Tag Archives: Acts

Follow-up is Critical to Evangelism and Here’s Why

Have you ever thought about what happened after Paul’s conversion? We tend to think about this apostle as having always been a staunch defender of the faith having been converted on the road to Damascus. He was, in fact, just that, but if we were to look closely, we see that Paul was not alone in his journey from persecutor of the church to persecuted for the church. In Acts 9:17, we read, “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit,” (ESV).  Whether or not it was Ananias or someone else who did the work, the very next verse states that Saul was baptized. Still someone had to bring him food as well. It was as if Paul had joined a new family and that family cared for him and his needs. That is indeed what happened. “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus,” (Acts 9:19b, ESV). He stayed with them. They cared for him. It would seem that they did not have much of a chance to teach him as he states in Galatians, “I did not immediately consult with anyone, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus,” (Galatians 1:16b-17, ESV).

What happened in those three years we cannot say, but it would seem that this event took place before the riot against Paul in Damascus that can be read of in Acts 9. No one knows why Paul went into Arabia or for how long. According to Timothy George, two thoughts are given: 1) Paul went to Sinai where the law was given in order to meditate on his new-found faith and come to an understanding of the Messiah, or 2) to evangelize to the people of Arabia.[1] I would agree with George in that there is no need to choose between the two options. However, when Paul came back, he had certainly not settled all his theology, for Luke tells us, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ,” (Acts 9:22, ESV). The strength that Paul grew in was mental acumen and faith. He was able to make an argument. It is not hard to believe that those disciples with whom he stayed helped develop that theology in him, just as Aquila and Pricilla did in Apollos later on (cf. Acts 18:27).

We also read that those same disciples helped Paul escape in a basket when the Jewish mob sought to kill him. They cared not only for his spiritual growth but for his physical safety as well. When Paul escaped to Jerusalem, he had no one. The apostles and the laypersons were afraid of him (cf. Acts 9:26). If it were not for Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who stood beside Paul, he very well would have been rejected by all. Barnabas, utilizing his own name and influence, supported Paul in his endeavors, later to join him on his missionary journeys.

When the people heard and saw that Paul was a genuine believer and preaching Christ, they rejoiced (cf. Galatians 1:23). How this must have encouraged him! They urged him on to preach, and while in Antioch, he was sent on his way to be on mission to the Gentiles.

What can we then learn from this lesson on Paul? Follow-up is essential to evangelism. The new disciple needs a family. They need people to care about them, perhaps even house them if they have lost everything for the sake of Christ and the gospel. They need people to teach them, strengthen them, encourage them, rejoice over them, and have their back. They need to be trusted with the gospel and encouraged to proclaim it, letting them learn from their mistakes.

We read in Galatians 2, Paul has not only Barnabas, but Titus as well. Titus was learning from Paul. We also know Timothy did as well (though not mentioned in Galatians). It was to Timothy that Paul wrote, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV). This was a disciple who was discipled and had discipled others, expecting and instructing them to disciple other disciples who would then disciple still more disciples. Follow-up and follow-through is critical to the Christian faith and evangelism. Let us not neglect to tell the good news, but let us also not neglect to follow up with the person to whom the good news was told.

[1] Timothy George, The New American Commentary: Galatians, (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994), 124.

There’s a quaint saying in churches, especially smaller churches.  We like to say, “It’s not all about the numbers.”  It sounds spiritual doesn’t it?  Numbers are cold and dead.  We are about the souls, warm and living.  We don’t care about putting notches in our belts.  We want spiritual growth, not necessarily numerical growth.  But here’s the problem: the Bible uses numbers to tell God’s story.  It uses numbers to tell of the spiritual growth of the church.

If we go to Acts, we see first: “While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise,” (Acts 1:4, HCSB).  Who is the them?  Verse 2 tells us it was the apostles whom He had chosen (minus 1 of course).  That’s 11 of them.  In fact, these apostles are named in verse 13, and then more are added to the 11 when it says that the women, Mary, and Jesus’ brothers were with them.  Obviously Luke was keeping track of numbers.

The Bible uses numbers to tell God’s story.  It uses numbers to tell of the spiritual growth of the church.

Within the 10 days of Jesus’ ascending and the descending of the Holy Spirit, the apostles picked another apostle to join them.  The number who were with them at this point was 120 people (that’s a number)!  When the Spirit came and the tongues were preaching the word, we find out at the end of chapter 2: “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them,” (Acts 2:41, HCSB). More numbers!  But it gets worse!!! At the beginning of chapter 4 we see, “But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about 5,000,” (v. 4, HCSB).  What’s with all the numbers?  How could Luke write something so unspiritual?

Of course, by this time, the church in Jerusalem was growing exponentially, and the numbers drop off of Luke’s radar.  But what it would seem Luke was doing was showing how the church was growing.  In fact, he even said such in chapter 2.  The new Christians were “praising God and having favor with all the people.  And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved,” (v. 47, HCSB).  The health of the church (praising God and having favor with all the people) seems to be linked to the salvations that were happening.  In other words, spiritual growth produces numerical growth.

I know this is not a hard and fast rule.  I have heard of matured Christians going to be missionaries and seeing no success.  But that is the exception that proves the rule.  We ought to be surprised when God doesn’t bless the matured believer with fruit.  We should be scratching our heads and bowing our knees and asking God for fruit, for the salvation of souls and the growth of the mission church.

I am encouraged by our church’s numerical growth.  To go from 21 as a low in 2013 to nearly double that in 2016 is a praise!  It confirms that God is doing something within this body.  It confirms that spiritual growth is happening (we are not the gimmicky type).  What visitors often see is that Highland View is a small church.  Some don’t mind, most do.  What they do not see is that Highland View is a growing church and a growing church (that grows for the right reasons) is a church about which to be excited.

The health of the church (praising God and having favor with all the people) seems to be linked to the salvations that were happening.  In other words, spiritual growth produces numerical growth.

So while it is not all about the numbers, some of it most definitely is about the numbers.

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