What if People Oppose Your Evangelism?
What about our friends and family who are not at all interested in God right now? Is there anything we an do? If so, what is it?
THOSE WHO ARE READY
(Start with Easter Services Slide)
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
It’s crazy to think about, but just 6 years ago, Renovation Church was two people.
My wife and I.
I still remember the first time I had the idea to start a church at Northpoint Elementary School.
I was with some family members who were looking at a property just to the south over here, and I saw they were beginning to build this school.
And I thought, “That would be an amazing place to put a church”
The summer before Northpoint opened in 2008, I even snuck into their open house with a co-worker of mine to see if it would even be feasible someday J
We started with a vision to see tons of people of Blaine, of Coon Rapids, of Andover (you name it) start coming to a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ.
And God has done some amazing stuff in the last 6 years.
We’ve now seen literally hundreds of people make a commitment to become a first-time follower of Jesus at our church.
And yet, our work is only beginning.
There are even greater seasons of fruit ahead.
Because the harvest is still enormous.
On an average Sunday in Blaine, 50,000 people aren’t in church.
Times have changed in the last 25 years.
But we want want to be a LIGHT in this city, and we want you, as the very people of Renovation Church, to light up this city with us.
Because there are a ton of people right here, in our city, right now…who are looking for answers to life’s biggest questions.
And you’ve got an amazing opportunity to be a light…this week!
Next week is the most important time of year for Christians: Easter.
We will celebrate the event that our whole faith hinges on: The resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s an amazing time!
But it’s also an incredible outreach opportunity.
So many of you have been praying about this for a while now.
Praying that God would move in the hearts of your co-workers, your friends, and your family members.
And that they would come and hear about Jesus…and better yet, respond to his invitation.
You’ve been praying, now is the time to move like God is going to act.
If we just pray, and we don’t act, then we must not really trust that God can do what He says.
Pray and move.
We don’t exactly know what will happen or what God’s timing is…but we have to move like He will act.
Whether you know families who have kids who would come to the Easter Egg Hunt, or you just know someone who might be ready to try church again…let’s help change lives.
Let’s renovate this city!
This isn’t about inviting someone to church.
It’s about helping someone get in an environment where they can meet Jesus, and HE…can change their lives.
May God give us boldness and faith to be world changers this week.
This is who you are.
You are renovators.
Trust & God and Be bold.
Now…let’s step back from this for a second.
When we talk to you about using a church service, or an Easter egg hunt, as a method of evangelism for someone… what sort of people are we talking about?
We’re talking about people who are generally favorable towards God.
They’re not following Him right now, but they’re not opposed to Him either.
This is a significantly larger portion of the population than I think most Christians believe.
Too many Christians have been led to believe that the world is just one big culture war.
Most the folks who live in Blaine…grew up in church (many in a Lutheran or Catholic church).
They may not be following God now, but many have a longing to come back to Him…they just don’t know how…or WHERE.
I feel like that’s the testimony of the vast majority of people in our church.
And yet…somebody…boldly & graciously led you here…which led you to Jesus or back to Him.
And there are SO many people in our region that are in that exact same place.
Waiting for someone like you!
There are people like this in the Bible that are generally favorable to God.
The woman at the well in John 4
Or even many of the people Jesus convinces to leave their homes and follow Him
They weren’t starting from a place of atheism.
The Bible OFTEN uses agricultural terms to describe this.
In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Jesus says sometimes the seed (that’s the Word of God) just falls on ground that’s already been cultivated…and it produces a crop.
There are a lot of people who God has already been working on for years (he’s been cultivating their hearts)…and they are ready for the seed to come in and start growing.
And yet, there are still others, that don’t seem ready to hear about God at all.
Jesus describes the condition of their heart this way
(Matthew 13:4) – NIV
4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
As he explains later in the chapter, that seed feel along the hard path...not cultivated soil.
And for some people, you can try and share your faith about Jesus…and for your boldness, you get in return, not an interest, but a straight up rejection…maybe even a mocking of your faith
And then what do you do?
This isn’t a topic that Christians cover a lot.
We tend to want to over-simplify evangelism.
(PUT UP TITLE SLIDE “WHAT IF PEOPLE OPPOSE YOUR EVANGELISM?”)
And it leads us to our final question in our “You Asked for It” series where we’ve been looking at your 5 most requested topics.
The question for today is: “What if people oppose your evangelism?”
What about your sibling or old friend who thinks you are absolutely crazy for being a Christian?
What about your co-worker, who the last time you talked to them about the things of faith, they stormed out of the office in anger??
What about that?
Just hand them another invite card?
See, and this is why, as we’ve been saying for some time now, evangelism isn’t as simple as inviting people to church.
Yes, for a lot of people, I think (currently anyway), still the majority of people, it’s a fantastic method.
But for some, it’s not going to work.
And then what are you supposed to do?
So what I want to do this morning is give some Biblical advice on what to do if you have someone who’s a family member (which is often the case) or a close friend…who you REALLY want to share Jesus with…but they are NOT (I repeat NOT) interested.
WE NEED TO PUT THE FOCUS ON OUR RELATIONSHIPS
One of the first things we need to do in this situation is to put the focus on our relationship with the person.
If the person you’re thinking of is going to shut you down before you even finishing saying, “Can I talk to you about Jes…”
Then, finding the right thing to say is not even a viable strategy right now
If we want people to consider Christianity, they need to see it lived out.
I mean really lived out.
Let me ask you a funny question: How come you don’t like Marxism?
You know the teachings of Karl Marx…the man responsible for communism?
I read this from a guy named Josh Hunt, and I thought this was a really good point.
The vast majority of Americans are opposed to Marxism, and yet who among us has really studied its tenets well enough to say why we don’t believe in it.
We just sort of reject it out of hand
And it’s easy because most of us don’t know any Marxists anyway.
We could do this all day with all sorts of examples, but the reality is that most of us are SUCH social beings, that if the people around us aren’t doing it, we just dismiss it without looking at it.
But the opposite is true too: If people around us are doing it, and they seem genuinely changed, we tend to be incredibly interested!
See, for a lot of people that are opposed to Christianity, the problem is that they don’t have any real relationships with authentic Christ followers.
I recently read the incredible testimony of Kirsten Powers, who’s a TV Political Analyst who recently came to Christ.
In her testimony she says, “If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion – especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt”
And yet, things started to change when she actually met some authentic Christ followers…people who were really living out His teachings.
She said that before she had met these Christians, all she really knew of Christians (tragically) were stories of hate-filled Christians she saw in the media.
Why would she want any part of that?
For her, Christianity was like Marxism for most of Americans.
(by the way, I’m not advocating Marxism here) J
She didn’t really know anything about Christianity, or anyone who followed it, so she rather easily dismissed it
But as she started to have real friendships with Christians, those friendships began to massively soften her heart.
And these people weren’t closet Christians either
They lived what we’ve been talking about A TON as a church this year:
They lived, like Daniel, an open-window faith where people could see their faith lived out.
They lived (like we’ve been teaching) a questionable life---where their life stood out and was different…and begged to be asked questions of.
And shouldn’t it be that way?
Look at how different Jesus was!
People couldn’t STOP asking Him questions!
And he so often worked out of relationships.
He spent time with outsiders…not just in a holy huddle.
He helps meet people’s needs.
He feeds the 5,000, He doesn’t just hold a lecture series.
If we can show people what Jesus really looks like (even if they’re really opposed)…
If we can imitate Jesus…
If we can wash feet…if we can serve them
If we can ask Questions (not just give answers)
If we can…be real
Live a life of hospitality…life an open window faith…
God can start to soften the soil.
But it starts with being willing to be in loving relationship with these folks…whether it’s a co-worker or an old friend.
If they’re not open to God…if they’re actually opposed…it’s probably not going to be enough to just pop in on their life at a family reunion or high school reunion, and start attempting to convict them of their sin.
IT’S REALLY HARD SOMETIMES
And yet, before we go any further, I don’t want you to think that I’m simplifying any of this.
This is really hard stuff…and it rarely follows much of a formula
Investing in relationships is a really important part of doing this well, but it’s no guarantee either.
I’m purposefully not giving you a follow steps 1, 2, &, 3 and see your atheist friend come to Christ system.
We never say this, but some might not come to Christ.
Even if we do all the right things.
Even Jesus wept over the people of Jerusalem and how many of them would decide to reject him even though he offered them forgiveness.
Let’s remember, this is not easy stuff…even if you do all the right things.
Think of it this way: Can you imagine what it would be like to have the Apostle Paul come to Blaine and start sharing about Jesus?
Surely everyone would come to Christ then!
And yet the Book of Acts tells us that Paul was beaten and chased out of MULTIPLE cities!
I mean, goodness, even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in Him until after the resurrection!
(John 7:3-5) – NIV
3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
In Mark 3, his family says that Jesus is “out of his mind”
In Matthew 13, Jesus says that prophets are honored everywhere except for their hometowns, and in their own homes.
This is not easy.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t try.
Even if the results don’t appear to be what we want.
Jesus does warn us that faith is so deep and so important, that it will sometimes, unfortunately, even divide families
(Luke 12:52-53) – NIV
52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
And yet, we still try and share Christ with people.
To refuse to do so because you’re afraid that it might hurt your relationship with a friend or family member, is to put yourself and your relationship, above that person’s eternal destiny.
And we can feel the weight of statements like that.
And so I would tell you…feel it.
But I want you to know this truth: You should do everything in your power to help a friend or family member know Jesus, but realize that at the end of the day, you don’t control their decisions
That’s not at all an excuse to not do anything.
But a truth to where responsibility lies.
WE NEED TO PRAY
So we need to be serious about relationships (not just dropping in)…we need to do everything we can, and then, we need to pray for God to move.
There’s a seminary professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (which is a great school in Chicago…I know a few people who have gone there)…who teaches preaching.
And every year he takes his students to the local cemetery.
When they get there, he’ll read a name off of one of the graves, and then look to one of his students and say, “Preach the Good News of Jesus to Mr. Johnson here”
And after the students look at him like he’s crazy, he starts sharing his faith with the dead person.
After he finishes, he looks at them soberly and says something to the effect of, “You can preach your heart out…you can share your faith with the best logic and reason ever…but nothing will happen unless God does a miracle to give them the life to listen”
We need to pray and ask God to move.
We often forget this as modern Christians
We picture it as, “Yes, someday, I will have an epic conversation with my atheist relative, and I will win every argument, and they will give up, and surrender their lives to Christ”
And yet, most of the time in the Bible…that’s NOT how it happens.
It happens when people hear the teaching of God…of even more so when they witness the POWER of God.
They see something that makes them say, “God is actually real!”
And so yes, we need to be in relationship with people, but then we need to pray that God starts revealing Himself…in a major way!
Listen, THIS is one of the reasons I’m a Christian today.
I was opposed to Christianity.
I yelled and debated my Christian friends.
I used to sit with some of my friend’s parents even, and argue with them.
I was, I’m sure to many people, a lost cause
But not a lost cause to God
WHEN GOD MOVES, MOVE WITH HIM!!
And let me tell you how most people (like myself) who are opposed to God come to Christ… GOD MOVES.
This is not too hard for God!
Case and point: The Apostle Paul in the Bible
Or Saul, as he was formerly called.
Saul was a Jewish leader who was on a raging quest to rid the world of Christians.
When the great Christian Steven was killed, the murderers took their coats off and laid them at the feet of Saul before they stoned Steven.
Saul was going house to house and dragging Christians off to prison.
Now I want you to imagine that Saul was one of your friends .
Maybe you grew up going to the same synagogue. You were in school together. Old pals.
And as Christianity started to spread like wildfire, you became a follower of Christ.
You’re praying for your old friend Saul…but honestly, he’s not exactly “open” to have a conversation about it.
What are you going to do?
You’re going to PRAY for God to take the lead.
And when GOD moves, YOU move with Him!
In Acts 9, Saul is off on another rampage…on his way to Damascus to arrest more Christians…when all of a sudden this happens:
(Acts 9:3-6) – NIV
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
God starts moving.
And as that happens, God reaches out to a believer named Annaias, and tells him that He’s doing some amazing stuff with Saul…go help Him.
When God starts moving…that’s your cue…move WITH him!
And here’s where it all starts working together.
You have to be in relationship first.
Otherwise, you’re not going to be around when God starts moving.
You pray…and you ask God to move.
And when he moves, you move with him!
Listen, ask my Christian high school friends if they thought I was going to become a believer…that would have been a funny joke.
And yet, in the privacy of my own bedroom, God reached out to me, and in the most miraculous moment of my life, somehow moved me to find a Bible in my house, and start reading the Book of Matthew.
And as soon as I picked it up, it was over.
He was going to win.
A month or two later, I asked my girlfriend (now my wife) Lindsey, what book I should read for my class…she boldly told me the title of a Christian book.
God was moving, she moved with Him.
I read it, and I understood for the first time in my life, what a Christian really was.
Timely movements are everything.
(Colossians 4:5) – NIV
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
We’ve got to be in relationship, we’ve got to be praying, so that when God moves, we’re there, and we’re ready to MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY
You know, interestingly enough, about 2 years before I came to Christ, a friend asked me to go to this Christian youth conference in St. Cloud.
I said yes. Mostly because they told me we’d be staying in a hotel, and we mostly wouldn’t have to do Jesus things.
And yet, the conference was about God…and I started thinking about him.
And for about 48 hours…there was an opportunity.
I was open.
But nobody was there to help me.
And I closed the door again quickly.
So start praying, and be on the lookout for God’s movements.
When He moves, move with Him.
We can’t always be trying to manufacture moments ourselves.
That doesn’t mean you don’t try and have a conversation.
By all means, try!
But if they’re completely closed off, start praying for a God-ordained opportunity.
Often, for those who are opposed to God, those moments of opportunity often come in tragedy…at funerals of loved ones, in the hospital, after an accident.
Pain…as C.S. Lewis once said…is God’s megaphone.
And in those rare opportunities…when God is moving…and people are open…then move with Him.
And stick with this. Don’t lose hope.
When Saul, becomes Paul, and is later imprisoned for his faith…he gets an opportunity to speak in front of a powerful King, King Agrippa
And he begins to try and lead the King to Christ, and he says this:
(Acts 26:27-29) – NIV
27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
And I love what he says, “Short time or Long…I pray it happens.
And that’s the bottom line.
And in many ways, I’m preaching to myself today…as I look at some of my own family members and friends.
And will tell you this:
Short time or long, favorable or opposed.
We will never stop praying. We will never give up!
We can not!
Like the lost sheep and the lost coin in Luke 15, Jesus says he will never stop pursuing them, and neither will we.
(Sit in the front)
This week is one of the most important week’s in the life of our church.
Hundreds of us will be reaching out to people who don’t know Jesus…and courageously inviting them to a place where they can hear of His forgiveness.
If you don’t have invite cards yet, you grab some from the Greeters on the way out.
And as SO many of you are wanting to boldly invite people this week, I want to leave you today with a Scripture verse from the Apostle Paul
(Romans 1:16) – NIV - LEAVE UP
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
May we feel no shame or embarrassment as we reach out to people this week.
May we know that what we’re actually doing is helping people get started on a journey….
where God is going to rescue them from their sins…change their life…and change their eternal destiny.
So don’t be afraid…the power of God is with you.
Let’s change the world.
As we leave today, let me pray over you that God would use you to do just that this week.
Let me pray…
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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