As we continue our year of evangelism at TCATS, I want to take a look at the specific instruction that Jesus gave His 12 disciples as they did evangelism. We will only be taking a broad look at this passage at this time and we will dive deeper into the passage as we continue our walkthrough of Matthew’s Gospel.
To set us up for Christ’s instruction to the 12 concerning the method of their evangelism, Jesus has been traveling, performing miracles, casting out demons, and preaching about the kingdom of Heaven. In today’s passage, Jesus is sending the 12 out to do the same thing that He has been doing. Jesus’ work on this earth is itself evangelistic in nature. As we seek to live like Jesus, our work in this world must also be evangelistic. We follow Christ’s example. If the church is the body of Christ, then it is doing the work of Christ. Jesus sends His 12 disciples particularly to the Jews and gives some specific instruction about what His disciples ought to do in the Jewish context. So, the message of Christ’s Gospel was contextual to the audience. We see that in Matthew 10:1-15. This leads us into the instruction that we will be observing at this time.
“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will even rise up against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. When they persecute you in one town, escape to another. For I assure you: You will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
In this section of the text, we see that the disciples were sent out for the purpose of evangelism. Jesus instructed them and then sent His people to do His work. He set the example for His people. Secondly, we read that Jesus sent His people out as sheep among wolves. I want to spend a little time on this idea. What does it mean for the people of God, seeking to do the work of God in the context of a sinful world, to be sent out as sheep among wolves?
When we look at verses 21-22, what Jesus is saying becomes clear. Those people doing the evangelistic work of Christ as Christ exemplified in His own going and teaching will be treated like sheep are by wolves in the world’s current condition. I need to make this very clear as we are talking about evangelism. I can’t sugar-coat the biblical call to evangelism. I can’t wrap it with an attractive exterior. I don’t want to be guilty of misrepresenting Christ’s call to go and make disciples as He makes disciples. Those who practice evangelism are sent out like sheep among wolves. That probably means something specifically different in each cultural context. Jesus was honest and upfront about what it would cost. If we practice godly evangelism, we will be suffering servants in the world. We will be hated because of Christ’s name. For this reason, we are instructed to be as shrewd (or sly) as serpents and as innocent as doves.
On my daily devotional blog on January 29, 2019, we saw that:
“The practice of evangelism would divide the kingdoms of people and followers of Christ would experience persecution, being brought before kings and governors to be scourged. Jesus was clear about His purpose in this. First, it was to fulfill the salvation of God according to Micah 7:6-7. Second, it was so that God might work all things together in order to place the testimony of His own name in front of all people. If Christ has saved us and we are concerned with the glory of God, then we bear testimony of Christ as the people of the world give us trouble socially, politically, economically, and intellectually. That is how God opens the door for evangelism. So, we engage the world as God opens any door to do so… Being hated by all because of Christ’s name (v. 22) is something being worked together by God. ‘Because of Christ’s name’ means so that the testimony of Christ will be in front of all people.”
While we shy away from persecution of any sort, God is working together the hardships of the world, the political turmoil, the negative opinions against the church and the negative opinions about us (our negative opinions about others) so that we will receive opportunity to be a testimony to Him and so that He might be glorified. The temptation we have is to spend our time and energy complaining or forcing our opinion or talking about everything other than Jesus Christ. God, as He works all things together, provides every opportunity for us to witness concerning Christ. So, in response to Christ’s instruction as we go, we strive to intentionally represent Jesus Christ, and God has placed every hardship, every persecution, every disagreement, and every issue before us for this purpose: that He would be glorified. This begins in our personal lives and grows into the practice of the local church body.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household!
Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and a man’s enemies will be
the members of his household.
The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.
In the context of evangelism, we see the principle again. Those who practice evangelism will most certainly be persecuted. When the Scriptures say that if we confess Christ before people He will confess us before the Father, it is in the context of practicing evangelism (making disciples of all nations) with every opportunity. Christ will communicate this idea again in Matthew 12:30 when He says that those who are not with Him are against Him. Here this idea is in the context of evangelism and the suffering that comes with doing the Lord’s work. In chapter 12, Jesus speaks in the context of those who pridefully oppose His word and the work He is doing- the work of redemption and of freeing people from their unrighteousness. Jesus’ language is very strong as He instructs His disciples.
If we want to practice biblical evangelism, then we want to practice good contextualization. We want to place the message of the Bible in front of people in a meaningful way because we want them to hear, understand, and be moved by God’s word.
Outreach and evangelism are not us promoting ourselves and it is not us promoting our activities. Christ’s instruction was clear. We take every opportunity to be witnesses of Christ to the world. God provides those opportunities.
Some trends (as of 2019 in most of the continental USA)
The most effective method for outreach is still word of mouth. This means we build relationships with people outside the church body and personally witness to them about Jesus and invite them to attend church with us. This has always been the most effective method for outreach and I don’t think this trend will change any time soon.
People respond well when the medium fits the media. If the content is the Gospel message, then our platform needs to be such that the content is received and understood. This means in personal conversations and public forums (which currently thrive on social media above all else). Facebook is the number one social media site, followed by Instagram, for the sharing and receiving of ideas. This trend shows no sign of changing anytime soon.
Door-to-door evangelism no longer works, but passing out invitations door-to-door is well received by about 50% of people, though most will ignore the invitation anyway in our current climate.
Concerts and outreach events on campus usually attract a crowd that is already culturally Christian and who already have a church home. This can be beneficial, but we also must reach unbelievers, and our goal is to place the message of the Bible in front of people, not promote our local body or attract with entertainment. So, we resolve to be careful in the way that we go about having outreach events on campus.