This article will appear in the October publication of the Gospel Advocate
It all started with a mini fridge. My senior year at Freed-Hardeman University had come to an end and it was now time to say goodbye to some furniture that had made the four-year journey with me. Although the idea of keeping the mini fridge for my office at the Mabelvale Church of Christ sounded great, I decided it was time to get rid of it. I wasn’t sure how exactly to find a new home for it. All the other students already had one or at least they were not interested in buying one right at the end of the school year. All of the sudden an idea popped in my head: “What about Craigslist?” I had never used it before, but I decided to give it a try. I ended up selling the fridge on Craigslist in the Walmart parking lot in Jackson, Tennessee. Although I was nervous and careful about meeting up with a complete stranger, it was an easy and fast exchange. A new passion was born. Within the next year I started using Craigslist regularly. I sold some stuff I needed to get rid of and I also got some really great deals. I am now a regular Craigslist user.
One day I was driving to the church office and I was brainstorming about how I could get a Bible study set up with someone in the community. I am from Springfield, Ohio and had just started my work in Little Rock, Arkansas, therefore my community connections were next to none. Then another crazy thought popped in my head: “What if I advertised a free Bible Study on Craigslist?” I was skeptical about the idea. Would anyone even answer the ad? Was it safe to meet up with a total stranger for an extended period of time? I thought about it for the next couple weeks until I gained enough courage to just go for it. I put together a short statement about myself and about the study material and I posted an ad on Craigslist: “Free Bible Study.”
Honestly, I really did not think that anyone would respond, but later that evening I got an email through Craigslist from a man named Doug who was interested in the study. He had recently decided to turn from the world and start pursuing Christ but was attending one of the local community churches. About one week later, Doug, his friend Renee, Sam (a young member of Mabelvale) and myself met at a Starbucks down the street from the church and had our first study. Since then we have met seven times to study and have recently been meeting in Doug’s apartment. Doug and Renee have also invited some of their friends to the study. Through this one contact we have been able to meet five people in total. This study is still going on so I cannot yet share with you how the story will end, but there is hope.
We all have the same mission. It is a very important mission. It is an eternal mission. Paul discusses this mission in Ephesians 3:10-11, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Our mission is to make God known to the world. This mission has been eternally planned out through the life and work of Jesus Christ. In His own words the mission is to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This mission of the church is to make disciples by making God known to them.
Now this is the beautiful part. Jesus did not tell us how to accomplish this. He simply tells us to go and make disciples. He leaves the “how” to our own creativity. We serve a very creative God (Genesis 1). We were created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and therefore, we too are creative. We see this creativity in humanity everywhere we look. We see the amazing things that humans create. We create incredible cities, breathtaking buildings, unbelievable bridges, complicated computers that can be held in our hands, not to mention the diversity of our arts and music.
What is even more fascinating is that each one of us is creatively talented in a different way. We learn from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 that God gives us gifts of various amounts. It is up to us to decide how to use and invest those gifts. Paul emphasized this principle in Romans 12:4-8 when he said, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
We all have different talents, abilities, skills and gifts that ultimately have been given from God. He created us to learn how to use those skill-sets in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to Him. He created us to be creative.
When it comes to sharing the gospel with the world we have some questions to ask. Are we to go house to house through door-knocking? Are we to hold Gospel Meetings? Are we to sit in booths at the county fair and answer questions? Are we to send mass mail to our communities? Are we going to be more service oriented? This is where our creativity comes into play. We have been given the responsibility to decide the “how” based on our own God-given skills and abilities.
When we are trying to figure out the best way for us to use our talents to reach the lost, we need to consider the lost and how they can be best reached. This takes a certain amount of deep thinking and consideration concerning our culture. In some cultures going door-to-door is extremely effective, but in others it is considered a nuisance and very rude. Therefore, we need to study our own culture, even down to the very city in which we live. How can we best share the gospel with our own neighbors? That is the question we need to ask.
We do need to be careful that in aiming to influence our culture we do not compromise truth. While we are all products of the culture we live in to a certain extent, we need to be mindful that we do not conform to culture. Paul said in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We must not conform to culture and the world around us, but we still need to be learning how we can effectively communicate the Gospel to those around us. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
The question that our churches should be answering is, “How can we use our God-given abilities to best communicate the gospel to the community around us?”
Your congregation will not be the first to ask this question. In recent years many faithful and strong congregations have been trying to creatively adapt their evangelistic methods to the communities where they live.
○ The Mount Juliet Church of Christ in Mount Juliet, TN has adapted the Gospel Meeting Model into what they call the 12 Question Campaign. They continue to go door-to-door, but their strategy is based on asking people the following question: “If you could ask God one question what would it be?” Then the seminar series that follows aims to answer the twelve most asked questions. This model and variations of this model have been adapted by several faithful congregations in Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky and other locations.
○ The Windsong Church of Christ in North Little Rock, AR has recently focused in on facebook advertising for their events. One event they hosted last fall had approximately twenty visitors who all claimed to have seen the event on Facebook!
○ Brother Wayne Brewer of the Mabelvale Church of Christ in Little Rock, AR works with the Spanish speaking Christians in our congregation. He started this work by hosting English classes for the community near our building. People responded and came to learn how to speak English. Eventually some among these contacts were converted to Christ.
○ Many preachers have begun starting their workdays in coffee shops where they spark conversations and make contacts with the community.
○ Many are aware of our Brother Jerry Elder of the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Tennessee who hosts a weekly teen Bible study in his garage where the teens can invite their friends to a more relaxed atmosphere. Contacts are made through this effort and conversations about Jesus and His Church take place.
○ There are various organizations among our brotherhood who are making a valiant effort to produce dynamic and engaging videos that reach out to the lost and teach the Gospel.
There are Christians in the Church today who are trying to creatively engage their communities with the Gospel. Do you know what I am tired of hearing? People say that no one wants to hear the Gospel. In my short time in ministry I have already found this to be one of Satan’s lies. There are people in every community who are searching for truth with an open heart. We need to be working and seeking out these people. Who would have thought that an eight-week Bible study could result from a Craigslist post?
How can you creatively use your own God-given abilities to share the Gospel in your own community? In the words of Paul, let us pray for the lost of our communities, “that God may open to us a door for the word.” (Colossians 4:3)
by Noah Icenhour