When we look at the NT, and the book of Acts in particular, we see that the gospel spread and the church grew through the proclamation and teaching of the ‘Word of God’ (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20). That, surely, must be the basis for any and all ministry in our congregations—we must be ‘Word based’. That is our starting point. But notice that the ‘Word ministry’ in the NT was:
(1) something done by all believers (Acts 8:4).
(2) was largely (though not exclusively) done through a network of informal relationships and friendships (Acts 10:2, 24; 16:15, 31).
Aligned to this, we also observe that ‘Word ministry’ in the Bible had a (1) nurturing purpose (believer with believer) and an evangelistic edge (believer with unbeliever). The point being, that every member of a local church, must be involved in ‘Word ministry’ in one of these forms. Some of us are encouragers and can get alongside young or struggling believers and connect the Word of God and bring it to bear in their lives. Some of us are better with unbelievers and can connect the Word of God and bring it to bear in their lives. One of the signs of a healthy Christian (indeed a healthy church) is that this ‘Word ministry’ is operating at a number of different levels and in different contexts on a regular basis. Here are some ways it could and should be happening:
1. Spontaneously—This is when we engage with somebody (or more) completely off the cuff and outside the normal ‘programme’ of the church. For example, we meet somebody at the shops and end up having a chat. In other words, it is not a ‘set meeting’ or a ‘specific event’ but a God-given opportunity that we intuitively take. This, of course, requires flexibility on our part as well as an openness to the Holy Spirit and the needs of people around us. It means being less ‘task focussed’ in our day and leaving room for what I call ‘organised spontaneity’. Ask the Lord to break into your day and be prepared to be spontaneous when necessary. Some of my greatest opportunities come by this approach to life and people.
2. Pre-existing relationships—Are there any believers we know who would benefit from meeting up and studying the Scriptures with? Is there a mature believer you know that you could approach to help you in your Christian walk and improve your biblical understanding? Is there an unbeliever you know that you could actively get to know better? Not for the sinister aim of ‘friendship evangelism’(a creepy middle class thing) but out of a genuine love and desire to serve them. I sometimes wonder if we would be better off looking for ‘opportunities’ to serve people rather than to just preach at them. Remember, we don’t love people to evangelise them. We evangelise them because we love them first.
3. Purposefully—We must learn to take the initiative more in our relationships with people. I will (99%) of the time initiate a move with someone to go and play pool or take them to the docs or do a study—because I feel the onus is one me to do that but also because people almost always assume that the other is ‘too busy’ for them.
We live in a wonderful age right now. Yes, there are many skeptics and haters out there, but there are also many who are curious and open to finding out more. There are depressed and lonely people all around us, sidelined by our technological culture, virtual worlds and online friendships. There is a host of great material available to Christians to use both internally within our churches, and externally with the unbelieving world.
I read a report recently that suggests that many Christians are not having any success in reaching people with the gospel for one of three reasons:
- We lack joy in our life (no energy).
- We lack humility and respect for unbelievers. We just can’t be bothered with them.
- We lack courage. We fear what people will think or how they will react to us.
Find out what your abiding issue is and take it to the Lord in repentance. Let’s get involved in the ministry of his Word.