Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)
This is the last week of my six week series introducing the book Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples. I have been using this opportunity to encourage believers to begin the process of intentionally discipling others. I am also leading up to this coming Monday's (March 16th) launch of Robby Gallaty's next book in the series: Firmly Planted. Today I will highlight the final two chapters of Growing Up which discuss the E (Evangelize) and the R (Renew) of the acronym C.L.O.S.E.R.
What is the first thought that enters your mind when you hear the word "evangelism"? Is it one of joy? Indifference? Apprehension? Terror? We all react or respond to the idea of evangelism in different ways. Sometimes our response is a product of our personality type: You might be shy or bold, you might be introverted or outgoing, or you might be socially awkward or a social giant.
Sometimes our response is a product of our attitude: You may be passionate because you are overwhelmed by the magnitude of God's love for you. You may be indifferent because you just don't see how it is your responsibility to share the gospel...and besides evangelism just isn't your "spiritual gift" (evangelism isn't a spiritual gift, an evangelist is a spiritual gift).
Sometimes our response is birthed out of the spiritual environment in which we were "raised". Many of those who are passionate about evangelism had a mentor that was passionate. Many who are indifferent had mentors that were indifferent. Some who are fearful and/or reserved in their approach to evangelism had a mentor that was the same way.
Regardless of how you feel about evangelism, Dr. Gallaty assures the reader of two things in this chapter: 1. sharing the gospel is the responsibility of every follower of Christ. 2. making converts is not the responsibility of any follower of Christ. Read what he has to say: "Many people misunderstand our Christ-given responsibility in evangelism, thinking that success is determined by how many people we personally win to Christ. This is not the teaching of Scripture. Success in evangelism is in the sharing, not the saving" (emphasis his).
We hinder our witness by placing too much emphasis on performing well. We feel like we have to "close the deal". We are called to be messengers, not motivational speakers. We do not have the power by our own abilities to change the hearts of people, only God can do that through His Holy Spirit. It's His work, He's just letting us in on the excitement of being a part of what He is doing while we watch Him work.
The chapter continues with many encouraging and challenging words to help us and nudge us toward our God-given privilege and responsibility. Lives are counting on this message. It's not that God needs us, but He has chosen to include us and has commanded us to carry this message. If the message has changed us to the degree we often claim, then it should be a natural outflow of our lives. The most empowering key to evangelism is prayer. If you have trouble sharing the gospel, pray often and pray in faith. God wants to empower you, but He wants you to recognize your dependence on Him (Acts 4:24-31).
"Why do people make such a big deal about reading the Bible every day? I'm busy and the Bible is hard to understand!" Have you ever heard something like the above question or statement? Have you ever asked above question or said the statement? The final chapter focuses on the R (Renew) of C.L.O.S.E.R. Its focus is on reading the Bible and creating a journal.
Reading the Bible for the believer is like taking in physical nourishment for the body. Most of us eat at least three meals a day. We also often add in snacks between meals and before bedtime. For the believer, the reading the Bible fills your mind with the things that are necessary to live the Christian life. It helps make a Christian more mature in his or her life with Christ. The Bible is God's revelation of Himself. That means we get to know who God is and what He expects from us by reading the Bible and we do this because of our love for Him which is our response to His love for us.
In chapter 10, Dr. Gallaty not only tells the reader the "why's" for reading and studying the Bible, but he outlines some "how's". He offers suggestions about how to read, how to study and dig deeper, and how to journal so you can more easily recall what you learned by looking back at what you wrote. He also outlines the benefits of the spiritual nourishment provided through reading the Bible. The key is to make sure to designate a specific time of the day, every day, for reading and studying the Bible and for journaling. If you don't plan for this intentionally, you will not follow through.
My son loves to eat. We have to monitor his intake because he will often not stop himself if the food supply is abundant. He also is a very scheduled young man. Therefore, he has specific times of the day that he expects to be fed. That includes 3:00pm every day. You can set your watch to 3:00pm if you hear him say, "Can I have a snack?" That is his snack time and woe to the world if you don't let him have a snack right at that moment! He will remind you that it is 3:00pm and THAT is his snack time. It is THAT important for us to set aside at least one specific time each day for Bible reading/study and prayer. You don't have to begin with a large amount of time, you just have to begin. The time may increase as you gain more passion about the God you love and serve.
Finally, I believe this chapter offers very good practical advise regarding what translation or version of the Bible you should read. Dr. Gallaty simply puts it this way: "Ultimately, the best translation is the one that gets read." However, reading chapter 10 for yourself will help by revealing to you the difference between formal equivalence, dynamic equivalence and paraphrase. Defining those three terms might assist you in making the choice that would best meet your needs for personal study.
I have deeply appreciated Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples. I have always known it was my responsibility to make disciples, but I was never sure where to start. Dr. Gallaty concludes the book with a short section of suggestions of how to continue after reading this book. You see, the Growing Up book is not intended to be a cookie cutter approach or a discipleship program. It is simply designed to get you started doing what you and I are commanded to do. I hope you will buy a copy of Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples soon and begin your discipleship journey with a small group of others and begin to change the world through the process of multiplication.
Don't forget to watch next week for my summary of Dr. Gallaty's new book Firmly Planted.
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet