feel close to.


Hard Questions

Those growing up in this Post-modern world feel short-changed. They do not know where they belong. Their families are broken. Their peers tell them that there are no absolutes. They lack community. They are floating in a dark mist of uncertainty and they crave answers. Many are hostile towards their situation and will lash out at any who approach them with their own personal answers to life’s questions having fallen prey already to many false ideals. And yet, it is the author’s opinion that many more crave Truth and community. This is precisely what the church has to offer.

Emerging Hope, by Jimmy Long, is a terrific resource for understanding those living in Post-modern culture. According to Long, Post-modernism is characterized by subjective truth resulting in mere preference, community due to a lack thereof, virtual reality making what is real (or fact) different for each person, and an intense cynicism towards society. As young people mature, they are seeking their own identity and will often experiment with different realities before they form their own. It is at this stage that the church can most effectively reach them with the truth in Jesus Christ. Along the way, however, post-moderns will ask many questions. Questions that the women, most likely, have already encountered in their weekly interviews. What is the answer to these questions? John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The purpose of the third week’s session is to inform the women of the resources that are available to help them answer difficult questions. Allow time to discuss the encounters the women had during the week with the questionnaire. Ask if the women have encountered any difficult questions during their encounters during the week. Write them on the board.
You may add to the list questions that Metzger supposes might come up:

1. Is the Bible trustworthy?
2. Is Christ the only way to God?
3. What about the people who have never heard?
4. Isn’t one person’s opinion as good as another’s in religion, since no one can really know what is true?
5. I try to do my best so won’t my good efforts get me to heaven?
6. Doesn’t science contradict the Bible?
7. Why does a good God allow suffering and evil?
8. Life is meant to be meaningless; why bother trying to find answers?
9. Why do I need religion?
10. Why don’t Christians do something about the needs of people in this world?
11. Why can’t Christians agree among themselves?
12. Who am I?
13. Who can I trust?
14. Why am I so lonely? Is there a group that will accept me as is?
15. What will make a relationship work?
16. How is Jesus real in your life? (Metzger, 224)

Yes, difficult questions will come up when sharing about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The women will not know all the answers. But that is not an excuse not to find those answers out. Christians have a responsibility as followers of Christ to know what they say they believe and be able to answer why. When confronted with difficult questions that they do not have answers to, they need to take whatever steps necessary to find those answers.

Have women list ways or resources in which they may find the answers to such questions as are listed on the board. Answers may include asking pastors, Bible teachers, theology books, concordances, Bible dictionaries, etc. Display some books that would serve as good resources for answering the difficult questions above. Also recommend websites that may answer any theological questions that they may encounter.

Split the women up into groups of two. Assign each group a difficult question from the list made and allow them time to use the resources, as well as their Bibles, to answer their question. Have the groups share at the end. Answers ought to be saturated in Scripture.

Assign women to complete three Spiritual Interest Questionnaires of three people who they have never met before. Invite three unsaved women to the luncheon on week 4 in which the women will have an open discussion of spiritual matters.


Being Missional

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is passionate about the missional responsibility of the church. In what he calls a “reformission,” Driscoll seeks to transform today’s churches into what Christ intended them to be.

“Reformission is ultimately about being like Jesus, through his empowering grace. One of the underlying keys to reformission is knowing that neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people God has found from those he’s still seeking. To be a Christian literally, is to be a ‘little Christ.’ It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place” (Driscoll, 39-40).

So, how did Jesus live? His ministry on earth was not dominated by sitting in the house of rulers and religious leaders. Rather, Christ is often portrayed as eating with tax collectors and speaking with and showing compassion to adulterous women. Christ never compromise himself. Like him, we must abstain from sin but never hide from sinners. Too many Christians retreat to the fortress of their churches, never engaging their communities. Christ’s call to believers in Acts 1:8 involved one’s own neighborhood as much as the nation’s of the earth.

The purpose of week four’s session is to wrap up the four weeks and have luncheon or party, each woman having invited three women who they know are not believers. There does not necessarily have to be a theme or an occasion. The location would preferably be in one of the women’s homes. The informal atmosphere allows the women to engage their culture and live the Gospel in front of their guests. As the leader, network among the women and encourage conversations of spiritual matters, perhaps using some of the questions from the questionnaire to prompt dialog.


Conclusion

This month long training could possibly be a yearly event that the ladies look forward to or may occur as regularly as every quarter. It is a wonderful way to encourage the women within the local church to engage their communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So many women are either afraid or perhaps merely do not know how to share their faith with others. Implementing this training within a church’s women’s ministry gives the women the confidence and moral support they need to be bold, evangelistic worshippers of the Lord.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dawson, John. Taking Our Cities for God. Lake Mary, Fla.: Creation House, 1989.

Driscoll, Mark. Radical Reformission. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Hughes, Barbara. Disciplines of a Godly Woman. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001.

Hunter, George G., III. The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.

Long, Jimmy. Emerging Hope. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Metzger, Will. Tell the Truth. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.


WEBSITES FOR EVANGELISM AND POSTMODERNISM

http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/
http://www.fbinstitute.com/spurgeon/advice.html
http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0219.htm
http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/COMPEL.TXT
http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/2731.htm
http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/1906.htm
http://www.the-highway.com/gospel_Pilgrim.html
http://www.the-highway.com/Puritans_Hulse.html
http://www.geocities.com/mnapologetics/Postmodernism.htm


[Any further suggestions on resources or ideas are welcome.]

2 comments:

ckhnat said...

For the difficult questions section - what resources do you recommend?

How would YOU define the terms? Are there any others that you would add to the list and how would you define them?

Laura said...

You can't go wrong with Piper. I guess that's Lead school citation style? Stupid style handbook, argh, argh, argh...