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Paul’s Evangelistic Methods, Part 1

"The Conversion of Saint Paul" by Caravaggio
“The Conversion of Saint Paul” by Caravaggio (Wikipedia)

For Bible Study up at Mayer Community Church, we’re discussing Mark Dever’s helpful book, What Is A Healthy Church? The chapters for this evening are focused on the gospel and conversion.  While re-reading his chapters, and considering ways to encourage evangelism by the members at MCC, I began to review the wide variety of evangelistic approaches used by the apostles.  The apostles felt an incredible amount of freedom in sharing the content of their faith.  They viewed almost every type of discussion or activity as a means of proclaiming Christ.  Their evangelistic approach was deeply personal and highly informed.

At the same time, I began to consider the relatively anemic form of evangelism that I have encountered at many churches.  Abut two weeks ago, a pastor gave me a tract and said to me, “This tract is great, because you don’t even have to talk to them about the gospel.  A lot of times, if I’m in a hurry, I just give them one of these and leave it at that.”  (Emphasis mine.)  This is not the apostle’s approach!

In light of that contrast, I thought it would be helpful if I kicked off a semi-regular series on the ways in which Paul and the other apostles shared the gospel.  The hope is that looking at these methods (or the lack of method!) might encourage us to share the gospel more freely.  Today, I want to focus on Paul’s very simple and very personal approach in Acts 26:1-23.

In his chapter, “A Biblical Understanding of the Good News,” Dever identifies four key components to his presentation of the gospel:

  1. Who God is
  2. Who man is
  3. Who Christ is and what he did
  4. What our response should be

I think this list is helpful, and a quick mental review of “God, man, Christ, response” can serve one well during a tense moment of evangelism.  A similar mental checklist I have used frequently is found in Paul’s gospel proclamation before King Agrippa:

  1. Who I was: Notice that Paul admits to imprisoning holy people, pushing for the death of holy people, seeking to make them blaspheme against God, going from town to town just to harm them.  This is not a pretty picture. (Acts 26:1-11)
  2. How Christ caught me: Paul gives a clear description of Christ stopping him, declaring his sin, and and making him a new creation. (Acts 26:12-18)
  3. Who I am: Paul is a new man, serving the holy, seeking to cause people to turn to God rather than blaspheme, setting himself in line with Moses and the prophets. (Acts 26:19-23)

This approach is simple, because it consists of three easily discussed components.  This approach is personal, because it requires the evangelist to share their sin and their transformation without shame or pride.  This approach is God-glorifying, because it emphasizes the miraculous work of God in conversion.  And this approach is effective.

"Conversion on the Way to Damascus" by Caravaggio (Wikipedia)
“Conversion on the Way to Damascus” by Caravaggio (Wikipedia)

It clarifies that God does not save just “good” people.  It encourages the listener to consider just how much in them also needs the transforming mercy of Christ.  It encourages the evangelist as they are reminded of the transformation that has taken place, thereby strengthening their faith.  It moves the focus from apologetic facts to the reality of Jesus Christ crucified and risen again.  It makes clear that our savior can actually save.

I hope this helps as you proclaim what Christ has done for you.  Have fun sharing the Gospel!

Grace & Peace,
Dan J.

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