The Need for Margin

Lighthouse Leader Study Guide

Date: January 21, 2018

Series: Intentional Evangelism for Normal People

Acts 17:16-17

This Week’s Printable Resources:


Overview of this Lesson

As we conclude our three-week study on evangelism, hopefully, the Lord has shown you through His word and through the teaching of His word how you can become more personally, intentionally involved in evangelism.

We’ve tried to explore several facets of this topic that keep us from sharing the gospel, even with those closest to us. This week, we will look at the way our relationships are structured, from people who are almost complete strangers to our most intimate family members. How we share Jesus with these diverse groups of people matters.

As you will learn, the more we know someone, the less our words mean to them. Instead, our actions speak loudly. When it comes to close friends, co-workers, and family members, how we act carries much more weight than the words we speak. In fact, our actions can quickly turn our words into a hypocritical indictment of our own character and motives.

There are two worksheets that go along with this week’s lesson. You can access both worksheets by visiting http://ffcgroups.com/category/printable-resources/.

Memory Verse for This Week

1 Peter 3:15–16 In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Core Practice

Authenticity (John 13:33-34): I know and understand biblical truths and transfer these truths into everyday life. Who I am on the inside and outside is a pure reflection of Christ and His Word.

This Week’s Take Home Truth

Interacting where they live means being willing to be interrupted where you live.


Introduction

  • When you think of evangelism, what automatically comes to mind? Is it sharing the gospel with the random person you sit next to on the plane? Is it knocking on the front doors of complete strangers? Do those closest to you come to mind?
  • Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?

Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.


Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.

What are the Concentric Circles of Concern, and how do they impact your life’s perspective?

Many years ago W. Oscar Thompson Jr. published a book, Concentric Circles of Concern A chart in the book helps us to see those around us with gospel eyes.

Do you have close family members who need to know Jesus? Other relatives you see on occasion?

What about friends? Jesus was criticized for being a friend of sinners (not a friend of sin!). Do you have friends who are more than evangelism projects, who are real friends who need Jesus? I have a fishing buddy who to this point has not come to Christ. I love this friend. I hope he meets Jesus.

How about your neighbors? Do you actually know your neighbors? Alvin Reid notes, “when speaking, I often ask people in the audience to raise their hand if they grew up in a Christian home. It’s usually around 80 to 90 percent. I then ask those people to raise their hand if their families ever talked about reaching their unsaved neighbors. It’s usually no more than 10 percent.”

We Christian families raise our children as if we were atheists in our neighborhoods. Our neighbors who don’t know Jesus are a heartbeat away from eternity without God! I’m not trying to shame you but to get you to think.

Look at the next circle. Do you have acquaintances, people who aren’t necessarily friends, but people you know? Another question I like to ask people is to think about their list of contacts on their phones. Think about yours. Can you identify at least three people in your contact list who don’t know Jesus but with whom you have enough of a relationship that you could invite them to a meal or to have a cup of coffee and they would join you?

The final circle represents person X, or that person you don’t know you may encounter. This could be someone sitting next to you in an airplane or at a coffee shop. It could be a server in a restaurant or someone at the bank. I’ll be honest: 90 percent of the witness training I received in my young adult years focused on witnessing to strangers door-to-door or those we encounter whom we do not know. I’m grateful for that, but I hope you see the importance of sharing Jesus with the very people God puts in our lives. These dear souls are neither incidental nor accidental in your life.

If we’re honest, one of the greatest hindrances to our sharing Jesus is simply this: most of us don’t know enough people who don’t know Jesus.

When we don’t spend time with actual people who don’t know Christ we can easily create stereotypes. The longer we hold to them, the less and less like reality they look.

Once we have gospel fluency and understand the story of Jesus, the best way to learn to share Jesus with people is to share Jesus with people. It’s that basic.

Identify people in your Concentric Circles. What is a specific way to share with at least one person from this list weekly?

How will you respond to someone when you’re asked a question you don’t know how to answer?

There will be times when you will clarify things to a person with doubts. Most of us worry about this a lot more than we actually encounter it because most of us aren’t talking to many people about Jesus. The greatest need is Jesus, and the greatest thing we can offer someone is a relationship with him.

What if you are in a conversation and someone asks you a question about things like the problem of evil, many possible ways to God, or something like that? There is a myriad of fantastic books to help with this, but I want to give you a few things to help in those times. Os Guinness reminds us, “We should always give honest answers to honest questions, but we should know from the start that we can never give complete and convincing answers to every question.”

As we converse with people about the good news of Jesus, we want to do a couple of things in the process of telling them the good news: (1) remove roadblocks along their journey of life that keep them from seeing the story of Jesus; (2) raise questions in their minds about their current view of life.

It’s beyond the scope of this book to give a proper treatment of apologetics and its role regarding evangelism; I do, however, encourage you to read books that will help you in that regard. I recommend two in particular: Os Guinness’s Fool’s Talk, which gives a fascinating look into the relationship between evangelism and apologetics in our time, and Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God, which offers answers to key questions from both a scholarly and a pastoral perspective.

Here are a few foundational truths to keep in mind as you have evangelistic conversations:

  • First, the very fact that you are having a conversation with someone instead of simply trying to give a presentation impacts the objections raised. Treating the person with whom you talk as an equal and truly listening to them will generally keep them from being defensive and raising unnecessary questions.
  • Second, the Bible never says we are to answer every question a person asks. The Bible’s purpose is not to give you every answer you want. The Bible is God’s revelation to us to show us his great plan and his great kingdom. It’s not a reference book, though it speaks truthfully on a myriad of subjects; it’s the great story that makes sense of all of life. That’s not to say we shouldn’t help answer ultimate questions of life that people raise. But witnessing is the sharing of a gospel story that changes everything.
  • Third, the gospel, not your answers or arguments, is the power of God for salvation. Don’t forget that. They may not have every question answered, but they must hear the good news where they live.
  • Fourth, most questions people offer (about 80 to 90 percent in my experience) are not the actual reason they refuse to follow Christ, which is another reason to focus on communicating the gospel. We do want to answer honestly the real and sincere questions people have as we can, but we must get underneath the surface excuses people raise to deal with the genuine issues people have. We are not seeking to simply “close the deal” and get people to respond; we want them to meet Christ.

No matter how winsome and loving and clear you are, some won’t receive Christ. And on rare occasions, some may even become hostile. The latter is far less likely than you think, but Jesus is worth facing that, is He not?

It’s vital for you to remember that no matter how effective at gospel conversations you become, or how attractive your witness, most will not respond positively to the gospel. Jesus told us the way to destruction is wide, and the way of salvation is narrow (Matt 7:13–14). There are plenty of times in the Gospels when people chose to walk away from Jesus rather than follow him.

What does it mean to show Jesus by the way you live?

Sometimes, particularly with those in the inner circles of your Circle of Concern, the best transition to the gospel is not to make one at all, at least verbally; it’s to live in such a way as to create a hearing for it. Whenever we have the opportunity and sense the Spirit leading us to speak of Christ we should always do so. God is doing more than we know; we are merely a part of his bigger work. I say this with caution because I know the force of the temptation to look for any reason possible not to speak about Jesus.

Sharing Jesus involves our verbal witness to be sure, but it includes more. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 that the gospel came “not only in word” (ESV). It came with words, but not only with words. The more intimately we know someone, the more our lives matter and the less our words carry the impact. Look at 1 Peter 3:1–4, which gives the one time in the Bible where we are encouraged to impact others for Christ but at the same time told not to do so with words:

In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry, but rather what is inside the heart—the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Peter is not forbidding a wife to speak about Jesus, but when you are in such an intimate relationship as a husband and wife, you can’t be preaching at your spouse all the time. In other words, how you live the gospel before close family matters much more than the words you speak.

On the other hand, if you have only a superficial relationship with someone, the words you speak with urgency matter greatly. George Whitefield, the great evangelist of the First Great Awakening, wrote: “God forbid that I spend a quarter of an hour with anyone and not speak to them of Christ.” In the book of Acts we see many examples of believers encountering people and quickly and boldly proclaiming Jesus. In the text in 1 Peter 3, Peter is describing a long-term, intimate relationship with a nonbeliever.

The greater the intimacy of a relationship, the more valuable your demonstration of a changed life, and the less intimacy, the more necessary is your verbal witness. As the picture above illustrates, one’s verbal witness should come early in relationships. But, the more intimate the relationship becomes, the more you serve someone and communicate the gospel through your life and not just through words.

Share as a group the specific ideas, truths, people, or principles God has placed on your heart over the past three weeks.

 

Share with the group how can you make evangelism part of your personal mission and your family’s culture?


Concluding Thoughts

These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.

Looking back at this week’s teaching and study, what’s the most important thing to remember?


Becoming A House of Prayer

“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.

Set aside a portion of your Lighthouse for prayer. This week pray for:

  • God to help you identify a witnessing rhythm that’s right for your context.
  • God to show you how to demonstrate the gospel by your life even as you share good news with your lips.
  • God to help you see how costly it is to live a life that consistently shows the radical change the gospel makes, and to help you live like that.
  • God to prepare you, to use you, and to work in the lives of those you meet.
  • God to cement these lessons in your heart and help you discern wise goals as you continue on your witnessing journey.
  • God to continue to grow you in your witness and open your eyes and heart to the people he puts in your path who need him—for his glory and your good.

Next Steps

Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:

  • Take Action: Do you understand your giftedness, calling, and those things that bring deep satisfaction? Take time to complete the Three Circles Worksheet (located on the FFCGroups.com website).
  • Take Courage: Reflect on this statement: The closer you are to someone, the less your words matter and the more your actions matter. What is one way you can better love those closest to you today? Think of times like family reunions when you are around unbelieving family members. Instead of obsessing over how you will drop the gospel on them, what are ways you can serve them?

Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: 1 Peter 3:15–16 In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Our Core Practice this week is Authenticity (John 13:33-34): I know and understand biblical truths and transfer these truths into everyday life. Who I am on the inside and outside is a pure reflection of Christ and His Word.

Remember to use the daily Bible reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.

    Chris Eller is a Christ Follower, Husband, Father, Pastor, Geek, Writer, Photographer, and Church Technology Consultant.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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