Greetings, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I must say that I am very happy, and more than a little bit nervous, to have been invited here to speak to you this morning. The reason is, I’m afraid, that I am not very comfortable being in front of large crowds. You see, I have always fancied myself as more of a writer than a public speaker. But then again, I guess it is because of my writings that I was invited here in the first place. The Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He! This morning I wanted to talk to you a little bit about what I think it means to be an evangelist. It is, after all, what people have called me for many years now. St. Luke the evangelist. Who would have guessed it growing up? Not me. But like I already said, The Lord works in mysterious ways.
I should tell you a little bit about myself. First of all, like yourselves, I am not a Jew. I was never raised as a child to know the Lord God of Israel. I came to believe in Him later in my life. By trade, I was a doctor before I came to know the Lord. I spent many years studying in the finest schools of our day. I call Antioch my home, but I have done a lot of traveling in my time. I spent time in Macedonia, Ceaserea, Rome, you name it! I was even shipwrecked once! If it were up to me I probably wouldn’t have traveled nearly as much as I have. To be honest, if it were entirely up to me, I probably wouldn’t even be here today. But when the Lord calls, you have to answer. Even if that means doing something you’re not comfortable with, like speaking in front of people.
I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but it took me a long time to learn that one simple lesson. When the Lord calls you to do something, you have to answer. The Lord has called each one of us to be His witnesses to the world. He has called each of us to be evangelists. To share the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a calling that we all have to answer. At first, I didn’t want to answer that call. I tried to hide from my responsibility. I was in the province of Phrygia, in a place called Troas. I was there visiting some relatives from my mother’s family; when who did I happen to see but my good friend the preacher Paul and several of his traveling companions. I ran over and greeted them. We were all surprised to see each other there. The last I had heard Paul was still in Jerusalem. They thought I was still in Antioch.
They quickly explained to me how they had not had any luck preaching there in Phrygia or Galatia, or Mysia. but they had received a vision from God that they were to go and preach the Word in Macedonia. They urged me to come along and share in their mission. They were convinced that it was no mistake I was right there at the same time they were. After some thinking, I agreed to go along with them. I assumed that Paul, Silas, or Timothy would do most of the evangelizing. I was just planning to tag along and hear them preach more.
Anyway, later that same day we all boarded a ship and traveled over to Philippi, which is in Macedonia. It was there that every thing seemed to go wrong. We had been there a few days, and had been making some progress, when Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl that had been following us around. The girl’s owner was furious. He had been using the poor soul to make money, by telling fortunes and entertaining the crowds. The next thing any of us knew, Paul and Silas were thrown in prison. It looked like they might even lose their lives.
I panicked. I ran and hid. I knew I should have said or done something; but I just couldn’t. Paul and Silas made it out of prison just fine. The Lord was looking after them. But I couldn’t work myself up to continue on with them. When they left Philippi the next day, I stayed behind.
I spent a lot of time in Philippi, soul-searching. I was confused, and scared, and a more than a little angry with myself. I had really thought that I was ready to evangelize the world with Paul and the others. At the first sign of trouble, though, I fell apart. And I don’t know why! Here I was a trained professional! I had seen unspeakable things in my time as a physician. I had dealt with all of them just fine. I was a well educated and worldly man. So why couldn’t I do this one little thing. Why did I have so much trouble bringing myself to stand up and be counted. To this day I have never been able to find an easy answer to that question.
When Paul came back through Philippi, he found me still there. I was still searching the scriptures and looking for answers. I don’t know to this day what he said to convince me to follow him; or even why he would … but follow him I did. I was with Paul when he returned to Jerusalem. I stayed by his side even when he was imprisoned in Ceaserea for two years. I even traveled with him to Rome, getting ship-wrecked on the way. I stayed with him right up until the day he was killed for his faith. During all of that time that we spent together, I came to know the Lord Jesus better and more deeply than I ever had before.
Through Paul, and others like him I was taught about all that Christ had accomplished while here on the earth. Through those eyewitnesses of Jesus, those who had spoken to Him face to face, I too became an eyewitness of the power of the Holy Spirit to change people’s lives. Somewhere along the line – I’m not sure when or how – I became a real evangelist. But not an evangelist like my master Paul. Like I said, even to this day I have trouble in front of people. So instead, I chose to spread the good news by writing an account of all that Jesus had done. I had a friend who had written me a letter asking about these things. It felt natural for me to evangelize to him in a letter. That’s why I began my Gospel with the words I did.
(1-4) Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
I guess, what I wanted to share with you all today, is that evangelism is a very personal thing. The desire to tell others about our Lord Jesus Christ can only come out of a personal relationship with Him. It is a relationship that He forged when He suffered, died, and on the third day rose from the dead … all for us sinfully inadequate humans. We can only be witnesses to God, because God has made each one of us personal eyewitness to His remarkable saving grace. He chose to do it through humble words, and a simple washing.
In Baptism our Lord Jesus washes us free of sin. He then claims each of us as His very own brother or sister. In Baptism, He gave us the “promise of the Father”, that is the “Power from on High” He gave us the Holy Spirit. Through that Holy Spirit we are given the ability to understand the scriptures. To have faith in Christ and all that He has done for us in them. I guess you could say that in Baptism, God creates the relationship; while through the Holy Word He strengthens that relationship, and makes it deeper and more personal.
Likewise, then, our evangelism should be done in a very personal way. Not only do I mean “one on one” but also in the way that you are capable of. Some of you are good public speakers, some are good writers, some have the gift of hospitality, some the gift of learning and wisdom. All of you have duties, or jobs, and people that come in and out of your life. As an evangelist you must consider what good gifts God has given you and how best you can use them in your life, and with the people you meet. For my dear friend Paul, that meant preaching. For me it was writing. As for you … well you must work that out between you and God.
God has called each of us to a wonderful and exciting task. He has called us to be witnesses of His love to the world around us. He has called us to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name. But being an evangelist doesn’t mean fitting into some preset mold. It means using the unique talents He has given you to meet the needs of the unique group of people He has seen fit to put into your life. Being an evangelist, means hearing the message of good news for yourself. It means living under the promises of God in Christ Jesus. Knowing that even when we fail to faithfully answer God’s calling, or when our attempts at evangelizing are a dismal failure; God still forgives us. He still cares for us. He still wants to be a part of our lives. May God bless each of you as you too become evangelists for God.