Sharing the Gospel
Text: Acts 8:26-40
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
“No way! No how! Not me! I’m not a preacher. It’s not my job to tell other people about Jesus. I don’t know the Bible well enough and I’m too timid to just start talking to people about my faith. After all, I don’t want to sound pushy. They can just look at my life and they’ll know. I don’t have to say anything. That’s the pastor’s job!”
Almost every time I have tried to encourage people to share the gospel with others I have heard this litany of excuses for not doing so. “It’s not my job to tell other people about Jesus.” How sad is that? Imagine where we would be if the disciples had felt that way. Imagine where we would be if other people, who had received Christ into their life, throughout the ages, felt that it wasn’t up to them to share Jesus with other people. Each one of us who has faith in Christ, has faith because of someone who dared to share the gospel with us and teach us what it means to be a Christian.
“I don’t know the Bible well enough…” Again, how sad is that? How can we, as followers of Jesus Christ, not know the Bible well enough? Its certainly not because we don’t have access to it. We have the Bible more readily available to us now than at any other time in history. We have paperback, hardbound, CD, MP3, Bible apps...we have it right at our fingertips 24/7. We have no excuse to not know God’s word. We have no excuse to not have a firm grasp on many of the Bible stories and a firm grasp on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians we should have at least as firm a grasp on the Bible as we do on “Yellowstone, Game of Thrones, The Crown, or Dowton Abbey.”
“I don’t want to sound pushy, and I don’t want to offend anyone.” This excuse for not sharing the gospel I do understand. We don’t like pushy people and we don’t like it when people push their ideas and agendas on us so, we figure, I don’t want to push Jesus on them. However, talking about something that is important to us doesn’t make us “pushy”. Consider some of the conversations we’ve had with people about all sorts of topics. People will easily talk about a restaurant, movie, TV show, sports, and political opinions, so why not bring Jesus into the mix? Would Jesus really be that much more offensive than many of the other things people have talked about?
“Okay, you want me to share the faith, you want me to tell other people about Jesus, how do I do that?” How do I do that? How do I share the faith? One of the reasons I think we really hesitate to share the faith is that we are not sure how to go about it. We really want to tell others about Jesus so they will give their lives to him too but, we’re not sure how. Thankfully, we have this passage from the book of Acts that gives us some direction as to how we can share the faith.
The first step to sharing the faith is simply being available. Being available. Being open to God using you to tell someone else about Jesus. In Acts 8:26 we find an angel speaking to Philip and telling him to go along a certain road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza. It is a desert road. How does Philip respond? Does he begin by giving all the reasons he can’t go and walk that road? Does he say he’s too busy with other activities? He’s got several series on Netflix he needs to binge on before he can get started? Does he say, “I don’t want to walk on that road in the desert? What’s the purpose of that?”
No, Philip offers no excuses. He simply sets out and goes where God directs him to go. At this point he doesn’t even know he’s going to be meeting with anyone. God just sets him to walking. And, out of obedience to the Lord, he goes. He is simply available.
This is how it is for us too. God may move us to go to a certain place and we will have no idea why. He may set us on a road, move us to go walking around our area, drive in a certain direction, motivate us to go to a particular store, move us to pick up the phone and call someone. We won’t know why, but in faith, we make ourselves available to follow the direction we sense God is leading us. We are simply allowing ourselves to be available.
The second step to sharing our faith involves listening. Notice, the second step is not talking, it is listening. As we continue in this passage from Acts, we find Philip walking along the desert road he was directed to walk. As he is walking he sees ahead of him a chariot. In the chariot is a man of Ethiopia, a very important man. We learn from the text he is a man of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, he is, in fact, in charge of all her treasury. We also learn he had come from Jerusalem where he had been worshiping. Now, as he was heading back to Ethiopia, he is reading from the prophet Isaiah. As this man is reading, Philip is told by the Spirit to “go near and overtake this chariot.”
Again, Philip is not yet directed to speak or preach to this man from Ethiopia, he is merely moved to overtake the chariot and walk along side it. As he does this he overhears the man reading a passage from Isaiah. At this point Philip speaks to him and says, “Do you understand what you are reading?” This brings us to the third step in sharing our faith, asking.
Asking a question. Many good conversations begin with a question that is genuinely asked with the intent of listening for an answer. Unlike when we greet someone with a “hello” and then ask, “how are you?” as we keep walking right on by…In this case we’re asking a question, perhaps “how are you?” and instead of not really caring, we stop, and listen for the person to tell us what is on their heart.
This was the place Philip was in when he asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading. He was genuinely interested. Mind you, the Ethiopian could have looked at Philip and simply told him to go away. He could have looked at Philip and thought he was about to get mugged by some vagrant that was on the highway. Whenever we ask someone a question we could be looked at as though we have three eyes or two heads and the person could reject having any interaction with us. That is a risk we take whenever we try to start a conversation with someone. In this case, however, the Ethiopian responded by saying, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
This is where the listening and the speaking goes hand in hand. If we have made ourselves available for God to use us and he leads us to a particular place or to call a specific person, then he will guide us to ask the right question to open the door for an opportunity to share the gospel, to encourage someone through sharing God’s word. By being truly interested in the person we are talking to we open ourselves to be in conversation. We may even be invited to get into a deeper conversation than we initially thought possible.
This is the fourth step in sharing our faith, being in conversation with someone. Notice, its not preaching, its not telling someone how much of a sinner they are, its being in conversation.
When the Ethiopian acknowledged he needed to have someone guide him in his understanding, he invited Philip to get into the chariot with him. He showed Philip the place where he had been reading and, after reading the passage together, the man asked Philip, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” This man wanted to know, he wanted to understand. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). Philip witnessed, or shared, the gospel with this man who was searching. He shared the gospel with this man with the result of leading him to a relationship with Jesus.
When we spend time in conversation with others we will find opportunity to share the gospel story. This is why it is so important for us to know our Bible, to spend time in it every day so we can learn it, understand it, and be prepared to share it. We need to be in it to let it influence our thinking, our language, and our action. The more we know the Bible the greater an influencer we can be when we have opportunity to be in conversation with other people. The better we know the Bible the more we will be able to apply it to our lives and to help others apply it to their life situations.
The purpose of knowing the Bible is not so we can beat people over the head with it as we witness. By no means is that the reason to know it well. The reason to know it well is so we can follow Philip’s example and be able share the gospel with others in a way to be able to lead them to salvation.
Will every conversation with others lead to a conversion? No. But, every conversation we have may be an opportunity to share the love of Christ with someone.
When we are encouraged to share our faith, or to share the gospel, we get goosebumps and our stomachs tighten because it sounds scary. We’re being asked to put ourselves “out there” where we can be rejected for being “weirdos” or “Jesus freaks.” Yet, sharing the gospel doesn’t have to be frightening if we remember the four steps we learn from Acts 8:26-40. The four steps: one, be available. God wants us to simply be available to Him. He hasn’t called us all to be preachers and teachers, but he has called us to be witnesses. To be a witness, we merely need to be ready when he calls us to go and do something.
Two, we need to listen. Often times we will figure out what to do if we just listen.
Three, ask. Sometimes we just need to be willing to ask someone a question, many times it is as simple as, “how are you?” Then, repeating step two and listen for the answer.
Four, engage in conversation and trust the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation.
Availability, listening, asking, conversing. Sharing the gospel. Amen.