Colossians 4:1-9: How to Do Evangelism in the Real World
July 8, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This section has three components to it. The first (verse 1) completes Paul’s thought about work which we looked at yesterday.
The second (verses 2 to 6) carries on the thinking related to how to be holy and Christlike in the “real world,” and now applies it more specifically to witness and evangelism. This part has some of the most helpful teaching on how to witness.
Paul first encourages them to pray. If we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must pray to that end. In particular, being watchful and thankful. The “watchful” phrase goes back to Jesus’ teaching of the same, that our prayer life has one eye towards the second coming of Christ. Our prayers are therefore urgent and awake and watchful – for the time is short.
Also, they are to be thankful. To begin with, we do not pray; then we pray, but our prayers are like shopping lists or lists of complaints. We need reminding then to give thanks in our prayer life. What a revolutionary practice that is: to thank God specifically for what he is doing in your life.
But then, as Paul comes to witness, he asks the Colossians to pray for Paul, the preacher of the gospel. What should you pray for preachers? That God would open a door. That there would be opportunities. That there would be openness of heart to receive the message. And that the preacher should preach “clearly.” Preaching at its best is more than simply being clear, but if there is no clarity there is no communication. The first and most important thing is: clarity, clarity, clarity. So as we think of outreach and evangelism, we are to pray. In particular, we are to pray for the preachers of the gospel that there may be opportunities for that preaching and that they would preach the gospel clearly.
But then all of us – not just preachers – are to have our conversation, our way of life and how we talk, embedded with the gospel too. Our conversation is to be “always full of grace.” That does not just mean that our conversation is to be “gracious” (much less just that our conversation is to be “nice”). It means that the way we live and how we talk is to be filled with the message of the grace of God. D.L. Moody would not go to bed without having had a gospel conversation with at least one individual. Oh how we need that passion today in all our lives!
But then our conversation is also to be “seasoned with salt.” Salt makes insipid food taste better and preserves good food from going bad. For our conversation to be seasoned with salt means for the way of life and how we talk to be filled with ways of talking that are arresting, interesting, even spicy and tasty – not insipid and bland.
Lastly, our conversation is to be in such a way that we know how to answer everyone. That is, we are to be prepared to be able to answer the standard questions that people tend to ask of Christians. Is the Bible reliable? Are God and science compatible? How can God be loving and people suffer? Etc. Do you have answers to these questions? If not, get a good apologetic book – like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God – and find the answers so that you can answer other people.
This is how outreach and evangelism are to work in the “real world.” You are to do your job well – whether as employer or employee. You do not get paid to evangelize. Do your job well! But then pray for opportunities, and when they emerge, make the most of those opportunities. Then bring people to hear the preaching of the gospel – preaching that must above all make the gospel clear.
Lastly, in the third component (verses 7 to 9), we have another peek into the relational friendships that were a hallmark of the apostle’s ministry. It is tempting to simply skip over these apparent asides that we might feel have little direct relevance to our lives. But look at how these verses show us that the apostle was a man of deep, real, and vital friendships. He was no lone ranger. He was not an angular or difficult man. He loved people, and people loved him. As much as we must be “valiant for truth,” we must be faithful in gospel friendships too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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