Please enjoy this excerpt from Larry’s book on personal evangelism, Serving in His Court: Biblical Principles for Personal Evangelism from the Heart of a Coach.
Evangelism is a Team Thing
As you might have guessed, I’m a sports fan. The Florida Gators and New York Yankees are my favorite teams. Now you may not be a Gators or Yankees fan, and you might not even like sports, but there’s an important principle from the sporting world that applies to Christians.
Teamwork is critical in team and even individual sports. A common trait in award acceptance speeches given by champions of individual sports is the idea that the team helped achieve victory. In athletics it takes many people working together in order to accomplish the goal.
As it goes in the sporting arena, so it goes in the court of evangelism. For evangelism is a team thing. It is neither a “God thing,” nor a “Me thing.’” Evangelism is a “We thing.”
As noted earlier, Jesus, at the beginning of His ministry, said to His disciples “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). At the end of His ministry, just before ascending to heaven He stated, “Go and make disciples of all nations . . . and I will be with you always.”
One of the mysteries of the gospel is that while God is all-powerful and is the author of salvation, He chooses to use people like you and me to bring others to Himself. For we, the church, are integral to His redemptive plan. In fact, the Lord commands us to be actively involved in His redemptive work.
The implication of this reality is that we can neither shirk our personal responsibility to witness, nor feel overwhelmed that we have to do the work of evangelism alone. Because God in His grace is sufficient to enable you and me to do our part in the evangelistic effort. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant . . .” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, the Apostle Paul wrote that all believers are part of the body of Christ. That body is diverse and yet has a unity of purpose. You and I are all members of the same body, yet represent different parts. And we all have an important part to play in the function of the body.
While a missionary in New York City, I had occasion to witness to orthodox Jewish men. A few years removed from serving there, while serving as the Local Outreach Pastor of my home church in Johnson City, TN, I received a call from a friend and former missionary associate from Washington, DC. My friend Larry told me of a newly saved ultra-orthodox Jewish man he met while spending some time in New York City. Larry told me the man said to say hello to me. I had witnessed to him while I served in the Big Apple. When he told me the man’s name, I didn’t recognize it. I had no idea who he was talking with. It’s interesting because I didn’t have a personal ministry to many ultra-orthodox men and felt I should have remembered the man’s name.
I tell that story to illustrate that my witness, even though I don’t remember the person, was just one witness in the process. There would have been others who continued ministry to this gentleman along his journey of faith.
I praise God that he used me in the process of this man’s journey. It reminds me that I am one member of a very large team.
Think about your journey or that of someone you know who has come to faith in Jesus. I’ve mentioned several influential witnesses in my journey. Think about the team of servants God brought across your path or that someone else whose journey included touch points with several people along the way.
This is a beautiful aspect of being a member of the team. No matter our role, we all get to rejoice in the victory, God’s victory, as He ushers people into His Kingdom.
In late April 2002, our men’s tennis team at East Tennessee State University was playing in the Southern Conference Tennis Tournament. Charleston, South Carolina, the tournament site, was experiencing record heat and it was brutal for all the teams. We had a very long semi-final match against the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, which took an immense amount of physical energy. We had been in the same situation the previous year, winning a very difficult semi-final match in hot weather and having to play for the championship the next day. The previous year we lost. You might say we were a bit wilted for the final.
We hoped this year’s championship re-match with Furman would be different. Using massage, hydration and rest, our trainer did a phenomenal job to help the guys recover after that grueling semi-final match.
The next day we beat Furman (after having lost to them just weeks earlier) to win the Southern Conference Championship and advance to NCAA Tournament. It was our best match of the year despite the sweltering heat.
It was a proud moment for the men’s tennis team of East Tennessee State. And part of the backstory is the trainer for that weekend, a student himself at our school. He played a huge part in our being able to compete at a high level.
The point is this: all of us matter. In fact, God has roles for each of us. We are on the same team, the Church, and what we do matters, regardless of how big or small we may perceive our role to be.
I kidded the trainer after the victory, telling him he was our MVP, our Most Valuable Person. I was only half-kidding, because without him we wouldn’t have been physically ready to play championship-caliber tennis.
You may think your contribution in God’s redemptive plan is meager. Think again. You may not know how important your role is. You don’t necessarily need to know the details, but you should know your contribution on God’s team, the church, matters.
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