Personal Evangelism—The Example of Jesus
Based on a sermon by Derren
Liang—Irvine, California, USA
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their
synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and
every disease among the people. (Mt 9:35)
A comparison of the ministries of Jesus
and John the Baptist reveal interesting similarities as well as differences.
Both proclaimed the same message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand!” (Mt 3:2; cf. Mt 4:17). However, they differed in the extent of their
community interaction. John the Baptist chose an ascetic existence in the
wilderness, surviving on locusts and honey, and making a habit of fasting. To
pave the way for Jesus, John the Baptist had to undertake the difficult but
necessary task – like Elijah—of turning “the hearts of the people … the
disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” He was the lonely voice in the
wilderness preaching repentance in order to bring people closer to God’s kingdom.
In contrast, as Jesus went about different
cities and villages, He made a conscious effort to enter into and participate
in people’s lives. He regularly dined in people’s homes and attended wedding
feasts; He met people from all walks of society. When He was criticized for eating
in the company of tax collectors and sinners, Jesus pointed out, “Those who are
well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to
call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mk 2:17). Clearly, Jesus deliberately
associated with the spiritually needy in order to save them.
The lives of Jesus and John
highlight two key aspects for our life of servitude. First, we should aspire to
a simple life where we can find quiet moments to draw close to God. This will
then help us cultivate the determination to serve Him. Those preoccupied with
multiplying their financial worth or climbing the corporate and social ladders
will have little energy or will left to serve God. But those who are contented
with their simple lives will find it easier to focus on the matters of God.
Second, we need to work by God’s
power (cf. Zech 4:6). As humans, we are often tempted to fall back on our own
abilities, experience, or human contacts. But these are limited and often
unsustainable over a long period. If our ministry is to grow sweeter the longer
we serve Him, then we must be connected to an eternal and unchanging source of power.
When our hearts are focused on God, we can draw divine power from Him. But when
our hearts are in the world, we lose this connection to Him and His power. Jesus
regularly retreated to the wilderness for prayer and communion with His Father.
This was how He gained divine power and determination in order to walk
tirelessly through the cities and villages, preaching the message of the
ALL THE CITIES AND VILLAGES
Following Jesus’ evangelistic
footsteps does not necessarily mean we have to give up our careers and devote
our lives to full-time ministry. What His example does teach us is that we must
spread the gospel wherever we go. If we relocate for reasons of work or study, we
must always remember our higher purpose, which is to bring the Lord’s chosen
flock into His fold. When each of us preaches in our respective localities, it will
be as if Jesus Himself is walking through the cities and villages.
Before His ascension to heaven, Jesus
told His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every
creature” (Mk 16:15). We should not passively wait for people to seek the truth;
instead, we must be proactive in bringing people to God’s church, guiding them
to learn the truth, and interceding for them. We must feel the same urgent
sense of mission that Jesus felt when He preached in all the cities and
villages. By preaching the gospel of God’s kingdom, we bring peace, hope, and
salvation to a spiritually impoverished world.
PREACH WITH AUTHORITY
Through every account of His
evangelistic sessions, Jesus preached with power and authority. The church,
which is the body of Christ and the dwelling place of God, should have the same
authority. Authority from God is manifested in three ways:
Words that Cut to the Heart
Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered
the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He
taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Mk 1:21–22)
What does “having authority” mean?
It means that the Lord’s words were like a sword that cut to His listeners’
hearts, moving them to confess their sins, deny themselves, and follow Christ. When
Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he spoke with such authority. Three
thousand people were cut to the heart by his sermon and were compelled to
believe in Jesus (Acts 2:37–41).
The church today must also be able
to manifest God’s authority in her evangelistic activities. As members, we must
constantly pray for her. God works with a prayerful church and He gives
authority to her workers. Visitors who hear the word preached with power will
be moved to believe.
Casting Out of Unclean Spirits
And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud
voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned
among themselves, saying, "What is this? What new doctrine is this? For
with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."
God has given the church the
authority to cast out demons (Mt 10:8; Mk 16:17). In this context, the gospel
of the kingdom can be both heard and experienced (Mt 12:28). There are many
testimonies in the True Jesus Church about how demons have been cast out by the
power of the Holy Spirit. In one church, there was a man who had been attending
services and studying the church’s doctrines for a long time. Although he was familiar
with the Bible’s teachings, he found it hard to completely believe because he felt
he could not yet see God. But on one occasion, he witnessed the church members casting
out an unclean spirit; he saw for himself the demeanor of the demon-possessed
person and the effects of the members’ fasting prayers. This left him in no
doubt about God’s power and the authority given to the church. He and the one who
had been demon-possessed went on to accept water baptism.
Healing of the Sick
So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately
the fever left her. And she served them. (Mk 1:31)
Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law
with a simple touch. This was evidence of God’s empowerment (Acts 10:38):
[…]God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power,
who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for
God was with Him.
Jesus was from Nazareth, an
unremarkable place (Jn 1:46). Yet He was anointed with power to heal the sick
and the demon-possessed. Today, His church, with the same lowly status, has likewise
been granted power to perform the ministry of healing and to glorify God’s
PRAY AND PREACH
Signs and miracles are critical
complements to the gospel. Spiritual authority is more than a powerful sermon:
if a listener does not experience God, it will still be difficult for him to
Jesus said: "But you shall
receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be
witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of
the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit before they went
forth to preach the gospel. They obeyed, staying in Jerusalem until the
downpour of the Holy Spirit gave them God’s authority. Subsequently, they went
on to fulfil their commission with joy and courage.
Therefore, planning evangelistic
work must never be approached in the same way as secular events. In the latter,
we apply our knowledge and past experience, and then hope that things will go
smoothly. For evangelistic events, we must first, constantly and earnestly pray
for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We seek to proceed not by our own will but with
the power and authority of God. Only with the Lord’s abidance can the gospel be
preached effectively; only then can the word of God enter and work in the
hearts of the listeners.
THE MOTIVATION TO PREACH
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them,
because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Mt 9:36)
And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with
compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He
began to teach them many things. (Mk 6:34)
What motivates us to preach? Is it
external, say, from ministers encouraging us? Or is it from within, stemming
from the abidance of God’s Spirit, compelling us to share the good news with
External stimulation may prod us
to be involved. But the burning fullness of God’s Spirit will drive us to be
committed. This is because the Spirit of Jesus enables us to see others in the same
way that Jesus did. We shall be acutely conscious that people in the world are
weary and scattered like sheep without a shepherd—vulnerable to attack, devoid
of care, and lacking in sustenance for their very souls. And, like our Good
Shepherd, we will be filled with compassion which, in turn, spurs us to
urgently share the Good News with them. Filled with God’s Spirit and love, we will
look beyond a person’s worldly credentials and circumstances; we will be
motivated solely by the love of Christ to see a person’s spiritual need.
Once, Jesus and His disciples sailed
to a deserted place to rest, after a busy day when they did not even have time
to eat. But when the multitudes saw where He was going, they rushed ahead, arriving
at the destination before He did. Moved by their actions, Jesus went ashore to
continue teaching until late into the evening. Afterwards, He even fed the
multitudes with bread before sending them away.
During the course of our lives, there
may be times when we feel we have good reasons for not participating in the
work of evangelism. Perhaps we have been facing personal issues that demand all
our time, energy, and focus. In such situations, we should learn from Jesus and
look into the hearts of those who have yet to believe. Seeing how much they
need God will rekindle our compassion and stir us to overcome our physical or
mental challenges and resume God’s work.
THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the
laborers are few.” (Mt 9:37)
Evangelism is more than simply
bringing people through the doors of the church; we also need to undertake
follow-up work. As there is so much to do and limited time to do it, Jesus
urges us to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His
harvest” (Mt 9:38). So besides prayer for evangelistic work, we must also incessantly
ask God to stir up the hearts of members. When God moves people to do His work,
they will do it willingly and joyfully. More importantly, they themselves will
benefit from their commitment to the commission. In the process of saving
others, seeing God’s love and mercy in action will also build up their own faith
along the way.
In conclusion, our Lord Jesus
Christ has much to teach us in terms of personal evangelism. We must follow
closely in His selfless and untiring footsteps leading forth into the cities
and villages. We must pray before and throughout our ministry, asking Him to
guide us with His Spirit and enabling us to preach the gospel with authority
and power. We must not be hirelings but be motivated by a heart of compassion. Importantly,
set aside quiet times to draw close to God on a regular basis so that we can find
strength and nurture our determination. By God’s grace, the evangelistic work
of the church will prosper, and the longer we serve Him, the sweeter He grows.