By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (February 1, 2012) – A biblically illiterate world needs to hear and see the gospel story from followers of Christ who are confident they have been sent on the mission by Jesus, even if they don’t feel they have the “gift of evangelism,” John Teter said during the Tuesday night worship service at the Midwinter Conference.
“People don’t need a slick presentation about religion, they need a personal touch of the gospel,” said Teter, who is the founding pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church, a multiethnic and multi-class church in Long Beach, California, and who also serves as the evangelism team leader for the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Expounding on the story of Jesus sending out 72 disciples to various towns as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, Teter noted that none of those individuals are ever named. None ever became famous for the ministry they did.
They knew, however, that Jesus had commissioned them. “He gives them a new identity,” Teter said. “He gives them a purpose they can be amazed by. He gives them an opportunity to represent the coming revolution.”
Teter told the story of his own journey of faith after his father died in a plane crash. At first, Teter tried to be the good middle school student, but then went 180 degrees in the opposite direction when he hit high school.
The Christian club at his high school once wrote him a five-page letter explaining why he had a “one-in-one chance of going to hell,” Teter said. He laughed at the irony that he is now exhorting people to evangelism.”
It was in college that a classmate from First Covenant Church in Sacramento, California, shared the gospel with him by telling the story of Jesus’s love, but also by listening to Teter’s questions about hard issues such as why God allowed his father to die.
Telling and listening were just part of the student’s witness. He also lived his faith, even buying Teter’s textbooks for one semester when they were too expensive.
When Teter became a Christian in May 1992, it was the ending of one process and the beginning of another, he said.
Christians would be surprised at who and how many people are going through the same process, Teter said. He related that he once taught a Bible study involving 40 young men from a rough neighborhood, including some gang members.
Even though most were not Christians, he asked them to write down where they had seen God at work in their lives. Some told of their lives being saved miraculously. Another wrote that he wanted to get off drugs as Teter had done.
Those stories were not what most people would expect to hear from such a group, he said. Teter then related how some of them eventually gave their lives to Christ.
But Teter also told the audience that success in evangelism is not measured by how many people come into the church, but how many people go out. He acknowledged that it can be a frightening thing for people to share the gospel, but he also reminded the gathering of the most oft-repeated command in scripture: “Do not be afraid.”
Editor’s note: Photo courtesy of Mike Nyman