There’s a book that I bought years ago by Charles Hadden Spurgeon, it was called The Soulwinner and I have a picture of that book up on the screen. This is actually a picture of the book that I purchased in 1974, that’s when I bought it, I was year old in the Lord. And the book is a great book but also the picture is a great picture. And I’ve often been stirred by just that image on the front of this man with that chiseled featured face extending his arm sowing seed in the hopes that he’s going to reap a harvest. And so I would look at this and often place myself in this picture (laughter). We’re called to do that, or my wife in this picture as well, I’ve often thought of her in this place. There you go (laughter). And then my son, he’s doing the work of evangelism. So, so the idea is, put your picture there, you are a soul winner. That’s what I want to talk to you about today is, is the message, and bearing forth that message.
George Sweeting who was the superintendent of Moody Bible Institute tells a great story, a true story. There was a man named John Courier who was sentenced for life imprisonment because of a murder he committed. This is back in 1949, so he went to prison. After a while he was paroled to a work farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he was working, hard labor. But in in 1968 his sentence was terminated. He was a free man. A letter was sent to him, he never got the letter. Nobody ever told him. He kept working on the farm for ten more laborious years til finally some parole officer got wind of the story and told him the good news, “You’re a free man.” So Charles Sweeting asks this every time he tells the story: “Would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message, the most important message of your life, if year after year the urgent message was never delivered?
Today I want to talk to you about fishing, or soul winning. How did the early church feel about giving out the most important message ever? What did th eydo with the letter that God sent to mankind about their freedom because of the cross of Christ? And that’s where Acts chapter 2 takes us this morning. We’ve seen a pretty comprehensive picture of the early church so far. We’ve understood that they were a learning church, right? They devoted themselves to the apostle’s doctrine. They were a caring church, they continued steadfastly in fellowship. This is all Acts 2:42. They were not only a caring church but they were a Christ-centered church. They devoted themselves or continued steadfastly in breaking bread and in prayer. We also saw that t hey were a generous church. Last week we considered how this group of their time and their talent and their treasure. But, with all of that, if we were to stop right there, we have an incomplete picture of the church. Because so far all we have been told is about their interior life or what they do when they gather together by themselves. We’re told nothing of what or how they’re related to the outside world, their exterior life. And verse 47 clear that up. The very last verse of chapter 2, it says “They were praising God and having favor with all the people.” And here’s the verse we will center on, this last sentence, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Now that balances it out. Without verse 47, we have the wrong impression. Without verse 47, we might think they’re only interested in Bible study and only interested in fellowship and hanging out with each other. But it’s not til verse 47 where we realize: No, they had a relationship with the outside world and they were interested in evangelism as well. That is hinted at in this verse, it is expanded upon throughout the book of Acts. Here’s a sampling of verses: Acts 4 verse 33, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 5:42, “And daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts chapter 8, “those who wer scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” That’s just a sampling. So we discover, put it all together, this group of people wasn’t just a worshipping community, they were a witnessing community. It wasn’t just about praise but proclamation. They understood that they were called out of the world (eklesia, that’s what church means) but they were also apostalon (sent out back to the world). So in a dual sense we get called out of the world and equipped only to go back into the world for evangelism. So we might say that the early church were saved souls eagerly wanting to see more souls saved. That is a complete picture. But look at verse 47 for that is where we’re going to spend our remaining time this morning. Verse 47 and especially that final sentence of the chapter gives us three characteristics of the evangelism of the early church. Here’s number one: They saw it as a divine work. It was a divine work. Notice it says, “The Lord added (the Lord added) to the church daily.” Go back to verse 41, I want you to notice a comparison, “Then, those who gladly received his word were baptized and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Notice it’s put in the passive voice, were added to them. It’s not until verse 47 that we’re introduced to the active agent doing the adding. “The Lord added to the church daily.” So we might say this: Evangelism is God’s work. Yes he uses people, he uses their words, their lifestyles, their bold proclamation; but ultimately it’s the Lord who does the work. And perhaps this is no more completely stated that in Romans chapter 8 verse 30 where it reads, “Moreover whom he predestined, these he also called. And whom he called these he also justified. And whom he justified, these he also glorified. So you have in one verse this beautiful panorama of salvation from pre-destination that happened somewhere in times past before the foundation of the world; to glorification which will happen in the future. So then, evangelism is a cooperation between heaven and earth, between God and people. God operates and we operate, and you put it together we cooperate. That’s evangelism. I put it this way, evangelism is the intersection of divine predestination and human volition. Now I’m going to say that again and explain it. Evangelism is the intersection between divine predestination and human volition. Question: Should we invite people to Christ? Should we ask people to receive Jesus Christ? Well, depending on who you ask you’ll get different answers, The ardent strict Calvinist would say, “No.” I had a conversation with a young man downtown a few weeks back who ws such an ardent individual, we had a great conversation. But I talked about receiving Christ and he, he squinted his eyes and he said, “I wouldn’t use that word.” I said, “What word?” He said, “Receive Christ. I don’t think that’s accurate,” he said, “It puts too much of the onus and responsibility on the human receiving rather than on the sovereign Lord who’s doing the saving.” So I said, “Oh, I get it, you have a problem with the apostle John.” And said, “What?” And I said, “Yeah, it was John in John chapter 1 verse 12 who wrote, ‘For as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God, to those who believe in his name.” That’s what he said, you’ve got a problem with him.
True story, I was talking with Billy Graham, this is years ago, we were at his home one evening and I was asking him questions about his crusades and especially about a crusade in London with some of the famous preachers that I love to read, like Martin Lloyd Jones. He said, “Let me tell you a story about that. When we were there for our crusade and we were trying to get all the churches involved years ago, Dr. D. Martin Lloyd Jones who pastured Westminster Chapel, I had a meal with him. And I said, “Dr. Jones, can I count on your involvement in our crusade?” And Dr. Lloyd Jones said, “Well perhaps. Dr. Graham, you have our support under one condition and the condition is is that you do not publicly call people forward at an altar call to receive Christ.” Dr. Graham said, “I can’t promise you that.” And Dr. Jones said, “Then I cannot be involved.” And that’s because of this idea that the sovereignty of God may not be calling a person to Christ through that means. But Dr. J. I. Packer was correct in his little book called Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God when he writes, “It is a matter not merely of informing but also of inviting people to receive Christ.” I agree with him and Paul would agree with him. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:11, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” We persuade them, we talk to them, we invite them, we get them to that place where, “Are you ready now to receive him?” We persuade men. Probably the altar call was popularized by Dwight L. Moody. He’s probably the first guy, though others have done it, who made it popular. Dr. Moody would give a crusade or a campaign or even at church would call people forward to receive Christ. Well, after one of his meetings, a woman came up to him and said, “Mr. Moody, I don’t like your method of evangelism.” And he said to her, “You know, I’ve never really liked it all that much either. So tell me dear woman what’s your method?” And she said, “Well, I don’t have a method.” And he smiled and said, “Well then I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t do it.” He did it. Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.
Now what are the forms of evangelism? Well, the New Testament speaks of three. Number one there is, believe it or not, in the Bible, mass evangelism where the preacher or the evangelist addresses a crowd. Jesus did this to the crowds in Galilee saying, “Come unto me all you who labor and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Peter did this on the day of Pentecost, Acts chapter 2, to the crowds gathered in the Jerusalem temple. Paul did this in the town of Lystra, for the whole town. And at Athens in Acts chapter 17. And I’m particularly grateful for mass evangelism, that’s how I came to know Jesus Christ. It was when Billy Graham turned toward the television and said, “If you’re watching by television, you can know Christ.” And I did, I made a commitment, that intersection between God’s predestination and human volition happened for me that day. That’s mass evangelism.
Then there’s personal evangelism, where a person one on one shares. And some of you have done that. Sometimes personal evangelism is taught in a class and then people are taken out to do it, it’s formalized. Even door-to-door evangelism, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but some people love knocking on doors. “knock, knock, knock,” door opens, boom! They start witnessing to them. Other peoples knock on doors and pray to God nobody’s home because that’s just not their gig. They just don’t like to do it without a relationship. And I think it’s hard to do it without a relationship. But the New Testament speaks about personal evangelism. John chapter 4, Jesus personally spoke to a woman at the Samaritan well. In the book of Acts chapter 8, Phillip personally evangelized the Ethiopian eunuch. And we have both a responsibility and a privilege to personally share it with neighbors, friends, and family members.
But there’s a third form of evangelism that I think combines the first two, and that is really the heart of our text this morning, I believe it’s the sporit of the text; and that is local church evangelism. It’s where the apostles preached nad the people themselves were out sharing. It was a combination of all of the talents, all of the gifts, all of the lives of all of the church. It’s what naturally flows from a church in it’s church life. I believe that every congregation, every church, ought to be both a worshipping community as well as witnessing community. And the very existence of this church in Jerusalem, they proved to be exactly that. In fact, I would put it this way, true worship will lead to witness. You worship God and he’s so wonderful and he’s so good to you and you understand who he is and that makes you want to testify to him out there to people who don’t know him. Worship leads to witness and witness will lead to worship. Because if when you witness they respond they also become worshippers and that cycle continues.
According to Evangelism Explosion they said, “It has been estimated that ninety-five percent of American church members have never led anyone to Christ.” Now hear that statistic again, this is their statistic. “Ninety-five percent of American church members have never once led anyone t o Christ.” Now don’t misunderstand that, it’s not saying that people don’t witness. In fact, I think people do witness. According to the Barna Research Group fifty-five percent of people in America who claim to be born-again Christians over the last twelve months have shared their faith with an unbeliever, fifty-five percent. And that’s sort of been the norm over the last decade, about fifty, fifty-five, sixty percent of those who claim to be born-again Christians share their faith. Most of them are evangelicals (people like you), the highest activity for evangelism in America is (guess where?) Here, the western United States, the western states per capita have more Christians that are actively sharing their faith than anywhere else in America. The place in America with the least amount of witness is the Midwest. So I say, let’s raise some people up and ship them out to eh Midwest. According to the same research, whites, anglos, are less likely to share their faith than black or Hispanics, are more vocal and wanting to give a witness. But local church evangelism is the combination of me doing my part, you doing your part, and all of us together, in any means possible. We have church, throw out the net. We have rally, throw out the net. If you have a home group, throw out the net, if you’re at a gas station, you have extra time and you’re talking, throw out the net. Paul said in I Corinthians 9:22, “For I have become all things to all men, that by all means we might save some.”
Now I want to give you an example in the New Testament that I think embodied this beautiful. It’s the church at Thessalonica, and I want you to turn to a portion of scripture just a few verses, that helps us flesh that out. Turn over to I Thessalonians chapter 1, I Thessalonians 1, this is a church that I have aspired to, to become like. I Thessalonians chapter 1, in verse 5, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord having received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became example to all in Macedonia and Acaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth. And not only in Macedonia and Acaia but also in every place, your faith toward God has gone out so that we do not need to say anything. Now in that passage, compare verse 5 with verse 8. Verse 5 says, “The word of the Lord came to them.” Verse 8, “The word of the Lord sounded forth from them.” So, you see what happened? It came t o them and then it went through them. It came to them and worked in them and hten came through them. So they were both receivers as well as transmitters of the truth. That is the norm, that is the pattern for all New Testament churches. Came to you and then through you. Also, look at the word in verse 8, sounded forth. Sounded forth comes from the Greek word ekas, or echo, to reverberate. And the picture that Paul paints with the word sounding forth is this: “Hey, you Thessalonians, when the gospel came to your town and made a huge noise, a big bang, and through your voice, it has reverberated through all the hills and all the valleys all around.” It has echoed through your life and your words throughout the whole region. Now, if all churches were faithful to this, the world long ago would have been evangelized. John R. W. Stott who is now in his 90s, a veteran church man, pastor for a number of years at All Souls in London wrote a book recently on the church that I’ve told you about and I’ve read throughout this series. He said, “We urgently need to return to this eager expectation. I know some churches which haven’t seen a convert for ten years or more and if they got one they wouldn’t know what to do with it, so extraordinary would this phenomenon appear to be to them.” So the first thing we learn in Acts 2:47 is it’s a divine work, “the Lord added.” He used people, he used their testimony, he worked in people. But then the gospel went through his people.
The second thing I want you to notice in verse 47, it’s a double work. Not just a divine work, it is also a double work. It says, “the Lord added to the church those who were being saved.” Please get that, that is, he didn’t add them to church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church. Both the Lord did, saving them and adding them to the church. Now I mentioned John Stott, in his book he said, he was in South American years ago and he met a group of college students who had dropped out of church. And they called themselves Chrisianos Deslogados, unhooked Christians. They had become, they said, so disillusioned with all o f the churches in that city that they just bagged on church in general and they were now the disassociated unhooked Christians. But according to the New Testament, salvation and church membership go together. They go together. “the Lord added to the church those who were being saved.”
I want to show you something. Turn a couple pages to the right to Acts chapter 5, I want you to read this. And it’s actually mentioned three times in this book, I’ll only show you once. The same phrase, Acts chapter 5, verse 12, “And through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch, yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.” Verse 14, “And believers were increasingly added to the lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Now first of all, who were being added? Believers. It says, “Believers were increasingly added.” And it says they were added to what? Added to the Lord. Now chapter 2 says the Lrod added to the church. Here it says believers were added to the Lord. What does that mean? If you put it all together, it’s something like this, believerf=s were added to the Lord, but the Lord added them to the church. They’re synonymous, it’s the same truth told from two different perspectives. So when a person is saved, he’s God’s. But God will place that person within a group that he calls the church. That’s why Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” So, another way of looking at this is that the church, the true church, is made up of saved people. It doesn’t mean that everybody in the congregation at one time is going to be saved, but it is primarily made up of saved people, all members of the true church are saved people. So, why then do people or churches try to mask that and hide that? Why is it that some churches feel like, “Well we’ve got to be seeker-friendly.” Now I don’t think we should be seeker unfriendly, don’t get me wrong. But the whole concept of this approach is, “Let’s take out songs that offend people who don’t know Christ, Let’s take out the…” I had one worship leader say, “I’m not allowed to sing about Jesus too much in my worship songs.” I said, “What are you worshipping then?” He said, “I can’t say anything about the blood of Jesus Christ.” And all these things wer taboo in the name of being seeker friendly. I say, “Let’s be saved friendly. Rather than the emphasis on seeker friendly.” Listen, any group, any churchthat is more interested than entertaining the goats rather than feeding the sheep has it wrong. And this is how evangelism works. Evangelism helps goats become sheep. Once they’re sheep, you feed them, you nurture them, you love them, you pray with them, those sheep will in turn go out and help other goats become sheep. That’s how the cycle works.
So, it is a divine work, it’s a double work, and third, it’s a daily work. Notice the word, “The Lord added to the church daily.” Daily, or one translation puts it day by day. Now this tells me this: The church in Jerusalem did not look at evangelism as some sporadic event. I don’t think they had Evangelism Sunday, or Missions Week. Every day was evangelism day and every week was missions week. It was part of the normal natural outflow of their lives together. And God was doing it through them on a daily continual basis. Some people, some church leaders believe that once their church reaches 500 or 1200 or 2000, whatever they number they put up there, it should then stop reaching out. We’re full. Well, get so full that you got to spill out and start other things. Keep going. The early church in Jerusalem had 3000 converts the first day, and they were just getting started. Then there were five thousand, then there were others, then eventually it just said multitudes and multitudes of people would come to know Him. I think it’s wrong to be satisfied with growth because no matter how many believers are here, there’s a whole lot more unbelievers out there. But this is never going to work. This sermon will never do any good in motivating us until, here’s the key, until we start caring. Until we start looking at crowds of people, unbelievers, not just as, “Well that’s a nice dress,” or “That’s a cool car.” Or, “Hmm, I wonder what they make for a year’s wage.” We start seeing them as souls lost. Lost. And do we ever think one day they could drop dead and fall into hell? Now that will motivate us differently. Jesus, when he saw people saw them differently. He didn’t see them as an inconvenience, he didn’t say, “Man there are so many people on this hill in Galilee. Man, they’re like a nuisance.” You know how He saw them? Matthew 9, “When he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion for them because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd.’ And he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is truly ripe but the laborers are few. Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.’” Did you hear that? Laborers. Not superintendents. Not professionals. All God is looking for is day laborers. Somebody who will say, “Here’s a mouth,” “Here’s a life. Use that. I care and I’m going to care because of it.”
Leading a person to Christ begins with loving a person who doesn’t yet know Christ. Paul the apostle wrote, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart,” over his people, the Jewish people.
It’s been estimated that if we were to look at the number of people without Christ, whom the Bible calls lost people, if we were to line them up side to side or back to front and form a line, that the line would go around the whole earth thirty times. And the line is growing twenty miles longer every single day. So the question comes to us: do we care? Do we see crowds and people like Jesus? I think one of the reasons the church grew so rapidly in this first part of its season in the book of Acts is the gospel wasn’t confined to church meetings or evangelistic events, but it was done by all. When Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” they internalized that. They took it personally and they did it daily.
Now I’ve told you this before but to me this is such a great perspective, let’s imagine that we have the financial capacity to do a crusade. Now I don’t know if you know about crusades but they can run into the millions of dollars to do a week’s crusade. Let’s say we had the wherewithal to rent a stadium and we could rent a stadium every night of the week, every week of the year for thirty-five straight years. And let’s just imagine that in that stadium every night were fifty thousand new people. And every night of that crusade, one thousand came to Christ. Fresh commitments every night. So tonight a thousand people, tomorrow night a thousand people, the next night, and you did that every night for thirty-five years. At the end of one year you’ve got 365 thousand new believers, right? If you could continue that for thirty-five years you would be further behind the task of world evangelization than the day you started. You go, “I don’t get it.” Simply when you figure the exponential birth rate, the number of people that are being born in the world, by the end of thirty-five years, you will proportionally be further behind the task of world evangelization than the day you started filling the stadium every night for thirty-five years with fifty thousand people and a thousand people a night coming to Christ. But, if you were the only Christian on earth and you said, “Dear Lord, would you help me within the next twelve months to lead just one other person to Christ.” And if God answered that prayer and at the end of twelve months, year one, you’ve led a person to Christ so now there are two Christians on earth and two Christians only. And you pray, “Lord, at the end of this year would you help each of us to lead just one person to Christ.” In two years you now have four Christians, in year three you have eight, and then sixteen, then thirty-two, then sixty-four, and you grow exponentially so that within a half a century, within a half a century, everyone on earth would be converted. Wow! So, do you do mass evangelism or do you do personal? You do them both. By all means we might save some. I’ll tell you what there’s nothing like holy gossip. That’s evangelism, holy gossip. “Say have you heard what Jesus did for me?” And you just spread it around.
So we now have the complete picture of the church in the book of Acts. And it only took us six weeks to get it. We saw they were related to the apostles, they continued in the apostle’s doctrine. They were related to each other in fellowship. They were related to God in prayer and breaking of bread. They were related to the outside world. And the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved. So here’s the whole picture: To be those who know God as well as those who make God known, to be a worshipping community as well as a witnessing community. To never say, “Well you know we’ve got a pretty active group and a pretty large church and we’re done.
Unh-uh. True story, this is a news article, I found it in a newspaper called The Times Reporter of New Philadelphia, Ohio put out a few years ago. In that news article, they reported about a municipal swimming pool in New Orleans, Louisiana. And there was a celebration at that pool. They were celebrating the first summer in memory without a single drowning in the New Orleans city pool system. At the gathering were two hundred people including a hundred lifeguards. A hundred lifeguards. When the party was over and the four lifeguards were clearing the scene they discovered a body face down in the pool’s deep end. They tried to revive thirty-one-year-old Jerome Moody. They were unsuccessful. And the irony of the article was the Jerome Moody drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their success. There’s people who are drowning all around us. There’s people who need fishermen to rescue them. Jesus said, “I’ll make you fishers of men.” There’s lost people everywhere we go. And we’re on a mission from God.
Now it could be, no doubt, that there are some who are gathered here today, you’ve come with a friend, you’ve come because it’s Father’s Day. You’ve come for whatever reason but honestly in your own evaluation, you realize, “I’m really not satisfied. I’m not there yet. In fact, I’m so sick of singing “I did it my way.” Not a good plan. Not a good plan to trust yourself or be a good person. It’s the best plan to trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. And if you want new life this is where you start. You start by receiving Christ who’s been knocking at the door of your heart. And you do it now. You do it right here in this place.
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we’re so thankful for your love for us. We’re thankful that Jesus stepped out of heaven and came to the earth to become like us, to save us, to rescue us from darkness, to place our sins upon his body and to purchase salvation. And now Father we pray that as you have saved many you would save a few more. In Jesus’ name. Amen.