I think of 4 purposes of the church: Fellowship. Worship. Discipleship. The 4th purpose is the one I want to speak on today: evangelism, could be called many names (I tried to think of a fourth “ship”). I talked to my mother earlier this week…she wanted to know todays’ scripture, so I told her how I was going to emphasize importance of evangelism. That got her to telling a story of when my mother and father arrived in Sumas in early 1950’s. The pastor of the Bellingham church became close friends: Joe Tom and Velma Tate. She told me about a sermon Joe Tom used to preach: Gossiping the Gospel. That’s what I’ll title the sermon I said. And my mother smiled.
1) Acts 19:10 READ. ALL. That’s quite a statement. The text doesn’t say how many believed, but ALL heard the gossip of Christ, the message of salvation, the need to repent, the truth of the resurrection. Is Luke exaggerating? I doubt it. ALL in America in 2021 knows something about the Christian faith. They hear at Christmas if nothing else. Many don’t believe. Many are dismissive. Many have vision of a godless society. But the good news of Jesus Christ is out there. Paul got the gossip going.
2) The next verse showing the impact of gossiping the gospel: Acts 19:20. READ. The wonderful thing about this verse is that scattered through-out Acts this same idea is repeated six times. It is like a progress report inserted by Luke, the author (Acts 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30-31). Sometimes in the Bible you can get the theme of the book/story by what is repeated…I’m working on a project for fun right now of selecting a verse from every Psalm, many Psalms have a phrase that is repeated a number of times telling me what the nugget of truth is for that particular Psalm. Acts 19:20 is the repeated idea over and over…
Gossip the Gospel. That is a fundamental purpose of the Church/Christians. Let others hear your words and see your life lived for Christ. Chad was right last week when he spoke of the changes the gospel makes in a person’s life as a sign of salvation.
I read this scripture and at first I saw a collection of odds and ends tossed into a drawer… Paul in Ephesus, talking in a hall, crazy miracles, evil spirits, book burning… “goodness” I thought, “Why didn’t I leave this passage for Chad” …then I saw an outline emerge: principles of evangelism, or “gossiping the gospel.”
I hope these thoughts give you hope and assurance that Gossiping the Gospel is doable. May we become gossipers of the gospel with our words and actions.
I don’t know whether to say we need to purposefully be aware of gossiping the gospel OR should gossiping the gospel become a way of life? I think gossiping the gospel begins as a purposeful discipline but as time goes on it just is…when I first started climbing Mt. Baker (age 12), I did it to say I did it. I did it because my father did it. Then I remember the Summer I served as a guide and took four trips, we climbed from the south side, it was a beautiful calm day, the sun came up, perfect conditions, I was about 18, and for the first time after many trips of going to the top, I thought to myself, this is amazing/this is fun. Many disciplines of faith are like that… begin as duty, but in time, after much practice, to grow to that place when it is pure delight, a satisfaction, to grow to that place where you simply want others to have what you have, not in arrogance, but in humility and amazement. When the gospel is lived by one who has been broken and received grace, that’s the power of God humbly shared with others.
Some of the lessons about gossiping the gospel in this scripture:
1). God’s Timing is Everything. READ Acts 19:8. That ought to take the pressure off of us. When Paul first went to Ephesus, the people wanted him to stay, but it wasn’t the right time (READ Acts 18:19). There is no formula for when to speak and when to be silent/to stay and to go/ to start this or to start that…it’s all God’s timing! It’s a matter of listening to God, heeding the H.S. A friend of mine, Gary Severson, once observed, “It seems like we are always ahead of what God is doing or behind Him. Most of the time we are ahead and say, ‘God, catch up with what I’m doing’”.
We need patience to wait for God’s timing, wisdom to go on to other things. Sometimes a door of opportunity is, at other times you have other responsibilities, life circumstances. All I know is that God’s timing is everything. People who study the details of the Bible figure there are about 2-3 years between visits to Ephesus. Gossiping the gospel is dependent entirely on God’s timing. When the time is right.
2) We are invited to Gossip the Gospel, but what others hear is between them and God. I cannot force people to be Christians. READ Acts 19:9. When Sally and I were in S.F. we had a young woman and her baby live with us for a few months. Rochelle had a very antagonistic relationship with the baby’s father. One night he came to visit. I can still hear Rochelle loudly instruct me in front of the father, “Make him become a Christian.” She went on and on, then she left the room so that he and I were alone. And I looked at him and had no idea what to say.
Obstinate. Refused. Spoke against. To gossip the gospel is a risk. We cannot force the heart of another. When I am rejected in a harsh way because of my position or message, I tend to not return until something changes. Paul moves on.
3) Go where you are received. READ Acts 19:9b-10. Spread a wide net. I love spending time with people who are open, who want to talk about God, who want to share with me… Most people have never heard of the hall of Tyrannus, some sort of lecture hall, but the amazing thing about this little notation is that some estimate this to be the biggest outreach strategy in the N.T. One estimate is that the number of people who heard the gospel is //// one. Million. people!
An interesting sidenote: Paul never had an opportunity to preach like this again – He’s been on the go for 30 years, and this is like his grand finale – because soon after, at about age 58, Paul returned to Jerusalem with an offering for poor people in the struggling church in Jerusalem, was arrested, held for two years as a prisoner, and then sent to Rome for trial and death.
The point: go where you are heard. Talk to the curious. Enjoy gossiping the gospel. It’s not about the numbers like Paul’s millions, for you and me it may be one person, one opportunity.
4) It’s all God. READ Acts 19:11. It’s all God. I could make a case that the two most important words in the Bible: “God did” God chooses to use Paul/Carl/Chad _________. But God did the miracle, God changed the life, God showed himself. No pressure on me.
5) Acts 19:12 is a puzzle. READ. What’s that about? Sort of like the woman who was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus’ robes, but I can accept that easier because that’s Jesus … but Paul’s aprons and rags. I’m going to take the easy way out of this verse and give you an important principle of evangelism:
I don’t have to get everything that God does! God’s ways are beyond my understanding. I assume Acts 19:12 is about faith than magic, but the way it is said it sounds like a crazy formula. This is a time I wish another paragraph of explanation was added, but this is all we are given READ. There are many things beyond me. Who am I to think I have to understand all of God’s ways! I humbly accept God uses all sorts of people in all sorts of ways that are very different from me.
6) Evil is real. READ Acts 19:13-16. Look out for imposters. There are evil spirits. It’s not all fun and games. The presence of evil is part of gossiping the gospel. Many hold back because they don’t like confict/rejection. I wish I could promise that sharing the gospel will always be easy and you’ll have nothing but acceptance and success. The time will come when you will be criticized. /face evil.
At Chad’s ordination service the speaker, Nate Hettinga, had a fascinating insight into leadership, “You can only be a leader to the extent that you can endure pain…” I took that to mean there will be times when working with people will be hard; when those times come, how much can you endure? When it comes to the gospel, there will be enemies, especially when there are conversions. The devil does not want to see people give themselves to Jesus Christ.
7) Don’t give up on anybody. There will be Crazy converts READ acts 19:17-19. After a funeral years ago the grown son came up to me afterwards with an amazing testimony. “You’d never know it, but I’m the biggest drunk you’ve ever seen. I’m a commercial airplane pilot. When the chaplain came to her when she was dying, she gave her life to Jesus. Her life changed. I wanted what she wanted. I am now a Christian. My life is changed. I wanted you to hear my story.”
I love crazy people/stories. Who would ever think sourcers! Never give up because you never know the wonderfully crazy people that will come to the Lord and change their lives. BTW, don’t take these verses as permission to start burning books that are offensive…. The sorcerers are burning their own books as a sign of their transformation. The idea is me getting rid of my old life as I put my hope and trust in Jesus Christ. Not me deciding for you what you can’t read…
8) Truth will win! READ Acts 19:20. God always has the last word. May you be at peace as you gossip the gospel because the victory is already won in Christ Jesus. His perfect will will be done.
Gossip the Gospel! Here’s a classic story of the negative effects of gossip, but Acts turns it into a positive. The wise man wanted to teach a lesson to the town gossip. He had him bring a feather pillow, slit it open, and the feathers went flying! . “Gather all the feathers and put back in the pillow” the wise man said. “Impossible” said the gossip. “That is what happens when you gossip,” said the wise man. “Once you talk, the words fly from one mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind.” The pillow was ripped open in the book of Acts and the feathers are still flying. Let the gospel fly like feathers in the wind, so that they can never be gather together again. Gossip the gospel. It’s our purpose. It’s our calling. Scatter the message of Jesus Christ by the winds of the Holy Spirit. Amen.