Acts 5:13-14 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.
This passage first jumped out at me many years ago. We tend to think of evangelism in terms of “evangelistic meetings,” and of personal evangelism as inviting someone to church, but that wasn’t the Biblical pattern at all. It says here that people were afraid to join their meetings, but in the very next sentence it says the number of believers continued to grow steadily. In other words, people got saved before they ever “went to church.” I have seen statistical studies done of “stadium evangelism,” Billy Graham and others, and they all said that the probability of a personal commitment from an attendee was much higher if they were invited by a personal friend. In other words, genuine personal evangelism had already taken place, even if the meeting was the venue for commitment. The average church member, in Japan or probably anywhere, acts as though “it’s the pastor’s job” to evangelize. That’s a terrible deception of the devil. Whereas there are those with a special gift and calling as evangelists, (Ephesians 4:11) even they are listed with those whose job is to “prepare God’s people for works of service.” (Ephesians 4:12) In other words, every believer is called as a witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8) How we witness is going to be different for each person, depending on gifts and personalities, but absolutely no believers are excluded from that. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable, because they have a strictly verbal image of evangelism. However, it’s actually as Francis of Assisi said: “Preach constantly. When necessary, use words.” Our lives are to be clear declarations of Christ. However, we do need to be able to put words to it from time to time. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) The pastor’s job isn’t to do the evangelism to the exclusion of others, but rather to prepare all the believers to share Christ within their own sphere of influence.
This is very evident in the brother who is to be baptized on the 19th. I had very little to do with his commitment. It was seeing Christ in his sister-in-law that convinced him Jesus was real, and he needed to follow Him as Lord. My problem in doing that sort of evangelism myself is that Japanese look at me and chalk up the differences between my life and theirs to the fact that I’m not Japanese. That can be very frustrating, even painful at times because it feels like rejection. That’s why I need to focus on training and equipping the people, as Paul said in Ephesians. Japanese tend to be very private people, not sharing what is really going on inside them, so there are real cultural challenges, but as our Verse for the Year says, nothing is too hard for God. (Jeremiah 32:27) I’ve got to be faithful, trusting God to use even me to build up the Body of Christ.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You indeed for the baptism coming up Sunday. May it be a powerful witness to the other members of that family, both those who will attend and those who won’t, and may all of the believers be encouraged to trust You for the salvation of those in their own families and friends, for a growing harvest for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!