My major in college was Missions. How to plant and help churches to grow. One of the basic courses in any Mission major is "The Missionary Methods of Paul" or "Paul's method of evangelism."
Paul was the first missionary, the first to go out and preach to the Gentiles in a serious way, the first to plant churches on foreign soil. This is why the study of his life and work is a very important part of Missionary course work. In this study, one thing that you notice is Paul's remarkable ability to preach and teach new believers, hostile Jews and pagans.
- In I Thessalonians 2:1-12, we get a glimpse of Paul's way of approaching and speaking to non-believers.
- In Colossians 4:6, Paul said that our speech should be salted with grace so as to know how to respond to each person.
- In I Thessalonians, he demonstrates how we can salt our speech so as to communicate effectively with others about our faith. It's not always easy to share our faith, to tell someone about Christ, but Paul explains that it's not just about knowing the facts.
Being affective in sharing our faith requires that we salt all our speech with grace, not just know the facts about religion. In I Thessalonians, he gives an example on how to do this.
Background – Thessalonians
Thessalonica was a wealthy city in the province of Macedonia in northern Greece. Paul came here after being imprisoned in Philippi. He had early success in Thessalonica (which still exists today) but soon after he was run out of town by a mob. The young church he planted there continued to grow despite his brief stay. Later on he sent Timothy back to see how they were doing and upon returning, Timothy reported that despite their persecution, they were remaining faithful. Timothy also reported that because of their lack of teaching, they were having several problems. Some were succumbing to sexual immorality. Others were worried that when Jesus returned He would not take with Him the Christians who had died.
To this news, Paul encourages them to pure living, faithfulness and he provides teaching on the end of the world that he had not yet given them because he was forced to leave so soon.
It is in his talk to these young Christians that we get a good example of salted speech to incorporate into our own communications today – to non-Christians, to new Christians, to all those of the household of faith, he teaches us how to talk to each other as Christians.
In the second chapter of Thessalonians, we can see seven ways that Paul spoke to his students that demonstrates "salted" speech.
1. He Spoke Positively
1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.
Even though he had been treated badly in the previous town, he kept a positive attitude in approaching this new set of hearers. Paul didn't let his past experiences spoil his future efforts. Sometimes when our offers to attend worship or study the Bible are rejected, we become discouraged and negative thinking. This will never work.
Paul shares that every new contact has the potential for believing and becoming true disciples of Jesus. For this reason, he, and we, need to remain positive.
2. He Spoke Confidently
3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.
Paul suffered setbacks, but when he came to Thessalonica, he spoke confidently about the gospel. He was confident because the message was from God, not man and their commission was from God not mere humans. Every time we share our faith; every time we invite someone to church; every time we defend our beliefs; every time we publicly confess Christ, for example as Hal and I do whenever someone visits our BibleTalk website and watches a DVD, or downloads a transcript (over 8,000 in the last quarter) – every time this happens we show that our confidence is in God and His word, not man and this world.
And every time we do these things, we are acting as God's agents in spreading the gospel.
3. He Spoke Honestly
5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— 6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
In those days there were many roving or traveling orators who would go from town to town preaching the latest philosophy or religious fad — and do so for money and power. Paul says this was not their method — no show, no tricks, no ego things, just the simple gospel preached for free by service men. Today, that same approach is still the best. We don't need theatrics and emotional tricks to get people to obey Jesus — just the simple truth preached and lived honestly will do the job.
4. He Spoke Lovingly
7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
Paul's time there and work there was done while he supported himself. He had a right to be supported by the church but declined for several reasons:
- He didn't want to burden them financially.
- He didn't want to set a precedent so that others might come and demand money from them in the future.
- He didn't want them to stumble in their faith. Money is a problem with young churches.
- He also wanted them to see the love he spoke of in action in their own lives, not just in theory.
People don't believe in the love of God until they see an example of it in you, and the one who brings the gospel is usually the one they depend on to show them an example of God's love.
5. He Spoke Sincerely
10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;
Paul's holy message was amplified and confirmed by his conduct which he describes in three words:
- Devoutly – Totally committed to living within the teachings of truth and grace - Christian lifestyle throughout his actions.
- Uprightly – His conduct was pure, correct according to God's word. What he said, how he worked, his worship — all were according to God's will.
- Blamelessly – He had a good reputation, no one could accuse him anything.
Non-Christians are very quick to notice inconsistencies in the lives of Christians so we need to understand that our actions speak as loudly or even more loudly than our words.
6. He Spoke Patiently
11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Notice how he continued to speak to these people:
- Exhorted is to teach with a view to obedience.
- Encourage is to motivate, push.
- Implore is to beseech almost by to respond.
Paul kept after them even after their conversion. He maintained a dialogue with them in order to help them grow. Not everyone "gets it" right away. Some stall and some fall and so it's necessary to keep teaching patiently those who are new or weak in Christ. It would be nice if people would be baptized after one session and then remain on fire until the Lord came. But we know this isn't the way it happens. It takes years to win people sometimes, and the walk of faith has it ups and downs. Those who teach and lead need to be patient in order to permit people the time to grow. Not all will, but some will, and in doing so will glorify God and be a witness of your good work.
7. He Spoke Authoritatively
The people Paul spoke to were impressed and responded accordingly (they repented and were baptized) because he spoke with the authority of God. The purpose of our speech is to win souls, to bring people to the point of obedience to God's word. In order to do this, we must speak with authority, the authority that says that if one obeys God's word, the blessings are sure, and if one does not then the consequences are just as sure. People without Christ are lost and in search of the truth. They are not impressed with people who are unsure and wishy washy about their own faith on the demands of the gospel. Leading someone to Christ means just that – leading, and leading with authority based on a conviction that the gospel is true and applies to everyone.
From training, study and many years of practical experience, I am fully convinced that the #1 method of evangelism is when one member speaks to a friend, co-worker or family member about Christ When a Christian invites a neighbor to worship or share in a church activity. Nothing better than these simple things to grow the church.
As we close our lesson, just a few reminders on how to do this effectively:
A. If you don't have a person to share Christ with, ask God to provide one for you. It's amazing how God will use you to lead someone to Christ if you just ask Him. If you don't seek however, you won't find.
B. Use different approaches. Some use one of our DVD's on BibleTalk. Others invite to services. Still others feel comfortable sharing their own conversion experienced to launch a conversation. In the end, the goal is to bring them face-to-face with Jesus and His gospel. Whether it's through a Bible study or class or worship service – remember your goal is that they hear the gospel – the best method is the one that gets them there.
C. Remember How You Speak to Them.
You are Christ's ambassador, Christ's witness, Christ's messenger, so be careful how you speak. Make sure your speech is salted with:
- Positive enthusiasm
- Honesty and love
- Sincerity and patience
- The authority of one who knows what he/she's talking about.
If you speak in this way, regardless of how the person responds, you will have been a good and faithful servant.
Let us take seriously our responsibility to speak to others about Christ and His salvation. Let us also pay attention to Jesus when He speaks to us through one of His servants. Whether it's the preacher calling on us to repent and be baptized. Whether it's an elder or other member encouraging us to be more faithful or involved in service. Whether it's our conscience being provoked by the Holy Spirit to confess our lies and other sins.
There are all kinds of ways that the Lord may be speaking to us tonight. Show Him that you have heard him by coming forward as we stand and sing.