10 Thoughts on Evangelism from Luke 10

Luke 10:1-12
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

  1. Evangelism Is for Everyone (Initiative/Frontier Evangelism)
    • Despite our many trepidations, evangelism is for everyone. In Luke 10:1, Jesus does not send out his “elite” twelve disciples for the task of evangelism. He sends out the wider group of seventy-two disciples to evangelize from town to town–to people they have never met. This shows us that evangelism is not just for vocational ministers or for those with “the gift of evangelism.” To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus, and every disciple is called to be a part of the Great Commission to make more disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The Christian journey does not end at conversion. It begins there. Every Christian needs to be brought to a point where they are evangelizing and discipling others in various degrees.
  2. Evangelism Is for All Nations
    • Why did Jesus send seventy-two? Genesis Chapter 10 begins with the sentence “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.” Then, it lists 72 descendants of Noah, and concludes in verse 31 that “These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.” Hence, this chapter is known as “The Table of the Nations.” Thus the 72 who are sent out in Luke 10 symbolize going to all nations (i.e. not political entities but ethnic/people groups). Moreover, we are explicitly commanded to go to all nations in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  3. Evangelism Is for the Church (Corporate/Community Evangelism)
    • Jesus sends out his disciples “two by two” (Luke 10:1), because he knows that we cannot do evangelism alone. “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). We need support and accountability from the Church body. We also need at least two witnesses to establish authentic testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1), and God is among us “where two or three are gathered in [His] name” (Matthew 18:20). Finally, in John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Our love for one another is what shows all people that we are God’s disciples. Therefore, in order to showcase our love for another, we need to do evangelism in community. This is the main thesis of George Hunter III’s book The Celtic Way of Evangelism. The Roman Way dictated that a person had to believe in order to belong, while the Celtic Way reversed this and allowed non-Christians to belong so that they may believe. We need to invite non-Christians into our lives so that our Christian faith is evidenced in our love for one another.
  4. Evangelism Needs More Workers (Which Requires More Prayer)
    • Luke 10:2 make clears that we don’t need more harvest, we need more workers. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” So we are commanded to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” As Robert Coleman argues, “there is no use to pray vaguely for the world. The world is lost and blind in sin. The only hope for the world is for laborers to go to them with the gospel of salvation” (Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism, p. 102). More specifically, we need to pray for open doors and boldness for ourselves so that we can become these workers (Colossians 4:3-4; Ephesians 6:19-20). We also need to pray for people’s salvation (Acts 26), because doing so impresses us with the weight of human souls and makes us more sensitive to opportunities for evangelism. This is an urgent task (Luke 10:4), regardless of one’s views on election and divine sovereignty.
  5. Evangelism Depends on God
    • Though we need more workers, the success of evangelism ultimately depends on God, because He is “the Lord of the harvest” (Luke 10:2). No one can come to God unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). As J.I. Packer elaborates: “It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts, and look to our own enterprise and techniques to accomplish what only God can accomplish. To do that is to intrude ourselves into the office of the Holy Ghost, and to exalt ourselves as the agents of the new birth. And the point that we must see is this: only by letting our knowledge of God’s sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault. For where we are not consciously relying on God, there we shall inevitably be found relying on ourselves” (J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, p. 29). Given this framework, we are not disappointed when our evangelism does not end in conversion, because the harvest is God’s business. We might be invited to scatter seeds of the gospel on the ground, or to water the seeds that have been planted, and night and day, whether we sleep or get up, the seeds sprout and grow, though we do not know how (Mark 4:26-29). This is why the whole concept of the “person of peace” is so practical. Luke 10:6 teaches us to identify persons of peace–those who are open to the gospel proclamation. God has already prepared persons of peace for us, we simply need to find them and reap the harvest.
  6. Evangelism Brings Persecution
    • Jesus does not pull punches when he says, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We are to be living “signs” of what the Lamb of God has accomplished on the cross. This means that we are called to sacrificial, suffering witness. In Colossians 1:24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Through suffering, we “fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” This does not mean that Christ’s atonement is incomplete, but that through our suffering, we become the present, physical manifestations of Christ’s afflictions on behalf of the Church and for the sake of the world (cf. Philippians 2:30). Revelation 6:11 also tells us that the end will not come “until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” This means that a specific (albeit unknown) number of Christian martyrs must be met before the arrival of the New Heavens and the New Earth. There’s no way around this. Christians are meant to be suffering witnesses. Heed the words of Jesus: “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
  7. Evangelism Involves Bearing the Gospel We Share
    • We are to declare “Peace to this house” when we evangelize (Luke 10:5-6). We cannot say “Peace to this house” unless we possess that peace. “Peace,” or “Shalom,” implies the presence of God that makes a person whole. This peace, or wholeness, comes only from knowing the Prince of Peace. Therefore, healthy evangelism wells out of our own faithful commitment to Christ rather than out of calculated methodologies. Because we have been saved and transformed by God’s grace, we are not judgmental or moralistic in our evangelism (the judgment that Jesus pronounces in Luke 10:12-15 is His unique prerogative not ours). “The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians — when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.” (Joseph Aldrich, Lifestyle Evangelism,p. 21)
  8. Evangelism Is Relational (Lifestyle/Relational Evangelism)
    • There’s a reason why Jesus tells us, “Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house” (Luke 10:7). It’s because we need to connect with and build relationships with the people we are evangelizing. This is not to say that we can only evangelize those we personally know, but that is one of the ways. Evangelism is not a pitch, it stems from genuine love and care. People generally “don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care” (Joseph Aldrich, Lifestyle Evangelism, p. 79). You don’t need to steer every conversation into an evangelistic sermon, simply be honest and open about your faith, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). If we refuse to compartmentalize our lives into “spiritual” and “secular” realms, what we are most passionate about (hopefully the gospel), will ooze out naturally. When there is an opening to share about your faith, do so unashamedly (Romans 1:16), and don’t forget to invite them to respond to the message of the gospel.
  9. Evangelism and Outreach Are Neither Same Nor Separate (Servant/Outreach Evangelism)
    • Jesus’s instructions were: “Heal the sick … and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Luke 10:9). In John 6, Jesus gave people bread to eat and declared that He is the Bread of Life. Likewise, we are to embody the gospel and proclaim the gospel. We are insincere if we do one without the other. Proclaiming the gospel is the most loving thing we can do for anyone, yet we also would not leave people we love to sickness or starvation. Social justice is not the gospel, that’s why Jesus says in John 6:26, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” However, it authenticates and represents the gospel. The two cannot be equated or separated.
  10. Evangelism Offers a Gospel That Is Contextualized Yet Countercultural
    • Jesus told his disciples to proclaim “the kingdom of God” (Luke 10:9), because their Jewish audience was already familiar with the concept of “the kingdom of God,” which means the dominion, or reign, of God. Similarly, we need to contextualize our message so that our hearers understand the gospel. The gospel must be relevant. Why does Jesus ask the Samaritan woman about her husband in John 4? It’s because the gospel in some way deals with her felt needs. This does not mean, however, that we tailor the gospel to make it more palatable to others. We must not give the false impression that the gospel is about satisfying people’s felt needs, because often people are unaware of their deepest spiritual needs. Yet the gospel is universally, and always, relevant, so we need to surface appropriate needs and demonstrate how the gospel meets those needs.
    • It is also important to ensure that the gospel we offer is not syncretistic. The gospel critiques all cultures and demands repentance and faith. To those who receive the gospel, we are to declare “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9), but to those who reject the gospel, we are to declare “The kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:10), but not to them. Without renunciation of one’s sinful ways, there can be no true repentance, faith, or inclusion in the Kingdom of God. We must not “subtract the messy parts of the gospel about crucifixion, sin and repentance,” and we must not add “be moral, do good deeds, get educated, become religious, belong to a certain denomination” (J. Mack Stiles, Marks of the Messenger, p. 26-27). Christianity is not about a feel-good, easy-believism. It’s not about health, wealth, or prosperity. It’s about repentance and faith.
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