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Evangelism lessons from the Savior: Luke 10 : Part 3

What’s happening when wdon’t even know it 

Eric S. Roecker 

I had no idea. 

This was what went through my mind as I read his letter.  

The impact of ministry 

Let’s call him “Jim.” He had been a member of my church for a few years. Jim was a retired widower. He had been without a church home for some time when I met him. Now he was a regular. Every Sunday morning he attended worship and Bible class. He was a sweet, gentle sort of soul. He enjoyed painting and was a gifted artist. We had a few extended conversations over the years. But most of our interaction was the sort of small talk pastors tend to have with their members on Sunday morningsso many people and so little time.  

This is why I was so surprisedand touchedby his letter. He had written it because I had been called by another church to serve as its pastor. He wanted to let me know why he thought it would be best if I continued serving at my current congregation. 

It was not surprising that his letter was thoughtful and intelligent. I would expect nothing else from Jim. What I did not expect were the two ways he told me my ministry had impacted him. Allow me to share some of what he wrote: 

“You are, I’m sure, not aware of how you helped me accept my recent eyesight crisis. . . .” Jim’s eyesight was failing from disease. He had told me that he was no longer able to paint. The sadness in his eyes as he told me about losing the great love of his life had been heart-wrenching. “I have not only accepted my handicap but consider it a blessing and thank our Lord. Several of your sermons and quotes from Paul’s book of Romans were deciding factors. I’m painting again, with a different technique and renewed enthusiasm. 

He went on, “You, Pastor, have helped me (unbeknownst to you) resolve some serious problems with my marriage that surfaced after my wife’s death. Your instruction in Bible class strengthened my Christian faith and helped me to face my wife’s behavior during our near 60 years of marriage. . . . I was able to forgive her only recently. The clincher was some consoling words of yours at a Sunday morning education hour. I was miserable before I forgave her; you showed me the power of forgiveness.” 

I was stunned. I had known that Jim’s eyesight was failing, and I had known a bit about his troubled marriage. But I had absolutely no idea how God had used my ministry to impact his life. All that time, preaching all those sermons and teaching all those Bible classes, the Holy Spirit had been working in Jim’s heart to help and to heal . . . and I had no idea.  

The impact of God’s truth 

So, it is. So, it inot just for pastors, but for all of God’s people. We simply cannot know all that God is doing through us. This is especially important to remember when we share our faith with those who do not know their Savior. We can easily become discouraged if we don’t see the results we want. We can begin to believe it is doing no good. 

But it is. Even when we are unaware, it is. 

Jesus said something very interesting in Luke chapter 10. The 72 men he had sent out to preach the gospel had returned. After hearing their report about their mission trip, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). In other words, while those men proclaimed the gospel, Jesus saw what was happening in the supernatural realm. Satan was being defeated. God’s truth was being proclaimed. Whenever God’s truth is being proclaimed, the devil’s lies are being defeated.  

But it sure doesn’t seem that way. It seems like Satan is doing quite wellChristianity is on the decline in the West. Basic rights and wrongs aren’t so basic anymore. Mentioning Jesus in the workplace can bring a reprimand, even as believers are forcefed anti-Christian ideologiesSay that you are convinced that the Bible is true and you risk being laughed out of the room. It doesn’t look like Satan is doing much falling. It looks like he is gaining ground. We appear helpless, and all we do seems to be losing ground. 

But looks can be deceiving. There are spiritual realities happening that we cannot see. 

Every time the good news of Jesus is proclaimed, every time a newborn baby is bathed in Baptism, every time God’s people are assured of his forgiveness as they receive his Holy Supper, Satan is falling like lightning from the sky. God’s truth trumps Satan’s lies. 

The impact of sharing your faith 

Remember this! Remember it when you are proclaiming God’s truth to your wayward friend, your questioning coworker, or your skeptical schoolmate. It may seem like it is having no effect. It may seem like a waste of words. But remember that whenever God’s Word is proclaimed, unseen spiritual warfare is being waged. Victories are being won that you may not be aware of for years, perhaps not until eternity. 

Jesus once made the same promise in a different way. He said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grainfirst the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29). We scatter the seed of God’s Word. He makes faith grow. We may not see it. We may not know it. But it is happening. We have his word on it. 

So, go ahead! Lovingly remind your wayward friend that she has a God who loves her and wants nothing more than to spend eternity with her. Go ahead! Lovingly tell your questioning coworker that there are answers to his questions—and then tell him what the answers are. Go ahead! Lovingly spar with your skeptical schoolmate, not to win an argument but to proclaim the gospel and to save a soul. Go ahead and tell the people the Lord has brought into your life all that he has done to give them eternal life. 

And as you do, picture Satan falling like lightning. 


Eric Roecker, the director for WELS Commission on Evangelism, is a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 


This is the final article in a threepart series on the story of Jesus sending out his disciples in Luke 10.   


 

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Author: Eric S. Roecker
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Evangelism lessons from the Savior: Luke 10 : Part 2

Like lambs among wolves 

Eric S. Roecker 

He clenches his hands, palms soaked with sweat.  

The butterflies in his stomach flutter fiercely.  

He looks in the mirror one last time to make certain that every hair is in place and that nothing of his lunch is tucked between his teeth.  

He wonders if he can do this. He is terrified. It has taken him weeks to work up the courage. What if she says no? What if the girl of his dreams rejects him? What worries him is the thought of being rejected, of being told, in essence, “You’re not good enough.” He’s not sure he can handle it. It might just be better to avoid that possibility all together.  

She stares at the bright white envelope on the well-worn kitchen table. She has waited what seems like an eternity for it. Now, here it is, right in front of her, and she is too terrified to open it. She knows that her future lies within. Has she been accepted to the university she has always dreamed of attending? She has spent years taking all the right classes, joining all the right clubs, being involved in all the right extra curricularsShe has spent countless late nights studying to get good enough grades. Her hands tremble as she struggles to unseal the envelope.  

The fear of rejection is common to us all. We want to be acceptedso much so that the fear of being rejected sometimes keeps us from asking out that special person or applying to that universityBetter to play it safe than risk rejection. 

This same fear sometimes keeps Christians from telling others about their SaviorWe think, What if they won’t listen? What if they laugh at me? What if they think I’m ignorant and naïve? What if I invite them to church and they say no?  

If the fear of rejection keeps you from telling others about their Savior, then listen to Jesus in Luke chapter 10. While sending 72 of his disciples to proclaim the coming kingdom of God, he told them: “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (v. 3).  

That doesn’t sound very encouraging! Why not tell them that there is nothing to worry about? Why not tell them that they will surely be successful?  

Because God cannot lie. Jesus told them the way it was. He knew very well that they would face opposition. He knew the spiritual forces of darkness would mass against them. He knew that the people to whom they preached would not always welcome the good news the disciples shared 

People won’t always welcome the good news when we proclaim it either. And, in a strange way, this truth can comfort usIt conditions our hearts from becoming overly optimistic. It steels us for the inevitable rejections we will encounter.  

Jesus tells us, in no uncertain terms, that some people will welcome our message and others will not. In fact, they will be wolves. 

So what? How does this, in any way, change our mission? Our Savior sends us with the message of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We proclaim it. We invite others to hear about it at worship or in a Bible study. Some will welcome our invitation. Others will not. So it is. So it has always been.  

This does not mean we are indifferent. We are saddened when God’s message is rejected. We are thrilled when God’s message is received. But, either way, our task remains the same—to proclaim that message. 

During my 20 years serving as a parish pastor, I had the opportunity to teach dozens of Bible information classes. It was one of my favorite parts of being a parish pastor. 

People new to our church, and in some cases new to Christianity, would gather to learn the basics of the Christian faith. We talked about sin and gracewhat Jesus did to save usand more. 

It was always exciting to begin a new series of classes. I was always hopeful that the souls attending would receive God’s truth with joy. Often, they did. Occasionally, they did not. I never knew what would happen. But it was not my job to know what would happen. It was my job to share what God’s Word says.  

Sharing the gospel is the job—and the privilege—of every follower of Jesus Christ. We dare not allow our fear of rejection to keep us from accomplishing this task. After all, what is really at the root of this fear? Most often it is because we are self-centered. We are thinking too much about what rejection will mean for our reputation or relationships and too little about what failing to share the gospel will mean for the souls of others. We are putting our comfort ahead of our Savior’s command. We are putting ourselves ahead of both our neighbor and our God. 

Thankfully, our God sent us a SaviorJesus was willing to be rejected himself in order to save us from our sinsyes, even the self-centeredness that sometimes keeps us from telling others about himMany of the people who heard Jesus preach rejected what he had to say. But this did not stop him from continuing to preach. He loved them too much.  

Look at the people the Lord has brought into your life. Do they know that, in Jesus, their sins are forgiven and eternal life is theirs? If not, find time to tell them. Or invite them to worship or a Bible information class where they can hear the good news.  

Ten minutes ago, I sent a text message to someone I met more than two years ago. She is not a Christian. Over the past couple of years, we have had multiple discussions about God and faith and our eternal fate. Each time we have talked, she has argued against the kind of God I described. So far, there is no indication that she believes in any kind of personal God, much less trusts in Jesus as the one, true God and her Savior. But, as I wrote the preceding paragraph and thought about the people the Lord has brought into my life, this young woman came to mind. So I reached out again to invite her to continue our conversation. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know where it will lead. I don’t know whether she will ever accept what I am sharing. But I do know that I am not wasting my time. I am doing what my Jesus has told me to do. And I know he is with me as I carry out his command. 

Let this be your comfort as well, even if you fear being rejected. You are carrying out his command, and he will be with you as you do.  

So . . . what is there to worry about? 


Eric Roecker, the director for WELS Commission on Evangelism, is a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 


This is the second article in a threepart series on the story of Jesus sending out his disciples in Luke 10.   


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Eric S. Roecker
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Evangelism lessons from the Savior: Luke 10 : Part 1

Pray dangerously 

Eric S. Roecker 

I was sitting at the gate, waiting to board my flight, and I was excited. I was flying to Florida for a golf trip with my buddies. I had never been on a golf trip before, and the thought of spending a few days with nothing to do but play golf and enjoy the company of my friends was exhilarating. The fact that I had not seen some of these friends for years made the anticipation even greater.  

As I sat thinking of warm, sunny days and lush, green fairways, for some reason I remembered something I had heard a pastor say a few months earlier. He encouraged people to pray dangerously when it came to personal evangelism. He explained that praying dangerously meant to ask the Lord to provide opportunities to tell other people about Jesus—and not just to provide those opportunities to pastors and missionaries but to provide those opportunities to you. It was dangerous, he explained, because God might very well say yes. 

Hmm. . . . I thought. I wonder what would happen if I tried that? What if I tried it right here, right now? Like the disciples Jesus sent out, I am his messenger so I decided to pray dangerously. “Lord Jesus,” I prayed silently, “if it is your will, provide me an opportunity to tell someone about you on this flight.”  

This prayer was even more dangerous than you might imagineYou see, I do not chat with people on airplanes. It’s not that I’m not a people person. It’s just that I sometimes get motion sickness when flying. So my standard operating procedure is to take a Dramamine about an hour before takeoff, settle down in a window seat, place my head gently but firmly against the wall, and fall fast asleep. It has proven stunningly successful over the years. I am often out cold before we finish taxiing for takeoff and jerk awake as the wheels hammer the runway upon landing. It keeps me from feeling nauseous and makes flights fly by. 

As I said, asking the Lord to put me next to a person who had never heard the good news about Jesus was dangerous. What if he said yes? What if I got airsick?  What if I fell asleep or was so groggy I couldn’t carry on a conversation? 

Forty-five minutes later, I found myself more curious than usual as I walked down the aisle of the plane to locate my assigned seat. Who would be seated next to me? No one, I discovered. The seat next to mine was open.  

Well, perhaps the Lord has not seen fit to say yes to my request, I thought with some small sense of relief. I shuffled into my seat, strapped the seatbelt around my waist, tilted my head until it rested on the wall to my right, closed my eyes, and looked forward to two hours of Dramamine-induced slumber. Aaah. 

Then I felt a bump. Had someone sat down next to me? I peered through a slightly opened left eyelid. Sure enough, a young woman was just getting settled. I repositioned my eyelid to the closed position to continue my journey to dreamland.  

Then I remembered my prayer. What if she was the answer? What if this young woman did not know her Savior and I slept away my opportunity to tell her about him? 

With a bit of lazy reluctance still clinging to my heart, I opened my eyes, turned, and said, “Hello!” 

“Hi!” She said smartly with a bright smile. 

“Are you heading home or vacationing in Florida?” 

“I’m actually traveling to see my mother for a much-needed break.” 

“Oh! What do you do for a living?” 

“I’m an actress in New York.” 

“What have you been working on?” 

“I’ve spent the last year playing the lead in The Lion King on Broadway.” 

“Really!? Wow!” 

“It’s been an amazing experience. But it has also been exhausting. What do you do for a living?” 

“I’m a Lutheran pastor.” 

“Really!? Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a pastor before. We didn’t really go to church when I was growing up.” 

“So, you don’t know much about the Bible?” 

“I don’t know anything about the Bible.” 

I probably don’t have to tell you that the hair on my neck stood up as straight as the bristles on a brand-new brush. Here was an answer to a prayer I had silently uttered less than an hour earlier.  

I wonder how Jesus’ seventy-two followers felt when he told them that he was sending them out to preach the good news (Luke 10:1-24). Jesus had just instructed them to ask the Lord to send out workers into his harvest field. Then he proceeded to send them. They were the answer to their own prayer! Talk about praying dangerously!  

The young actress and I spent the next two hours discussing who God is and how much he loves us and what he did to save us from the sins that separated us from him. She had many perfectly understandable and reasonable questions. She listened carefully and respectfully to the answers I shared from God’s Word. It was wonderful.  

I was even able to use The Lion King in our conversation. I mentioned that the theme of the musical was the circle of life, that is, we should take comfort in the fact that dying is just a part of life. “Isn’t it interesting, though,” I concluded, “that at the end of the musical, the little lion’s father who had died shows up in the sky and speaks to his son. Even a musical that claims death is just a part of life could not help but reunite the living with the dead. It’s because we all have an inborn desire to live forever. That is what Jesus’ resurrection gives us.” 

As we went our separate ways at the Orlando airport, I told her I would keep her in my prayers and gave her the name of the WELS church in Queens, N.Y., encouraging her to visit.

I have no idea what has happened to her since. But I do know that she heard about her Savior that day. And I have our Lord’s promise that his Word is powerful and effective. This gives me hope that the Holy Spirit found his way into her heart and that, one day, I might meet her again in heaven. 

Are you a person of prayer? Do you regularly spend prayer time asking the Lord to send workers into his harvest field? Good. Those prayers are much needed and well-received by our Lord. But, perhaps you might consider adding a new element to your prayer. You might consider praying a bit more dangerously and ask the Savior to send someone who still needs to learn about him to you. How he chooses to answer that prayer is, of course, up to him. It may not be as immediate and dramatic as it was for me that day. Then again, it might.  

Are you ready to pray dangerously? 


Eric Roecker, the director for WELS Commission on Evangelism, is a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 


This is the first article in a threepart series on the story of Jesus sending out his disciples in Luke 10.   


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Eric S. Roecker
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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