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Excerpt from Thom Rainer’s article. To view original, please click on this link

 

Seven Characteristics

It is inevitable that, when we do research on evangelistic churches, we learn about one or more members in the church who, to use the book title by Charles H. Spurgeon, embody the traits of “The Soul Winner.” Oftentimes one of those members is the pastor. But we have also seen many laypersons who are themselves soul winners.

In our interviews with these people, or with those who tell us about the soul winners, we began to discern some clear patterns. We called those patterns “the seven characteristics of highly evangelistic Christians.”

1. They are people of prayer. They realize that only God can convict and convert, and they are totally dependent upon Him in prayer. Most of the highly evangelistic Christians spend at least an hour in prayer each day.

2. They have a theology that compels them to evangelize. They believe in the urgency of the gospel message. They believe that Christ is the only way of salvation. They believe that anyone without Christ is doomed for a literal hell.

3. They are people who spend time in the Word. The more time they spend in the Bible, the more likely they are to see the lostness of humanity and the love of God in Christ to save those who are lost.

4. They are compassionate people. Their hearts break for those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have learned to love the world by becoming more like Christ who has the greatest love for the world.

5. They love the communities where God has placed them. They are immersed in the culture because they desire for the light of Christ to shine through them in their communities.

6. They are intentional about evangelism. They pray for opportunities to share the gospel. They look for those opportunities. And they see many so-called casual encounters as appointments set by God.

7. They are accountable to someone for their evangelistic activities. They know that many good activities can replace Great Commission activities if they are not careful. Good can replace the best. So they make certain that someone holds them accountable each week, either formally or informally, for their evangelistic efforts.

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Foreword: The Legacy of Antioch was preached by John Piper on October 25, 2009, his exposition on Acts 11:19-26 interspersed with a topic on partnering for missions. Hereunder is an excerpt from that sermon which I would like to share to you with the hopes as well that anyone who is called in the “sending” or in the “going” for missions will be encouraged further for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

EmmausTrekker

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The Church in Antioch

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” – Acts 11:19-26

I have asked the Lord to help me choose words so that one or more of these eight implications will penetrate hundreds of hearts that he has been preparing for this work. Some of you are ready and only need guidance. Others of you are sensing a change of life on the horizon, and you need God to push you over the edge of your dream. And some you will be awakened to a new calling from the Lord for the first time today. And the rest will, I pray, rededicate yourselves to aggressive involvement in sending. There are only three kinds of people in relation to missions: Goers, Senders, and Disobedient.

1. Someone must cross the cultural barriers that separate unreached peoples from the gospel.

Some of you are being called to this hardest of all work. Look at Acts 11:19-20.

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.

The Hellenists in this context means Greek-speaking Gentiles. Till now the gospel was spreading mostly along the mono-cultural lines of Judaism from synagogue to synagogue (with the exception of Cornelius in Acts 10). But in Antioch, someone broke through the barriers of language and culture and spoke the gospel to the Gentiles.

Is that you? Is God stirring you, moving you? Would you consider giving your life to this? There is no other way for the church to fulfill her mission in the world. God will raise up the workers and send them out. What an honor we have to send them. And what an honor it would be if you were one of them.

2. Don’t wait to be forced out by persecution.

Look at Acts 11:19: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled.” The believers in Jerusalem were not leaving on mission voluntarily. It took a persecution to force them into mission.

Little did Stephen know that one of the great effects of his death would be the mission of the church outside Jerusalem because people were driven away. So my point is simply this: Don’t wait till someone has to die to move out of America—or across the street to the Somalis or the Native Americans. God has his ways to loosen our roots and move us. Some of them are gentle—like a still small voice—and some are severe—like the death of a great man. Tune your heart, and discern how God is leading. Do it before you have to do it.

3. The hand of the Lord will be with you, when you follow him into his mission.

Acts 11:21: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.”

When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20, he closed with a promise, one of the sweetest in the Bible—one that has sustained many missionaries in the darkest hours. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus gave us this promise so that as you sit there and ponder how he may be changing your whole life-course, you will have ringing in your ears: Don’t be afraid. I am going to be with you. I am going to be with you.

4. Be willing to serve a work that God has already begun.

Acts 11:22-23: “The report of this [pioneer breakthrough in Antioch] came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.”

Barnabas was not the first on the ground in Antioch. He did not begin the work. He was sent to serve what someone else began. He was building where someone else had laid the foundation. Some of you are called to do this. It is a noble work.

It means that dozens of jobs that are done here at home in the midst of thousands of churches and tens of thousands of Christians could be done in a place where the church is younger and smaller. Many of you are being loosened from your roots these days to make such a move.

5. The main prerequisite for this work is not great gifts but great grace.

Acts 11:23-24: “When he [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

There is no reference here to Barnabas’ gifts, but only to his graces—that is, his spiritual and moral qualities, not his skills. Verse 24: He was good. He was full of the Holy Spirit. And he was full of faith. The effect was that God worked. He added people to the Lord. God is not mainly looking for great gifts. He is looking for great faith that is willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then does good. God may be calling you not because you have great gifts, but because he has taught you to trust him implicitly. I don’t mean there are no qualifications. I mean they may not be as insurmountable as you think.

6. When you sense God’s leading, recruit others to go with you.

Acts 11:24-25: “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.”

Acts doesn’t tell us that God told Barnabas to do this. It just says he did it. He needed help and he knew someone who would be a good helper. So he recruited him. And Saul came. Don’t be afraid of saying to a friend, “Would you consider going with me?”—or to a couple, “Would you consider going with us?” Many times in history God has called a person through the forthright requests of others.

7. In all your evangelism and church planting, don’t neglect to teach the converts and to take them deep into the gospel and build them up so they are stable and strong.

Acts 11:23 says that Barnabas “exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” And in verse 26, it says that Barnabas and Saul together focused on teaching. “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.”

What if God sends a great awakening? What if he gives a great harvest and grows the church with a great response the way he did in Antioch? Verse 21: “A great number who believed turned to the Lord.” Verse 24: “A great many people were added to the Lord.” What will you do if God sends such blessing?

Don Carson tells of talking to woman who had been converted during the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905. That conversation was, he says, “an inexpressibly glorious half hour.” But then he commented on how sad it is that so little of the revival was preserved. “Almost nothing was done to capture or develop theological schools, multiply Bible teaching, or train a new generation of preachers.” So Carson makes this amazing pledge, and I turn it into an exhortation to some of you:

Should the Lord in his mercy ever pour out large-scale revival on any part of the world where I have influence, I shall devote all my energy to teaching the Word, to training a new generation of godly pastors, to channeling all of this God-given fervor toward doctrinal maturity, multiplication of Christian leaders, evangelistic zeal, maturity in Christ, genuine Christian “fellowship.”8

In other words, he would do what Barnabas and Saul did. They saw a great ingathering, and they taught and taught and taught. They strengthened the believers. They sank the roots of the people down deep. They brought stability. They built a foundation for missions.

All over the world (you read this in all the literature), the cry is for trained, strong, Bible-saturated leaders. What will your part be in raising them up?

8. Be open to a significant change in your life.

Some of you know that God is making you restless where you are. You sense deeply that what you are doing now is not what you will be doing for long. Others of you need to think seriously about whether your present secure and established position maybe is not a path to security or an exit ramp to retirement, but a runway for taking off into something new in missions.

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