Exhortation without Equiping is Moot

We listen to the message from the church and para-church, exhorting us to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We hear it from the pulpit, in Sunday School, in the lobby, in the small group, in youth group, in Christian association meetings, and many other venues. To paraphrase – “Just do it”, we are told.

Because you are a Christian (whether for 1 day or 4 decades), are you equiped intellectually or emotionally to step right out in witness? Judging by the number of believers who do so, countless conversations about it, and other annecdotal evidence, I would have to conclude that the answer is no. Based upon these sources, I would actually go farther and say, in most cases: not equiped, not practically supported, not effectively aided, not followed up, just exhorted. Doesn’t that sound impractical?

In fairness, this is neither deliberate nor negligent. Those (including us all at times) doing the exhorting are very sincere, and often not well equiped themselves. Even it they are equiped and skilled, their equiping is often based upon an approach grounded in and evolved from their own faith. As such, it may not be easily transferable, and in many cases they are not skilled in communicating nor transferring it. In fact, if they are good at it, they may not see what the problem is at all.

Does this mean that average Christian does not wish to obey the command of our Lord to go forth boldly? Again, not at all. Most wish sincerely to do so. It might be suggested that we do not go forth simply because we make excuses. That is likely partially true, but the essence of it is that many, if not most, simply do not have the tools that would give them the confidence and internal support to make the attempt. Without the confidence that at least rudimentary equiping brings, it will simply not happen in most cases.

Does equiping involve developing advance theological or scriptural knowledge? To exaggerate a bit, do you need an MDIV to witness? While those skills are certainly valuable and might occasionally be useful, they are not necessary. All that is necessary is a very basic knowledge. If that were not the case, the Lord would be setting up a system that excluded all but a few, with the rest doomed to failure. It would seem clear that He does not have that in mind. Remember that it is the Spirit that does the actual work, not the presenter. A requirement for special knowledge would move the onus back to the presenter.

So, what is needed? Basic, simple, transferable technique, and consistent training.

With the confidence that normally develops from basic training and practice, there is a much higher probability that most, if not all, Christians can be equiped emotionally to feel that they could step out with the Gospel. Notice that we said emotionally, not practically, intellectually, knowledgeably, nor any other ‘ably’. Not that those components are not needed, but discussion with numerous believers would indicate that it is the emotional reaction that mostly holds us back. Even rudimentary equiping begins to bridge that gap, bringing at least the possibility of action where none was emotionally possible before.

Is this process necessary for all believers? Likely not. But experience and honest evaluation would indicate that it is necessary to one degree or another for most. Is witnessing possible with out this approach? Certainly, for the Lord fundamentally equips all believers through the Spirit. However, if the number of the Saints stepping out with ease and confidence today is any indication, helping eachother in this way would assist us all.

What a joyous thought, to help each believer gain the basic confidence and security to act in this most basic obedience to our Lord!

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Let us use the gifts that He has given us, through His Grace, to equip eachother for joyous obedience.

Next -> Witness, by the Numbers


11 thoughts on “Exhortation without Equiping is Moot

  1. Brent

    Rock on brother! You seem to say exactly what I’m feeling alot of the time. Must be a Spirit thing. Your wisdom and insight continue to be a constant source of inspiration for me (and others I’m sure). Never stop writing what the Spirit is filling you with. It is a gift that is invaluable and indispensable to us all. Keep us enthralled.

  2. cnaphan

    Good topic, Ken. This weighs on a lot of our hearts.

    I think a lot of people worry that:

    1) the person they talk to will bring up some topic that they know nothing about, so they would probably make a negative impact, rather than a positive one. Nowadays this might take the form of some idea plucked from “The Da Vinci Code”, like “But didn’t Constantine write most of the Bible?”

    2) they will become irritated, enraged, etc… by the questions they get asked, thus making a negative impact, not a positive one, no matter their theological confidence. It’s not like we get much practice confuting heresies, let alone doing so gracefully.

    3) they grew up a Christian, had a Christian family, etc… so they feel they can’t identify with people who are not or they wouldn’t be effective, because they’d be written off. Such a person is more likely to think “I just know such and such is true; I’ve never thought about why. So I couldn’t convince anyone.”

    4) they don’t know how to defend the Bible itself, or to at least offer a reasonable explanation of their own beliefs about it

  3. kwilson

    All good and reasonable excuses (no sarcasm intended). However, we are not called to answer every question, nor to convince anyone of anything. That is the key. It all boils down to responsibility, and that does NOT rest with the witness beyond the actual act of witnessing. It rests 100% with the Lord.

    To go back to my extreme example, you don’t need an MDIV to witness. Nor is it the respoinsibility of the witness to ‘convince’ anyone. If the Spirit is at work, then it will happen, if not, it won’t. And that has naught to do with the witness.

    Now, having said all this, one needs to have at least a rudimentary technique or method to present the gospel, responsible or not. I will get to that shortly. But the most important concept here is that it is ALL of Him and not of us.

  4. cnaphan

    True, but we do have both a positive and negative responsibility to witness. That is, we are responsible to witness well and not to witness poorly. We’re called to have a reason for the faith we hold and also not to become a stumbling block to little ones, which could be the young of age or those young in the faith, including nonbelievers.

    Beyond that, yes, we’re not responsible for the end results. After all, the person’s name is either written or not written in the Book of Life.

  5. kwilson

    [quote post=”121″]That is, we are responsible to witness well and not to witness poorly.[/quote]

    A slippery slope to not acting. We are back to the MDIV example in essence.

    Responsibility is ‘within our capabilities at the time the opportunity is presented’ by the Lord. He is in absolute Sovereign control, and since he chooses the time he also knows our ability (poor or not) at that time. Our job does not include evalutation in that sense.

    Since He is in charge and the Spirit is doing the work, honest witnessing from where you are at that time can not fail by definition. The appearance of failure in the present is not relevant (possibly frustrating, but not relevant).

    We are called to simple obedience at the time the Lord arranges it, not when we are ready by any human reference. This is especially true since we don’t even know how the Lord is using this event in His scheme of things.

    Now, we obviously need a way to share the Gospel, but that is technique as opposed to defensible knowledge. Further, if our technique is from Scripture (and thereby from the Lord and not of us), then the human knowledge and competence issues do not enter the picture. On the other hand, if our methodology is ‘of us’, then we are effectively taking responsibility for the process, in which case we can drop into hot water very quickly. All of this can be dealt with quickly and easily by the tools used. I will have a go at that shortly.

  6. D Rho

    The only problem with trying to equip and train folks to share Christ’s message of love to the world is, I believe, is that it becomes too formulaic and focused on a certain way to do it. That’s not what evangelism is about in my humble opinion. There’s hundreds of personality types out there (that God created) that just don’t respond to formulas and certain ways to do things. It’s like teaching a blind man to taste colors.
    I think the main problem is fear and apathy, quite frankly – not whether or not we’ve learned the right method, gotten the right training, or have enough confidence in what we know. Evangelism is so simple – share, talk to people, love people. What’s not to get? I think people can get creative with evangelism if they knew how simple and fun it is. The problem with offering training for people to do evangelism is that the message you send is that you have be “trained” to do it.
    We also too often “baby” people in our churches. Some of the best evangelism I have experienced is in the lives of new Christians who know almost nothing about theology, evangelistic methods, church, or even God for that matter. They’re just bursting with a life-altering experience with God that just spills out naturally into evangelism. What’s up with that? Let’s get that guy in the pulpit talking about all the lives he’s affecting for Christ. It’s almost unbelievable how contagious that is!
    Maybe the problem is that many Christians just don’t really love God anymore, like they ought to. I think the fear of rejection and the unknown; and the apathy of comfort, entertainment, and ease have made many of our hearts grow cold.
    Evangelism should be simple, raw, wild, and even personal.

  7. kwilson Post author

    [quote post=”121″]I think the main problem is fear and apathy, quite frankly – not whether or not we’ve learned the right method, gotten the right training, or have enough confidence in what we know. Evangelism is so simple – share, talk to people, love people. What’s not to get?[/quote]

    I agree, not only with this, but most of your reply. However, for many that I have talked to, there is an emotional block that simply stops them in their tracks. It would be great to facilitate a simple way through that.

    [quote post=”121″]Evangelism should be simple, raw, wild, and even personal.[/quote]

    Exactly. And what is more simple and raw than Scipture itself, designed to facilitate the work of the Spirit and to cut to the Heart supernaturally.

    That is exactly what I have in mind here. No fancy techniques. In fact, great avoidance of that. But if a little ‘training’ helps a believer find a little more comfort in taking the risk (possibly huge to them internally) of stepping out, why not?

    It took a day to respond because I am struggling (ineffectively) to express ideas clearly for the next post in the thread…

  8. D Rho

    I’m all about scripture memorization and study – and even something to encourage people to share their faith in real ways. If you’re talking about a ministry that does that, I’d be all for it! I’ve just never expereinced a good one. I guess my cynicism comes from going through so many of these “evangelism training” courses that taught a method, wasn’t my style, and really wasn’t that effective in stirring the saints (on a whole) to be courageous witnesses to the world. I really don’t know what the answer is, but I am with you that simply encouraging congregations from the pulpit is not helping either. There must be something more intriguing, more dynamic, more inspiring, and more encouraging than what we got going right now with evangelism…

  9. taffman

    Well, we can go on and on about how prepared one must be before he or she shares their faith. But I believe that Scripture mandates all Christians to share their faith as friendship evangelism or one on one like Andrew in Scripture. But as for public evangelism, I believe that is a gift and gift of God and therefore all ministry as such will be blessed in ways that are counted by God not by human means or understanding. As any gift must be honed and properly exercised, training allows one to see the possibilities and always leaning on God for the fruit. As Christians too we trust and believe by faith but that means that we must seek an understanding of that faith. It is duty of each Christain that he rightly interprets the word of God. The gospel has been corrupted by the postmodern mindset and we have to be prepared to defend the true gospel when the onslaught comes. The last thing we need is too as one evangelists has put it, create stillborn Christians.

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