ACR JournalEvangelismMinistry

For we cannot but speak…

One of my favourite parts of the Bible is Acts chapter 4. There are many reasons to love this chapter of God’s word. For one, seeing the boldness of Peter and John is such a contrast to the fear they showed during Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Then there is the great declaration by Peter in verse 12 regarding Jesus’s name—

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

But I’m always struck most by what Peter and John say in verses 19 and 20. Having been warned and

charged by the council not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, Peter and John answer,

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

I love this because it’s just so ‘right’ and ‘true’! If Jesus is in fact the Messiah and died and rose again. If Peter and John have seen it with their very own eyes. If Jesus is the name by which we must be saved, then how could Peter and John not speak of what they have seen and heard! This is not the sort of news that one keeps to oneself—it’s news that must be spoken about. However, this is where the challenge comes for me personally. Am I someone who cannot but speak of what I’ve heard and know about Jesus?

The topic of ‘Evangelism’ for our ACR Easter Journal is not the most creative of topics to choose! And yet, it is a topic that we must continue to talk about and challenge ourselves in constantly. The modern Christian life is immersed in the busyness of the modern world, and when things are busy and the task list is endless, one of the first things to drop off is our efforts to share Jesus with others.

A brother said to me recently, “Sydney Anglicans used to be known as the ‘evangelism guys’. They were the radicals who would not shut-up about Jesus. But I’m not sure that rings true anymore.” I think there is some truth to that comment. Have we lost our ‘mission’ heart? Sydney Anglicans at present are not known as the ‘mission guys’. Now, you might not agree with that comment (and if you don’t, I’d love you to interact with us and tell us why)!

Nevertheless, the ACR Editorial Panel thought we would make this Easter Journal about ‘Evangelism’. What better time than Easter to encourage us all to be those who cannot but speak about Jesus as we remember his death and resurrection? What follows in this issue of the ACR Journal is a variety of pieces written to stimulate our thinking and actions when it comes to evangelism and being on ‘mission’. You won’t realise this as you read, but a good number of the articles have come about through vigorous dialogue and interaction. Some from more recent months, others over the last few years. One thing we all need to do better is to learn how to argue more! Of course, argue in a manner that is gentle and kind and godly. But nevertheless, argue with our Bibles open and with our pride in check, wanting to see our God rightly worshiped and glorified.

As an example, the recent rise of the Reach Australia movement has been good for us Sydney Anglicans. Over the last few years there has been an argument put forward by the movement that questions the lack of numerical growth seen in the Sydney Anglican Diocese—an argument that says we should and can be doing better when it comes to numerical church growth and being on ‘mission’ as churches in our Diocese. The reality is, on the whole, those who are part of the Reach Australia movement are doing better and working harder when it comes to seeing numerical growth in their churches. If I was asked, “who are those known as the ‘evangelism guys’ at present?”, I would say, “the Reach guys”. There is no doubt that Reach Australia is labouring and strategising for numerical growth and putting a great amount of energy into their evangelistic efforts. I believe their efforts have been good for us Sydney Anglicans and has challenged us to do better when it comes to evangelism.

However, there has also been push back. There have been arguments going back the other way. I think we Sydney Anglicans have been just as good for the Reach Australia movement. Questions of theology and biblical ministry practice have been raised. Statements have been questioned and challenged (think of the many discussions around ‘faithfulness vs fruitfulness’ over the years, or phrases like ‘a relentless pursuit for growth’). And not that they would admit it (tongue fully in cheek here!), but I’ve seen the ministry practice and convictions of both ‘Reach guys’ and ‘Sydney guys’ change and sharpen in light of good and godly argumentation. This is a good thing! At the end of the day we are neither ‘Sydney guys’ nor ‘Reach guys’ but brothers and sisters in Christ who desire the glory of our great God.

This is all to say, do take the time to understand the issues raised and to hear the various arguments put forth. If we want to see our God glorified, then we must make our evangelism an absolute priority, but we must also do so in a way that is theologically considered. And as always, nothing that follows claims to be the final word on the matter. Rather, the dialogue must continue!

Most importantly, as you read, we hope you are reminded that Jesus is Messiah and Lord, and there is no other name by which we must be saved. Let us therefore follow the lead of the Apostles and be those who cannot help but speak of Christ.

Happy Easter!

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