Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spiritual Gifts Part 6: Evangelism Plus A Look Back at Oral Roberts

Hey gang!

I had planned to have the piece on prophet first, but today changed that. I’m switching the order of prophet and evangelist. Why? Earlier today, one of the top evangelists of probably the generation before me, Oral Roberts, passed away at the age of 91. I remember a few things about Oral Roberts. When I was in my early childhood, he was next to Billy Graham, as far as making the mark of evangelist. He and Graham’s crusades were almost always on local television and every message ended the same. Accept Jesus in your heart and know that you will be going to Heaven. Even though my mom and her parents were packing in a pew each Sunday, they almost always watched Roberts and Graham.

My second recollection of both of them was that they had big hair at the time. I even used to joke that Billy Graham’s hair is probably what God’s might look like. Long before the wave became popular in sports stadiums, I remember watching their hair go back and forth as they preached. Billy Graham almost seemed calm and Oral Roberts struck me as passionate, always into his message and reaching people. I would put Oral closer to the “fire and brimstone” group than Graham.

As a collegiate, I remember as most skeptics do, the call for millions for the hospital at ORU. If the money didn’t come in, God would take him, he said. He spoke seriously. You could tell in his discussions afterward that he was as surprised as anyone that he was still among the living. What I’ll always remember was his talk after the fact. It wasn’t some big production. He was honest. Maybe I didn’t hear God correctly.

People were all over him as their minds were on the money. In the land of name it and claim it, skeptics practically anointed him as their king example. I think that’s where they missed it. Some asked the question that I think is proper here, “If he has such a connection with God Almighty, how could he misunderstand something like that?” I’m pretty sure if God talked to me and said even remotely that I might die if something didn’t happen, that might be the takeaway for me. I might have stopped listening all together.

What I think people forget is that Roberts was human, like us. It wasn’t as if David or Moses or the disciples got it right all the time. David made the mistake of Bathsheba in his downtime, took a census when God told him not to (he was told NOT TO) and was so warlike that his son Solomon became the one to build God’s Holy Temple.

What Roberts achieved was one of the top Christian colleges in the country in Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had a hospital next to the campus. In all of that, he was still going around the country leading people to Christ. As I read around the internet today, people spoke that he was still humble and still concerned about people and their first step with Christ as he was about raising up future leaders of America in medicine and other fields.

Critics bash him for being one of the forerunners of “Seed Faith Giving” and I think that even though he taught it, he’s not entirely to blame. There are others who have abused the words of MalachI to test God and he will show himself equal to the task in giving back to us. He encouraged us of the thirty, sixty and hundred fold blessing, but he also was one that cautioned never to give just to get.

Toward the end, Oral Roberts was left in retirement and not continuously beaten down by those critics. The school had hard times under his son, Richard. But Roberts and a group of others eventually added a new president earlier this year. The school is bouncing back, being better with its finances and graduating many to go to the mission fields, whether in America or abroad.

His legacy will be more as one of the most influential forerunners of televangelism. If you look around at Christian television across the country, and I’m not just talking about the big boys of TBN, Cornerstone or Family Net, but local stations that bring the gospel to a nation that has its number of shut-ins and others that are clicking channels to find hope. As Richard and Lindsey’s show says, “It is always your hour of healing.” Just watching your television, you can accept Jesus in a hospital bed, your couch, at the coffee shop or anywhere that has cable access. As a televangelist, you get the beauty of reaching the audience in front of you and even more opportunities to reach out, change a sinner’s heart, and help them begin the journey of a life with our Saviour. Thanks Mr. Roberts for helping so many find their way and helping not only heal their hearts, but also their bodies.

I shared a lot more about Oral Roberts than his evangelist gift, but tonight that is the gift that we are focusing on. We may talk more about his reach with other gifts, but I thought it was very appropriate to give a man who helped blaze a trail for others in television his due. He is a great example of the evangelism gift. So let’s talk about it.

Bryan Carraway defines the gift of evangelism as “The unique, God-given ability to cause others to be aware of their need for Christ and to then present the Gospel in such a way that others believe and accept it.” In the Greek, evangelists comes from the word, “evangelizo,” which means, “to proclaim, to bring a good report.” The word for gospel is “evangel ion,” which means, “good news.” So an evangelist is someone who proclaims the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus.

All of us are expected to share our faith with others. This command was given to us clearly by Jesus in Matthew 28:20 in The Great Commission. However, sharing your faith is just part of the story. There are some that will tell their story and people will find it compelling. Others are gifted not just to tell the story, but explain clearer how Jesus and being with Jesus has changed their lives so much that the hearers will have a strong desire to have Jesus in their lives as well. For evangelists, they don’t just want to share occasionally, but with near everyone they meet. They are soul-centered people savers.

Let’s give a few Biblical examples before we continue.

Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
Eph 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

2Ti 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
2Ti 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2Ti 4:4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2Ti 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2Ti 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.

The first example is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul wants us to understand that there is a purpose for these gifts. It is prepare God’s people for service, so the body may be built up. That doesn’t mean that we meet every Sunday and have the pastor tell us a good word so that we can feel good and go back to our lives after the service. Being built up is more than encouragement. It is growing in number. If you are sitting in a pew and aren’t sharing your story or your walk with Christ, maybe self-examination might be a good idea. Jesus isn’t just for us. He’s the gift that keeps on giving, to as many as who call him by name and receive him, they will be saved, Romans 10:12-13 tells us. Ephesians 4:13 says that until we ALL reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. That means he wants all y’all to receive it.

The second example is from the second book of Timothy where Paul is laying down his last encouragement to Timothy to run with the ball. Paul is nearing the end of his life by this point and he is letting Timothy know that it is now his turn to fight the good fight. Paul is saying here, “Timothy, this is what you were made for. I want you to understand that not everyone you tell about Christ will take it and do as you have done. Others will take your words that have been given to you by God and will manipulate and kiss up to people to get what they want rather than what God wants. Keep calm and do what you’re supposed to. God will take care of the rest.”

I think that’s why I don’t operate well in this gift. I get upset when I give people the good news of Jesus and they decide that they would rather hang out in the pigpen rather than clean themselves off and jump aboard the new life being offered. I’m probably too tough on people. It is the teacher in me that looks them square in the eyes and goes, “Are you stupid? This is what Jesus is giving you, new life and more abundantly, and you turn it down. There is never a better offer.” And after that, I sometimes shake my head and never try them again.

Evangelists never give up. They are like junkyard dogs trying to get meat off a bone. They won’t quit trying to get a bite until that last morsel is gone. They also have a boldness about them. They are not shy people usually and they will talk anywhere, anytime, anyhow about their Jesus and how much He has made them who they are. People with the evangelism gift are regularly bringing people to salvation. Where the average person might get one person that has watched them for months or even years, evangelists have the ability to convict hearts and bring them in bunches. They also don’t have any problem talking to anyone. I might be intimidated by a group (bikers, large, imposing types) and a person with this gifting thinks little of their safety. They trust in God to protect them from harm. One of my friends, Gene Wells, picks up hitchhikers regularly and is able to talk about God without much blinking. I’ve seen too many commercials of axe murderers and cannibalists. I probably think more of how the person would kill me rather than how to help the person save his eternal soul.

Carraway closes the section on evangelists by talking about the story of Dwight “D.L.” Moody. With people as gifted as Moody, I always assumed he went off to Bible college somewhere and preached the gospel his entire life. That’s not his story. He was a successful shoe salesman in Boston in the 1850’s. He moved on to Chicago and made money hand over fist. He was living what we would call “the American Dream.”

He originally only attended church in Boston’s Mount Vernon Congregational Church because he made a promise to his uncle. Moody’s Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball, took an interest in Moody and talked with him and Moody accepted Christ in his shoe store. As he continued to grow spiritually, as often happens with us, wealth began to lose its appeal. He began desiring that people experience the love of Christ that he had. Soon, he was filling pews with people that he came in contact with. He didn’t discriminate. He tried to reach everyone. Be honest, there’s probably at least one group of people you don’t want to reach out to for Christ. I’m guilty of that as well. So don’t beat yourself up entirely. But do pray that you find love for that group of people.

Carraway tells us that Moody taught in almost every major city in the United States and Great Britain, preaching to over 100 million people. That’s a third of the total American population. Could you imagine either coast or the entire Midwest coming to Jesus, no one left out? That’s impact. Holy, kingdom building impact. Lives changed when D.L. Moody was around.

Now here’s the great part. I told you my assumption earlier about Bible college. He never had any formal training to preach the gospel. He was unordained. I used to worry about how seriously churches and skeptics would take me as an unordained minister of the gospel. Moody, and other examples like him, give me freedom to quit worrying about being collegiate and book smart.

Oh yeah, Moody didn’t advance beyond sixth grade. You don’t need age and experience for the gift of evangelism. You need a loving, heart-filled desire to see people know the love Jesus has for us. No college degree or high school diploma required. You just need continual contact with the Savior of the Universe to feel the prompting of who you need to talk to next. Then, speak the words that God gives you and let Him bring the souls home.

Next up, we will look at prophet. I am hoping that by tonight I’ll have that available for you. I had also originally planned to give you a review of Blind Sight on Thursday, but I have not finished the book and unless a miracle happens, that won’t happen today. I will probably have that review during Christmas week. I apologize, but the book is really good and I don’t want to give you a review of half of a book.

Thanks for staying with me and One Man Revival through this series and hopefully, I will have no more health distractions from family members or myself for that matter. However, you might want to pray for overall family health and a solid, thinking mind as we continue.

I love you guys!

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