active-listening_04

One’s attitude casts their personal view of everything he thinks, feels, believes, or does. This attitude will be reflected in one’s posture, whether it is conscious or unconscious, especially when someone interacts with others. The listener will know if the believer has a positive, negative, uncertain, or indecisive attitude. This will determine whether one’s life and work as an evangelist will succeed or fail. If someone develops and has a positive attitude toward evangelism, this will mean a positive impact on one’s self, family, those who join in evangelism, one’s relationship with God, and to those whom one witnesses. However, please know that of the people that one witnesses to, nine out of ten will want nothing to do with your message.

Certainly, Jesus in his earthly ministry faced opposition to the kingdom message, and in many cases, downright hostility, ending with his execution. However, he never abandoned his positive attitude. Rather, he maintained his attitude so well that on many occasions when he finished speaking, “The crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt. 7:28, 29) In fact, his positive attitude proved infectious as he shared the hope of the kingdom with all who would listen. His demeanor influenced those around him, strengthening them and encouraging them to do the work of an evangelist, even in the face of great hostility. Jesus did not hold back from letting his disciples know the truth of what awaited them as well.

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

What type of attitude must we have as an evangelist, and why? Who is our greatest example?

The Hatred of the World

John 15:18-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A slave[1] is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.

While someone may not have much evangelizing in their community, choose to start it today. After some time doing so, one will realize that most people care less about the Good News. However, one cannot help all people to the path of salvation, just the few who seem ready to be redeemed. To allow the vast majority of people who reject Jesus Christ to affect your attitude in a negative way would be a sign of not caring for the few. Even though Jesus faced opposition at every turn, he never lost his empathy and love for the few who proved redeemable. Rather, just the opposite really, he asked the Father to send more workers, because they needed to wade through the many, who would reject the Kingdom, to find the few.

Matthew 9:36-38 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and thrown away,[2] like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”[3]

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

How did Jesus say the world would feel toward us as his disciples? Are we looking to help everyone to the path of salvation?

When one’s church begins to evangelize the community, one will discover it is work just finding people at home, if one goes house-to-house, like the first-century Christians. In the economy of today, both parents must work if their family is to live above poverty. Also, when parents do not work many enjoy activities in their community, either alone, or as a family. Thus, one must remain positive as one seeks people in the community, be it house-to-house, street, or phone witnessing.

When a congregation has an evangelism program up and running, believers will find much satisfaction and joy in working with others. At that time, when you are working together, your attitude and others will have to remain positive about the evangelism work, or its success will be short-lived. If a few behave negatively, complaining incessantly, it will drain the entire body. Staying focused on the positive will strengthen the work and workers that lie ahead, giving them the needed motivation to fulfill their role in the disciple-making work.

When one has an opportunity to evangelize hundreds of people over the coming years, you do not want to be negatively influenced by the nine out of ten, who want nothing to do with Jesus Christ, influencing a believer’s attitude toward the one out of ten who is redeemable. Yes, someone can become exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally through the effort and stress, of the disciple-making work. The following texts must be kept at the forefront of your thinking:

Hebrews 4:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

4:12. This vivid expression of the power of God’s message provides the explanation for the strong warning of verse 11. Because God’s message is alive, active, sharp, and discerning, those who listen to God’s message can enter his rest. Two questions are important in this verse. First, what is the word of God? Second, what does this passage say about it?

Although the Bible sometimes refers to Christ as God’s Word (John 1:14), the reference here is not speaking of Jesus Christ. Here we have a general reference to God’s message to human beings. In the past, God had spoken to human beings through dreams, angelic appearances, and miracles. He still can use those methods today, but our primary contact with God is through his written Word, the Bible. God’s Word will include any method God uses to communicate with human beings.

This verse contains four statements about God’s Word. First, it is living. God is a living God (Heb. 3:12). His message is dynamic and productive. It causes things to happen. It drives home warnings to the disobedient and promises to the believer. Second, God’s Word is active, an emphasis virtually identical in meaning with the term living. God’s Word is not something you passively hear and then ignore. It actively works in our lives, changes us, and sends us into action for God.

Third, God’s Word penetrates the soul and spirit. To the Hebrew people, the body was a unity. We should not think of dividing the soul from the spirit. God’s message is capable of penetrating the impenetrable. It can divide what is indivisible. Fourth, God’s message is discerning. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It passes judgment on our feelings and our thoughts. What we regard as secret and hidden, God brought out for inspection by the discerning power of his Word.

In 1995, Johnny Oates was managing the Texas Rangers baseball team when God spoke to him through the illness of his wife, Gloria. Oates had become a Christian in 1983; but until the crisis in 1995, he had always lived as if baseball were his god. His wife was traveling to the spring training camp for the Rangers when she became ill in Savannah, Georgia. His daughter summoned him to Georgia with a phone call. Oates arrived to find his wife in a motel, despairing and defeated.

Oates said, “God got my attention and said, ‘Johnny, it’s not going to work this way.’ ” In the grief of the moment, Oates told God that he was ready to listen to anything he wanted to say. The next day Oates checked his wife out of the motel and headed for their home in Virginia. There he and his wife both participated in a Christian counseling program and learned how to communicate with one another. He learned that what he had worshiped was not God or his family, but the game of baseball. Both Oates and his wife moved closer, and Oates said, “As we get closer to God, … we get closer to each other.”

God got his attention. Fortunately Oates listened. God’s message to this baseball manager was life changing. It was also marriage saving.[4]

John 8:31-32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

8:31–33. We have already learned that faith alone does not guarantee salvation (2:23–24; 6:64–66). Saving faith must center in Jesus himself, not just his miracles or some teaching about him. The remainder of this chapter tells us how truth will set us free from false faith, faith in inadequate but attractive objects that often clamor for our attention—relationships, religion, and righteousness. Verses 31–33 emphasize that true disciples are liberated from error.

Some of the Jews who believed in him claimed that their relationship with Abraham kept them from bondage. Abraham’s descendents, they argued, had always been free (conveniently forgetting their bondage to Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome). Since some of the Jews did believe, Jesus offered them more truth that could set them free. Now he talked to those “believers” and no longer to the Pharisees, though that dialogue rejoins the text in just a few more verses.

When banks train their clerks to spot counterfeit money, they spend little time dealing with the counterfeit itself and lots of time focused on the characteristics and designs of genuine currency. The Christian’s handling of error should be like that. The more we know about God’s truth, the easier it will be for us to spot untruth.[5]

Matthew 28:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 … look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus instructed us not only to teach content, but to train people into obedient action: teaching them to keep everything I have commanded you. The teachings of Jesus recorded in Matthew are the essence of the practical teaching we are to pass on to new disciples. There is much more teaching from Scripture beyond Matthew that the church needs. But his teaching in Matthew serves as a strong foundation.

By fulfilling the teaching portion of the Great Commission, we take believers at every stage of spiritual maturity to the next stage of growth. This can range from the infancy of a brand-new believer to various levels of spiritual adulthood. Every believer should progress toward the perfect character of Christ (Eph. 4:11–16), but none will arrive there short of eternity. So we must see ourselves as learners in a family of teachers, who themselves are also learners. The believer who is most mature will be most ready to listen and learn, even from the newest member of the family (cf. Matt. 18:4).

Matthew’s last words are a concluding promise from the Messiah-king. Surely adds a note of assurance, similar to Jesus’ “I tell you the truth.” A paraphrase of the phrase I am with you always would read, “I myself am continually with you always until the end of the age.” Among other things, Jesus claimed omnipresence, again laying claim to deity (note “Immanuel, God with us” in 1:23). He will be with us every step of the way. I am with you always reminds us of the great promises to saints of old like Moses (Exod. 3:12) and Joshua (Josh. 1:5).

This promise complements Jesus’ claim to universal authority in Matthew 28:18, and it undergirds the believer’s confidence in fulfilling the Great Commission. If we take out the three subordinate participial clauses from 28:18–20, boiling the commission down to its grammatical essence, we end up with this: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, make disciples of all the nations; and surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[6]

2 Timothy 2:15; 4:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling[7] the word of truth. But you, be sober-minded[8] in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2:15. Timothy, by contrast, must do his best to present [himself] to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed. Timothy, and all who follow Christ, are to consecrate themselves to God, working diligently for his approval. The teacher whom God approves has no need of shame in his presence.

God bestows his approval on the one who exhibits truth, love, and godliness in daily living, and who correctly handles the word of truth. The false teachers were mishandling God’s words, using them for their own benefit. Timothy was commissioned to handle the words of God correctly. All preaching should present the truth clearly, cutting through erroneous ideas or inaccurate opinions.

The pastor or teacher must acquaint himself thoroughly with Scripture. He should familiarize himself with historical information and the context of the passage, especially when trying to reach back through the centuries to gain an accurate understanding of God’s revelation.[9]

4:5. Once again, Paul called Timothy to live in contrast to the prevailing practice of the time. Christians must not take their cues for living or thinking from the attitudes of society—religious or otherwise. Instead, God’s Word must be central to the life of every believer; it must dictate all yearnings and actions, thoughts and dreams.

Despite the prevalent distaste for truth and the unsettling atmosphere of multiple doctrines and philosophies, Paul declared, But [Timothy], keep your head in all situations. Do not panic. Keep your head “screwed on straight,” as the common expression has it. Muddled and noncritical thinking leads many people to wander off after false teachers. Timothy, and all Christians, must think correctly, holding firm to the unshakable truth of God’s Word and the apostolic teachings.

Paul reminded Timothy again to endure hardship. Suffering and hardship are a recurring theme in this letter. Paul continued to emphasize the need for endurance as a sign of faithfulness.

Timothy’s commission revolved around doing the work of an evangelist. Godly living, holiness, perseverance, and adherence to truth were never intended as private practices to ensure personal well-being. All these form the platform from which the gospel can be delivered. Timothy was to discharge all the duties of … ministry, to preach and spread the knowledge of God among those who had not heard. Paul, in his final days, turned over to Timothy the mission to the Gentiles and care of the churches.[10]

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

Why is it difficult to find people home today? What will happen if even a few are incessantly negative about an evangelism program? Why is burnout so prevalent in making disciples? What texts can be encouraging?

The Rational Evangelist

Many evil people exist who can be hurtful with their words and attitudes. Throughout one’s life and evangelistic ministry, expect to be hurt mentally and emotionally by another person’s words. The Bible provides forewarnings in Proverbs. “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them.” (Prov. 12:6); “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.” (Prov. 23:9) If one loses control over their rationality, he will be like “a man hasty with his words? There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.” (Prov. 29:20) Some people to whom you will evangelize may be confrontational, which can contribute to responding in kind if one is not prepared.

When a listener proves confrontational, a believer must respond in a clear, approachable, and honest way that is good-natured, done in friendliness, and without anger or bad feelings. The principle behind Ecclesiastes 10:4 should be followed, “If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your place, for calmness puts great offenses to rest.” Yes, in a calm manner, state clearly to the listener the reason for your visit, and respectfully bow out of the conversation. In some cases, a believer’s calm and gentle demeanor will remove the listener’s aggression. He may become reasonable, and one can continue with the message.

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

In the evangelism ministry, why should you be prepared for those who are unkind? How should you respond to aggression?

Reading Skills: Read Genesis 25:1-18. This assignment is to help improve our reading skills. When practicing before the meeting, read slowly enunciating every word meticulously, as well as adequate volume, and moving along at the appropriate pace. One must read and speak words clearly, to not only be understood, but also to leave an impression. In addition, one will want to read with precision, stopping or pausing for punctuations, as well as changing the tone of your voice, or adding the inflections that are required. It would be best if you have someone follow along, letting you know if you to make the appropriate pauses or inflections.

One must realize the individual bear’s responsibility for losing control of one’s emotions. It is common for those who suffer from unrighteous anger to believe that their conditions cause the outbursts. Nothing can cause us to get angry. However, the events or situations can contribute to someone getting angry if we feed them with irrational thinking. When an unpleasant situation falls upon us in evangelism work, we can feel the physical effects of a racing heart, tension in our muscles, the grinding of our teeth, and so on. These physical signs mean that one dialogues with himself or herself, either consciously or subconsciously. These thoughts can be present in one’s mind without being aware of it. The physical signs must wake us up to hidden thoughts.

If one stays aware of what he thinks because one says it aloud, even if it manifests itself with mumbling under one’s breath or hidden comments that one seems unaware of, someone still has signs to alert themselves to the problem. Reverse course by asking, “What am I saying?” Get a grasp of the thoughts that race through your mind. People can sometimes set themselves up for failure because one has unrealistic expectations from the beginning of the work of an evangelist. The evangelist knows he has a life-saving message, and the zeal of sharing this with others is so great that others will receive it with open arms. After a few months down the road, one may become disheartened because almost all reject the message and some even express hateful words, which the evangelist personalizes as rejection. It can be a rude awakening even more so if one felt that evangelism would be perfect storybook experience, with the joy of helping one after another find the path to life in Jesus Christ.

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

Who is responsible if we lose control of our emotions? Why are some disappointed in the evangelism work?

If you are saying of your listeners, ‘she should be like this,’ or ‘he should be like that,’ this is another unrealistic aspect. We will get angry if we are caught up in the syndrome of should. “A Christian evangelist’s work should be this way.” “The unbeliever should be appreciative.” We must realize that we can even do this with ourselves as well. “I should do this, or I should do that.” When someone or we do not live up to our expectation, this can contribute to frustration. “I should have been paying closer attention.” “He should have been more considerate.” Generally, we are making these should statements before we are even aware all of the underlying facts. Maybe the unbeliever was rude, hateful, almost threatening to your Christian message because he just lost his little girl of eight to cancer.

This “should syndrome” will affect one’s evangelistic life far more than ever imagined, contributing to a ministry of tumult. When we set standards of perfection for others and ourselves, when humans cannot be perfect, one sets himself up for a life of disappointment. An evangelist will fall short of their own standards as an imperfect person. Every human being falls short of a standard if responding a certain way, answering a certain way, living a certain way, believing a certain way, and so forth.

When we do not live up to these “should standards,” our statements of “I should” are going to contribute to an intense dislike of self, unworthiness, embarrassment, faultfinding, and frustration. When other people also fail to meet this “should standard,” one will become hostile toward others, have a self-righteous attitude about responding to the Good News. Imagine, responding to just one word, which possesses so much power, but by changing it, one frees himself or herself of constant let downs.

Christians seem more susceptible to these “should statements” because we possess a biblical worldview that revolves around the moral values of God, and in the process of sharing it one thinks more of himself than he ought when he becomes more successful in his spiritual life and the work of an evangelist. When one pauses to notice our “should statements,” he or she will see the vast majority revolve around morality, standards of conduct that are generally accepted as right or wrong. “He should have been more receptive because I take time out of my life to bring this Good News to his door!” The rational side of this surrounds the idea an unbeliever must accept the truth from the evangelist. The unbeliever need not listen to the evangelist, just because the evangelist thinks he should. An unbeliever can exercise free will and reject the greatest gift ever offered. Another “should statement” might be, “She should have listened to my message, as I worked so hard to prepare it because it is the decent thing to do!” She may be more receptive someday, and then she will think of all the years wasted in the world if she had just listened to you. However, she remains imperfect, just like all of us, especially when the world had her so preoccupied with this life.

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

What are “should” statements? How or why is it that we develop should statements? Why are Christians more susceptible to these should statements?

Any “should statement” assumes people do not make mistakes. When someone commits wrongdoing, make allowances, forgive the other person as God forgives us each day. However, if substandard behavior causes the wrong actions, take care of it in a rational manner. If someone deals with it through anger, he or she will not get the desired outcome, and it will mean the loss of the lives an evangelist tries to save. This can lead to someone feeling he or she must be defensive because he or she feels pushed into a corner. Think of the folly of this statement, “I was nice to people when we were out evangelizing today, being respectful, kind and considerate; they should have given me more of their attention.” Do not try to act like the Holy Spirit and force the unbeliever into something. That person has a right to live their life the way they believe to be correct. As much as the evangelist may desire that the unbeliever lives by their standards, wanting it will not make it happen.

In fact, if a Christian reacts inappropriately to what we believe the unbeliever should or should not do, it will only create bitterness and distance the unbeliever from the Christian message. One detests the idea of anyone taking control of another person’s life, and this occurs with all free-willed people. What we see as fair biblically, the world does not see the same way. There is absolute fairness with God, as well as his Word, but human beings remain alienated from God and do not live by that fairness. Christians live among more than seven billion people all who believe differently it might be best not to assume the same fairness with people we meet in the work of an evangelist. As one goes about each day, listen for the word “should.” The moment one becomes aware something, one will notice it more often.

 0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

Our “should statements” wrongly assume what? What is a balanced understanding of “should statements?”

Reading Skills: Read Joshua 9:1-15. This assignment will help improve reading skills. When practicing before the meeting, read slowly and enunciate every word meticulously, with adequate volume, and move along at the appropriate pace. Read and speak words clearly, to not only be understood but also leave an impression. In addition, you will want to read with precision, stopping or pausing for punctuation, as well as changing the tone of your voice, or adding the inflections that are required. It would be best if you had someone follow along, letting you know if you to make the appropriate pauses or inflections.

 

[1] Or servant

[2] Throw: (Gr. rhiptō) The sense of rhiptō here in this context of Matthew 9:36 is to be thrown away, that is, to be rejected, making one feel dejected (sad or depressed) a sense of helplessness.

[3] 9:37-38 LAC: All Christians are to request prayerfully that the Father “send out workers into his harvest.” Therefore, all Christians must act on behalf of their prayers by zealously participating in proclaiming the Word of God, teaching, and making disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Act 1:8)

[4] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 71–72.

[5] Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 164–165.

[6] Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 486.

[7] Or accurately handling the word of truth; correctly teaching the word of truth

[8] Sober Minded: (Gr. nepho) This denotes being sound in mind, to be in control of one’s thought processes and thus not be in danger of irrational thinking, ‘to be sober-minded, to be well composed in mind.’–1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8

[9] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 286.

[10] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 320–321.