A few years ago the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit with a federal appeals court, demanding that an Ohio judge remove a poster displaying the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. The Americans United executive director explained that, “It’s obvious that he is using his courtroom to advance his personal religious viewpoint. That’s wrong, and the appeals court should say so.” One has to wonder what objective standard the AUSCS is using to decide “right” and “wrong,” having thrown out the Ten Commandments.
Of the eight speeches by Paul detailed by Luke in the book of Acts, the address in Acts 20 to the Ephesian elders is the only pastoral one. In fact, it is the only public discourse recorded in Acts that is addressed to a Christian audience—which clearly indicates how purposeful and proactive the early church was in reaching out to the unbelieving world with the gospel!
Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest (John 4:35). Soon after beginning his public ministry, Jesus turns to his small band of disciples and speaks these words. He goes out of his way to grab the attention of his listeners before making a simple statement.
I was blessed some time ago by Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel? This quote in particular struck me as helpful for Christians to consider, as we contemplate our motivation and message when it comes to evangelism:
You became an example to all the believers … [because] the word of the Lord sounded forth from you (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). What is the church of Jesus Christ supposed to look like? There are many different descriptions given in Scripture, and many different saints and congregations held up as examples to follow.
Our goal when speaking to other Christians or unbelievers, Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:15, is not to “debunk every belief you have.” It is to share the truth in love. The difference in these two ends should therefore lead to very different means, as well.