Rector's Reflections - 9 May

Rector’s Reflections 

Thursday 9th May 2024

Philip the Deacon Gives a Masterclass in Evangelism

Over the last few days, we have been seeing what we might learn about effective evangelism from the story of Philip the Deacon, found in chapter 8 of the Acts of Apostles. You will remember that Philip went first to the Samaritans,  before God called him to go south, to have a conversation with an Ethiopian Eunuch who was returning home from a visit to Jerusalem.

What was the key to Philip’s evangelistic success?  He started from Jesus’ command that we are to witness to him, not only among our own community, but “to the ends of the earth”. Philip went to the sow the seeds of the gospel on fertile soil. He then ensured that the new believers were embedded in the life of the church community. And finally, Philip remained open to listening to what God had in store for him.  The work of evangelism is never finished. We can never simply sit back and put our feet up, confident that our job is done.  It’s perfectly fine to allow ourselves a little break, to rest and recuperate, but we should always  be looking for the next evangelistic opportunity. We can be confident that God will give us new opportunities to share the good news, in God’s good time.  And we can also be confident that God will never ask us to do the impossible. An evangelistic task might well be challenging, but it will never be impossible. God doesn’t work like that: He loves us and equips us through the power of the Holy Spirit with all that we need to be effective evangelists. Problems can come when we are too proud to rely on God’s guidance, wisdom and strength: we attempt to do the work of evangelism solely with our resources, and with the aim of furthering our own agenda. We make our own plans and God doesn’t get a look-in – and what is the result? So often, such evangelism leads to disappointment and exhaustion.

Christians are called to the work of evangelism in every time and every culture. I think Philip’s approach is particularly helpful for our own particular context. To start with, it focusses on being witnesses to Jesus. All of us can witness to Jesus, in our own particular way. Do you don’t need huge amounts of money or a fantastic worship band to witness to Jesus. You don’t need to a high profile evangelist with the ability to hold the attention of a crowd of thousands. We can all witness to Jesus simply by the way we live our lives, and by the way we relate to one another, in our families and our communities.

Furthermore, Philip’s approach encourages us to listen to God: it frames our evangelistic efforts in terms of our response to God. This means that we can rely on God’s wisdom and strength, so we don’t have to try and do evangelism relying on our own resources.  All God requires from us is our trust and our obedience – God will do the rest.

Finally, Philip’s approach releases us from the burden of results.  Our job is sow the seeds of the gospel.  God will bless our efforts as God sees fit. We don’t have to worry about whether our evangelistic efforts seem to be bearing fruit. Philip would tell us that evangelism is about being faithful. It’s not about being successful. What a hard message this is, especially to our current generation. Church leaders want evangelism to lead to full churches. Well, this might happen – or it might not. Let us leave it in God’s hands. Our job is to do what we can do: to be faithful witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Much more might be said on the topic of evangelism, and I will share a few final thoughts in tomorrow’s reflections, which will bring the current series to a close.


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