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Empowered to Witness: How the Holy Spirit Enables Us to Share the Gospel
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Followers of Jesus everywhere have been called and empowered by the Spirit of God to go and spread the Good News of Jesus. The Great Commission is for the Church to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching people to abide by all that Christ has taught us (Matt. 28:19-20). We are called to testify as witnesses to the Son of God who came to reconcile sinners with God through His death, burial and resurrection. In everything we do and say, we are to show the world how the grace of God has saved and changed us for God’s glory and for the common good. Also, the Great Commission is propelled forward by the two greatest commandments: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40). If we love God we will keep His commands, and if we love our neighbor we want them to find salvation, wholeness and eternal life in Christ. But, this is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Go and Bear Witness
God sent His only Son to take on flesh to save us from our sins by dying on the Cross, rising again on the third day and ascending to the Father so that they would send the Holy Spirit to empower Christ’s followers to go and bear witness of the Good News of His Kingdom (John 3:16; Matt. 10:7; 6:33; Acts 1:8). The Church’s work is to continue Jesus’ work here on earth. Having fulfilled the words of Isaiah 61, Jesus sends us “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus’ mission was to reach the lost and set the oppressed free and therefore it is also the mission of the Church. Whoever chooses to follow the Lamb of God chooses to be, act and talk like Christ (John 14:23), empowered by His Spirit.
Being, Doing and Telling
Our mission is to witness for Christ; to do His work in our city always includes our words and deeds, but also “…who we are as a people called by God and sent into the world – our missional identity…”( Flemming 14). In this way we embody the mission of God in a way that goes beyond our specific words and actions. So, there should really be a seamless flow between our loving actions and words, springing out of a new identity in Christ. Genuine born-again disciples choose to love and value what Jesus loves and values (John 3:1-21). Jesus who is one with the Father demonstrated that He came into the world to save sinners (John 10:30; 1 Tim. 1:15). Jesus became one of us and moved into our neighborhood in order to announce the Good News. According to the Old and New Covenant, God has always loved mercy, righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5; 89:14) in His being, doing and telling; He reaches out to the lost, oppressed and marginalized (Job 29:12; Luke 4:18; 15:4). Therefore, we, as God’s people, are also called to make sacrifices in order to love the lost, to pursue righteousness and to reach our city with the Gospel. Coastal Church has intentionally planted congregations in different cities, so that believers can immerse themselves in their local neighbourhoods. The Eden project is an example of this: a place where we share the Gospel message through our being, doing and telling.
How Do I Share the Gospel with My Neighbours?
Here are some practical ways that my family and I have found helpful from Eden’s Five Distinctives to share the Gospel through our being, doing and telling:
- Be local – This is about contextualization and enculturation, being intentionally present, active and in close proximity to the people in the neighbourhood where we live. The focus here is about devoting ourselves to our communities that we call home. Get to know your neighbours well, whether they are living in your apartment building, in the house next to you, living outside on the street or running a small business. You cannot love your neighbour as yourself if you don’t know your neighbours. We need to present the message of Jesus Christ in a way that is relevant and understandable to the culture and worldview of the people to whom we are reaching. We have the power and wisdom of the Spirit to build relationships and demonstrate the relevance of the Gospel in the context of our community.
- Be highly relational – since relationships are the currency of our lives and the primary route through which transformation takes place. Discipleship cannot take place outside of relationships. This requires patience and persistence. Building relationships and trust takes time and effort. You and I must be willing to invest in relationships for a long period before we see any fruit. Spending time with people is sometimes the most underrated and overlooked part of creating opportunities for Gospel conversations. Prayerfully organize and participate in activities and events, and do not hesitate to share the Gospel when the opportunity presents itself. But please don’t misunderstand this point: we never build relationships and then abandon people if they reject the Gospel. We go into each relationship organically with a pure motive to radiate God’s love and joy. We come alongside people and watch God’s Spirit move powerfully.
- Be purposeful – as we cannot be passive observers in our community. We are called to be deliberate witnesses of Jesus Christ. You have received power from above to do exactly this. Practice active listening and observing by paying attention to what you hear and see in your neighborhood. Do prayer walks in your neighborhood paying attention to your surroundings, looking for indications of hope and indications of need, and ask God how you can join Him in what He is already doing. This will help you pray effectively for your neighbourhood and find out how you can actively be the hands and feet of Christ where you live.
- Be countercultural – for whilst we acknowledge the importance of lovingly and respectfully engaging with the culture that we live in, we will retain a deliberately different stance on issues of truth and morality as Jesus has taught us (2 Tim. 3:16). This requires you and I to have Bible fluency where we avoid the hollow and deceptive philosophies of our time. Bible literacy also teaches us how to speak the language of the Gospel easily and effectively. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-18). We are called to immerse ourselves and engage with the culture but not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our mind. We walk with Gentiles but no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:17). Our minds and hearts are to be emptied of the world and filled with the Word.
- Be holistic – for our conviction is that God cares for whole people – not just souls. In practice this will mean that we need God’s guidance in responding wisely to a wide range of relational, recreational, physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs. This requires getting to know our neighbors as individuals and understanding their unique needs, giftings and calling. Every person is created in God’s image and they have unique talents and purposes. As Gospel carriers we don’t only meet needs, we also empower and mobilize individuals to use their talents as faithful stewards of God’s grace to serve others (1 Peter 4:10).
Who Is My Neighbour?
Most people in the church have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke 10:25-31, and recognize the importance of Jesus’s teachings on loving our neighbour. However, we often think that we can choose our neighbour. The fact is that many times God does the choosing for us. In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus chooses to make the Jew and the Samaritan neighbours. As Jon Bloom examines this parable in his article “Loving The neighbour We Didn’t Choose”, it is obvious that, ”…what made them neighbors was one man’s unchosen calamity and another man’s chosen compassion, but only in response to an unchosen, inconvenient, time-consuming, work-delaying, expensive need of another…” (Bloom). Often God will choose our neighbour for us so that we can carry out His mission in loving and caring for them. As we ask Jesus the same question that the lawyer did: “Who is my neighbour?” we may not like Jesus’ answer. Many times the ones Jesus will point us to will have messy lives and many needs. The Samaritan in the parable loved the Jew as His neighbour, even though there were a lot of racial and cultural tensions between the two ethnic groups. So, we too, are called to cross cultural, religious and traditional barriers in order to love our neighbours and reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Bloom, Jon. Loving the Neighbour We Didn’t Choose. Desiring God, August 28, 2015,
Flemming, Dean. Recovering The Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being,
Doing And Telling. IVP Academic: Downers Grove, 2013.