:: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 ::
Philip, the Ethiopian and Evangelism
This previous Sunday (18 May 2003) I preached a sermon at St. B's based on the text of Acts 8:26 - 40. In it I argued for a new perspective on evangelism. The evangelical church has discovered that the evangelism modeled by many of our 'street preachers' and our 'contact evangelism' programs where people distribute tracts are no longer effective in getting people to convert to Christianity. In fact, these models have become somewhat of an embarrassment to many (including myself) who often have to live among people turned off by our methodology.
In Acts 8, we see Philip employing a different method. Yet it is more than just a different method; it holds different values entirely. Philip approaches the Ethiopan listening to what he is reading. He connects the Ethiopian's life and questions to the story of the risen Christ. And beyond telling a story, Philip acts as the risen Christ himself for the Ethiopian. All of this elicits in the Ethiopian not just a change of philosophy but in fact new life.
We today are called to engage people around us. We listen to their stories, reflect on our stories, and connect our stories and their stories to the great Story of God in Jesus Christ. In doing so we offer the Resurrection perspective on Jesus' life, thus on our own lives. The Resurrection inherently makes the story "good news" because the Resurrection takes care of whatever evil, sin and death we are dealing with. In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ God destroyed death, sin and the Devil and brought new life - new creation - to all who believe. This is good news for whatever our struggle may be.
Yet at this point we could still just be telling yet another philosophical perspective on life. Who's to say this story is any better than any other?
This is where Luke's artistry as an author comes in. He ties this story structurally to the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. In the end, the Ethiopian plays the role of the disciples and Philip the role of the Risen Christ. When we are led by the Spirit to connect our story and the stories of those around us to the story of Jesus Christ, we are acting as Christ. Thus we have power and authority far beyond that which any other story or philosophy can muster. We have the power of the living God active in us and with us.
Therefore, evangelism is a natural part of life - occurring in our typical, natural environments. It is primarily made up of helping people connect their story to Jesus from the resurrection perspective. And when we go, we go as Christ.
That's the gist of the sermon... what do you think?
:: Matt 5/21/2003 12:32:00 AM :: permalink ::