"EVANGELISM TRAINING BY EXAMPLE"
1. Turn in your Bible to Proverbs 22.6, which will serve as our text. When you find that verse please stand for the reading of Godís Word: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
2. There is an age old argument concerning the factors that most influence the rearing of children. Some say that the main influence is inheritance. Others say that the main influence is environment. And each argument, it might seem to some, is used to take credit where credit can be taken and to shift blame where blame can be shifted.
3. There is no doubt in my mind that inheritance plays some strong role in how a child will turn out. But such verses in Godís Word as we have before us show that the most vital factor in rearing children is the skill, the wisdom, and the spirituality of the childrenís parents.
4. This morning I wish, particularly, to use this verse for the purpose of encouraging you and exhorting you to raise your children in such a way that they will, when they are converted, if they are converted, live a useful life in the masterís vineyard.
5. That this is your responsibility is clear from First Thessalonians 2.12 where Paul, comparing his ministry to that of a motherís and then to that of a fatherís, very clearly showed the goal of good pastoring and the goal of good parenting to be, "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."
6. Godís desire is for you to raise your children in such a way, not that they would have warm and fuzzy feelings of quality time spent with dad when they grow up, not that they remember fresh baked cookies in the kitchen when they reach adulthood, but that they would be trained to walk worthy of God. The real golden moments bear little resemblance to Norman Rockwell paintings, but are comprised of those times and occasions that a godly man or woman can look back on as priceless gems of instruction and example when mom and dad taught me how to serve God.
7. Now for a little history. Some years ago God, in His wise and merciful Providence, showed me that what I had been taught about reaching people for Christ was wrong-headed and actually destructive to the cause of Christ. Not that I was confused about the Gospel, but that I was confused about how best to apply the Gospel.
8. I had been taught, and I had in turn taught, decisionism. Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved. Though I did not believe decisionism had I been asked, I certainly did practice decisionism, and passed it on to others in this Church.
9. What God provided for me about 7 years ago was a much needed clarification of things related to conversion. Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinnerís standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.
10. Realizing that I did not, myself, fully understand the implications of these last 170 years of error brought on by the 19th century heretic Charles G. Finney, and that it would take me years of prayer, study and reflection to make meaningful progress in straightening my ministry out, I made a significant move about 4 years ago. I had decided to end all forms of organized outreach at our Church 7 or 8 years ago. Then, after de-emphasizing organized outreach for several years, about 4 years ago I then discontinued our outreach.
11. Why did I eliminate our "soul winning" ministries? Was it because they were unimportant? No, it was because they were profoundly important, and because our approach to evangelism and "soul winning" as decisionists was actually more harmful to the cause of Christ, in my opinion, than doing nothing at all. You see, I am convinced that it is far better to leave a lost man lost than to trick and deceive him into thinking he is saved while he is still very much lost. And that is what usually happens with decisionism.
12. Why did I make this move? As Dirty Harry once said, "A manís got to know his limitations." And I knew that if I tried to gradually root decisionism out of this congregation over time I simply would not succeed. So I stopped the outreach and ran the risk of allowing folks to become dormant in their thinking about what a Churchís outreach ought to be like, while teaching you for several years about your personal approach to witnessing. That teaching series, if you will remember, I called "Unsupervised Evangelism."
13. Another reason I made the move to end our decisionism approach to evangelism by shutting down evangelism was because we at the time had so many unconverted Church members that I knew resistance to a more Scriptural approach to evangelism would be resisted by many members, even though the resistance would be an unintentional consequence of being unconverted.
14. But now that perhaps half of our congregation is hopefully converted we are starting up our evangelistic outreach in what I sincerely pray is a more Scriptural approach than before. But our attempt to purge from our minds the wrong way to reach the lost and replace it with the right approach comes with a cost. And the cost is born by two groups in our congregation:
15. First, the cost is born by those who have come to Christ here during the last 4 or 5 years. These new converts have come into their new Christian lives without the important impression of how vitally critical to the Christian life it is to seek the conversion of the lost as a part of the Churchís ministry. Iím sadden by this, but there was no other way I could see to do what needed to be done. All I can now do is stress the importance of evangelism to the hopefully converted and wait for their new life in Christ to show itself in our new Saturday night outreach.
16. Then there are our children. In a perfect world with a perfect pastor who had perfect knowledge my daughter would have been raised in a Church that always had an organized outreach. But Sarah, and Leah, and Eric Moyer, and Michael DiGiovanna, and Stephen DiGiovanna, and so many others, will always have in their memories a Church that for a while had no outreach. That is very sad, but unavoidable in our efforts to rid ourselves of decisionism. What harm it will do them remains to be seen, but is offset by the harm they would have experienced growing up in a decisionist minstry.
17. But we now come to the younger children and the newer children. I speak of those who will not really remember in their adulthood the last 4 years of inactivity, because they are simply too young. Along with them are the kids who have not been here long enough to form the firm memories that they will use to judge their childhood memories upon reaching adulthood. I speak of Jason, and Jack, and Thomas, and Joaquin, and Priscilla, and Brandon, and Sean, and Matthew, and James, and Erin, and Jordan, and Katarina.
18. Our lesson for today will show you parents of these kids how to provide these children with evangelism training. Training that will not only impress upon them the tremendous importance of getting converted themselves, but training that will show them very clearly that Christianity without involvement in the Churchís organized outreach isnít real Christianity at all, but the pitiful new evangelicalism that is so common here in Southern California, wherein every man does that which is right in his own eyes.
19. Look to our text, Proverbs 22.6, as we consider the interpretation, the application, and your opportunity as parents to leave with your children the profoundly important legacy of genuine Christianity.
1A. First, THE INTERPRETATION
2A. Next, THE APPLICATION
3A. Finally, YOUR OPPORTUNITY
1. What a unique opportunity you have if your children are very young or if you are not a long time Church attender.
2. You have an amazing opportunity to do for your children with respect to Christianity what you may wish someone had done for you when you were young.
3. So, donít blow it, okay? Saturday at 6:00 PM.
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