Commentary on "Personal Evangelism and Witnessing"
Day 3: Monday, May 7, 2012 - My Personal Mission Field
Today's lesson teaches that the individuals within ones circle of influence make up the personal mission field of each Seventh-day Adventist member. The author writes, 'Our church can be aware of individuals in the crowd only as church members interact on an individual basis with those who are in their sphere of influence.' The author states that the Adventist's personal mission field begins with closest family members and moves outward to 'other relatives, friends and acquaintances.'
The author asserts that the story of Jesus calling His disciples is a 'biblical example of networking' for the purpose of evangelizing. He explains this by drawing attention to the fact that Andrew went to seek out his brother, Simon Peter to bring him to Jesus. The author writes, 'The early movement to follow Jesus seems to have gained momentum through social networking in the Capernaum and Bethsaida areas.' The author ends the lesson by asking the reader to consider who in their lives they could do 'better at witnessing' to.
In today's lesson we see the first mention of Jesus. Sadly, the passage the author chooses is not about the cross of Christ or the call of believers to stand ready to give a reason for the hope they have (in the gospel of Jesus according to scripture). Nor does the author encourage the reader to reflect on the personal work of Jesus Christ in their own life or how they might share that. In fact, the focus of the passage isn't on Jesus (or sharing Jesus) at all, rather the focus is on Andrew and networking. Jesus is merely mentioned as the author suggests that we must look at a crowd in the same way that Jesus did- as a multitude of individuals (this certainly does make networking more successful).
In Adventism the 'Jesus card' is most often played when discussing correct ways of behaving or approaching situations. Sadly, among false churches, Jesus is more of an inspiration for 'right behavior' than the sovereign Lord of our lives and the final word on salvation. It is not uncommon to see Him used as the trump card to back up the opinions and manipulations of leaders or lay people. More often than not, if the one playing the card has enough letters behind their name, the biblically illiterate will not even consider questioning their wisdom.
Let's look closer at this chosen passage and bring some context to the conversation. First of all, this portion of scripture is not prescriptive teaching for the body of Christ for effective evangelism. That fact alone rules out the idea that it is a 'biblical example' of evangelizing. Just because it is being pulled from scripture to make a point, doesn't make the point biblical. This passage is beautifully descriptive of the calling of God for those who would be His 12 disciples and later some of His apostles. It is interesting to note that Andrew's words to Simon Peter were that they had found the messiah when in fact we see later in John 6:70 that it was Jesus who chose them;
'Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.' He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.'
While Jesus may not have gone to Simon Peter personally, Peter's calling was God's choice, not Andrew's. In a way we cannot fully understand our God incarnate called His inner group—some with a simple request for them to follow Him (and they followed!) and others, as with Simon Peter and Nathanael, He sent for in ways only He could design. This passage of scripture reflects the sovereignty of our magnificent omniscient God, and is a beautiful peak into the birth of His ministry. To imply that Peter was a part of the 'Jesus story' because of the networking of Andrew is to miss God in this story entirely!
Scripture must be respected and handled with care. God's word is meant to reveal God to us. It is not meant to be used as a behavior manual or self-help book. While it is true that there are passages of scripture written to teach the body of Christ what it means to live in the spirit as a believer, those prescriptive teachings are clear in their context! We cannot use the Bible as a type of magic 8 ball which we simply shake an answer out of from any story that may support our opinions. It is a horrible thing to see the word of God intentionally taken out of context, especially for the purpose of subjugating congregational behavior to expand corporate growth.
Utilizing Member's Sphere of Influence for SDA Evangelizing
Later in the lesson the author writes that, 'The early movement to follow Jesus seems to have gained momentum through social networking…' Again, this sentence robs God of His sovereign design and ignores the numerous passages of scripture where Jesus tells people to keep quiet and not tell of the miracles He performed in their lives. Jesus wasn't networking! He was revealing that He is God as He waited for His Hour to fulfill scripture and atone for the sins of man. Furthermore, following Jesus was not a 'human movement'. To put it in those terms conjures up thoughts of the 1960's! Following Jesus was, and continues to be, a calling that is a part of the perfect plan of redemption designed by God before the foundation of the world.
As the author continues to rally his audience into assisting with corporate Adventist evangelistic efforts, he writes that their personal mission field begins with closest family members and moves outward to 'other relatives, friends and acquaintances.' This assignment is a natural conclusion for human networking. If this were merely a suggestive way of praying about how to share Jesus (of scripture) with those around us I wouldn't even draw attention to it. However, it is classic Adventism to network through families to raise enrollment within their education systems and establish multi-generational Adventists. Once they can get them in, they are certain to keep them in with fearful teachings of apostasy and receiving the mark of the beast should they leave.
While we may not always know the plans God has for us to witness for Him, we are all called to live as lights in the world holding fast to the word of God, building up the body, meeting with other believers, always being prepared to give a reason for our hope, land iving as salt and light in the world (Philippians 2, Ephesians 4, Hebrews 10:25, 1 Peter 3:15, Matt 5:16). God will bring to us those He needs us to speak with, and He will give us the words we need to say as we abide in His word and wait on Him. We must not lay awake at night worrying that we are not doing a better job witnessing to our family, friends, and acquaintances. That time would be far better spent resting and abiding in the sovereign Lord Jesus so that when He places us where He needs us we will be well practiced at letting Him lead, and well aware of what His word teaches. We must let God be God and trust Him with our family and friends, both of whom He loves more than we do.
In conclusion, this passage of scripture is not a 'biblical example of networking' or a prescriptive teaching for effective church evangelism. Nor should it be used to manipulate members into local church volunteering. The way the author uses this passage further aids in the exposure of the Seventh-day Adventist organization's greater motivation of winning converts to their 'special knowledge' than revealing God through the proper handling of His word and the spreading of the gospel of Jesus according to scripture.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised April 30, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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