1. Looking back on your faith journey so far, can you identify situations or people or moments that you now recognize as seeds that were planted and where God began to root your faith? What about those seeds stands out to you?
2. Who is someone in your life presently that you know does not share your faith? What is one practical, non-threatening (and non-weird) thing you can do for that person this week that will help point them to Jesus?
3. What has hindered you in the past from sharing your faith? How can you work through any discomfort or uncertainty you may feel?
Well hey everyone, my name is Justin and I’m the Youth Pastor here at Hope City Church. We are so glad that you chose to be with us this morning. We are in week 2 of a series titled, “Backyard Gospel.” Last week we talked about how evangelism can be as easy as sharing a drink with a neighbor. We challenged you to think of one person in your life that you would love to come to know Jesus. If you weren’t here last week, go check out the podcast. It was an incredible message.
Do you guys remember the very first moment your mom or your dad tossed you the keys to the car and said, “You drive”? There’s this rush of different emotions that come over you. It kind of felt that way when Pastor Peter came to me and told me that I’d be speaking this weekend. I’m really excited to be speaking to all of you this morning.
In this series, we’re talking about evangelism – sharing our faith with friends and family that don’t share our faith. A lot of people bug out when they hear the word Evangelism. Maybe you think of those young, hipster preachers that wear their jeans a little too tight… I mean, you can’t trust somebody that preaches in Skinny Jeans. Or maybe you think of the televangelist that is always asking you to sow a seed of $50. You know, the kind of people that make the good news sound like bad news.
I’ll never forget an experience I had a few years ago with a door to door evangelist. I was sitting in my living room when I heard an unexpected knock on the door. Now, for some of you, that’s enough to go hide in your room and pretend like nobody’s home. Like, you’re the type of person that spent money to have a camera installed specifically for moments like these. You get a ping to your phone, you open the app, and you see this guy and you’re like “NOPE! Stranger danger. I’m not talking to this guy.”
For others, you’re like me and you get excited. I jump up, open my front door and on the other side of it is this sweet, little old lady. We begin to have a little small talk. “How’s my day going? Do I have a few minutes to talk?” And then just out of nowhere she hits me with her evangelism pitch: “If you died today, do you know where you’d go?” The first thing that came to mind was, “Wait a minute! How’d I die? Somebody take me out? Was it that guy that gave me a “thumbs up” earlier after I accidentally cut him off?” At this point in my life, I knew where I was going. I was a Christ follower. Despite all of that, I still had this moment where I was like, “Ugh, maybe” I mean, how do you answer that question? Talk about awkward. Talk about uncomfortable. It was WEIRD.
Sharing your faith with your friends or your family shouldn’t be as weird as that. It. It can be as natural sharing your faith over a cold drink or grilling in your backyard – it’s talking about your story and listening to what’s going on in other people’s lives. At least, that’s how Jesus modeled it.
If you read through the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus never made people feel awkward or uncomfortable. He didn’t pressure anybody into accepting him. Instead, he accepted them and met them where they were. He listened to their stories. And that’s what you and I are called to do as followers of Jesus in our relationships with friends and family that don’t share our faith. We’re not supposed to grill them with the gospel, but we also don’t have to shy away from sharing our faith. We can share the difference that Jesus makes in our lives in a natural way.
According to Jesus, evangelism should be natural, not forced. It should be organic, not manufactured. It’s not about preaching and telling people what they need to believe. It actually begins with listening to their story. Asking questions that dive a little bit deeper than the surface and seeing where God is already at work.
A lot of times we think of our friends and family that don’t share our faith and we think, “There is no hope for them!” “They’re never going to change their ways.” I think that’s wrong. There’s no one that’s beyond hope. In fact, I think the Holy Spirit is already at work in their lives. God is always at work in their lives and He may even be using you to accomplish that work.
Let me show you what I’m talking about: If you want to grab the bible in your chair or follow along on the screens, we’re going to look at Mark 4 today. This is where Jesus tells the story of the organic process of Evangelism
The Parable of the Growing Seed
This is a great description of how sharing our faith is supposed to be organic and how we have to trust the Holy Spirit to actually do the heavy lifting. Here’s what it says Verse 26-29
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Jesus is like, “Hey, I want to give you a picture of what organic evangelism is supposed to look like.” Notice he uses an example that’s organic.
Let’s see what’s in the cooler this week! MUSTARD. Maybe I can put that on something Let’s see… Pringles… “once you pop, you can’t stop.” Ooooh yeah, we’ve got some Doritos… tempting… but I can’t eat carbs, right now. Let’s see…. AHHHHH. Sunflower seeds. I love sun flower seeds.
- Anybody like Sunflower Seeds?
Jesus tells this story about a guy that scatters seed
- Ever scatter grass seed on your yard? How do you do it?
You don’t plant them in a row
You’re not stingy with it, you’re generous. The reason is because not every seed is going land on good soil. Some of it won’t take root and sprout up. So, your goal is to spread as much of it as possible
You scatter it all over.
Some of it’ll end up on the drive way & patio… or the birds will eat it
The idea is this – don’t be stingy with your faith, be generous. Get it out there because you never know what’s going to grow. At some point, these seeds of faith that we scatter with our family and friends are going to take root. Verse 27:
27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how
IOW: Jesus is saying…
- THE PATH TO FAITH IS SUPERNATURAL
If you’re taking notes… write this down. THE PATH TO FAITH IS SUPERNATURAL
BUT we do play a part in this! Our job is that we have natural conversations with friends and family. And the way that they come to faith in Jesus is supernatural – It’s 100% dependent on the Holy Spirit
Anytime anybody becomes a Christian – It’s never the result of our efforts. It’s always the work of the holy spirit. Working behind the scenes, underground and out of sight where we can’t see.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Organic evangelism is not about a secret formula. There’s no script to memorize. There’s no secret recipe to follow that gets people across the line of faith. Every person has their own unique journey to knowing Jesus. And that journey is directed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our job is simply to plant seeds naturally… and trust god to grow their faith supernaturally.
One of my good friends, Arun, does an incredible job at this. Turn your attention to the screens to hear her story.
I love her story because it shows us that God works through an organic friendship.
Evangelism is a supernatural process from start to finish – It’s led by the Holy Spirit as we partner with him.
Very often, God is using the relationships you already have, God has placed you where you are on purpose, with purpose. You don’t work in that office on accident. You’re not on that job site by chance. You don’t work that shift with those people just because the manager scheduled you that way. God is at work.
Our job is to SCATTER SEEDS! Wherever we go – at work… home… school… our backyard… at the beach… we pepper our conversations with good news about Jesus and the difference he’s making in our lives.
And guess what? When you scatter seeds, and share your faith in a normal way… people respond… organically! That’s the first principle. The second principle is:
- THE PATH TO FAITH IS ORGANIC
You know what ORGANIC MEANS, right? It’s natural. It’s not artificial. Not manufactured.
Look at these Doritos: They’re SPICY NACHO. Can somebody tell me what field SPICY NACHO grows in? Let’s take a look at these ingredients.
Look, we all know these bad boys aren’t natural. They’re modified by humans in a factory. They take all of these different additives and force them together to manipulate the flavor so that it tastes like SPICY NACHO.
That’s not how the path to faith is supposed to be. Faith is not modified by man. It can’t be produced in a factory. It is only directed by the spirit of God
But look at how Jesus described the process:
28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Notice in the parable how there are 5 different stages of growth. There’s the seed… stalk… head… full kernel… ripe grain! 5 different stages of growth for a seed of faith.
What’s the point? Evangelism is not this one-time event. It’s never like, “say these magic words and VOILA, new Christian!” The third principle is:
- THE PATH TO FAITH IS A PROCESS
Pastor Peter says this all the time and I love it because it’s true, “Faith is a journey, not a guilt trip.” The truth is that everybody in this room is at different place in that journey. We all have a story
There might be some here this morning that would say, “I’m not on a journey. I’m not interested in this whole God thing. I’m only here for the cold brew coffee.”
Others might say, I’m just kicking the tires of faith right now. I’m sort of interested in this God thing.
And then some of you are sold out to Jesus. You’re a part of the dream team. You’re living this thing out.
We’re all at different places on our journey: My journey to faith didn’t happen overnight! It’s gone through stages. The seeds were planted my Sophomore year of HS in a small-town church in Maryland and finally took root a year later after I moved to Florida. Truthfully, I don’t know if I would have gone back to church after the move. It wasn’t on my radar until one day after class, a girl named Brittany handed me an invite to church, (Just like these). I ended up going to that church and giving my life to Jesus. In fact, I met my wife at this church, I was called to ministry at this church. In 2016, we left Florida in pursuit of ministry. Over the last 2 years, we have become parents, we’ve moved from FL to Baltimore to Detroit, we’ve watched my mother battle cancer and win.
And then back in June God called us to move from Detroit to Sarasota. Right when we were getting comfortable and settled in. Can I be vulnerable for a moment? Moving stretched us. It wasn’t easy to say “yes” to God when he called us to Hope City. We have no doubt that God called us to be FOR Sarasota. Hope City our home. We love it here! But it wasn’t easy to move AGAIN. It’s not easy being the lead youth pastor. In Detroit, I was the #2 guy. The reason we’ve been so successful is because we have such an incredible Youth Staff – people that are sold out for the next generation. And I am so honored to serve with them week in and week out. My faith is growing.
Why do I share this with you? Because we all have a story. We all have a journey
While everybody has a different journey to Jesus – most people go through 5 STAGES OF GROWTH – these 5 stages are what they call the 5 thresholds
THE FIVE THRESHOLDS OF FAITH
The first threshold most non-Christians cross on their journey to Jesus is:
From distrust to trust (of a Christian)
One of my FAVORITE conversations to have is when people ask me what I do for a living. I kind of grin because I know that what I’m about to tell them is going to throw them WAY off. I get a lot of different responses too. Some people get really weird about it and others are like, “Well, that explains the long tees and skinny jeans.” The truth is that a lot of people don’t trust Christian’s. Especially Pastors.
But somewhere along the line: most people who come to faith in Christ, first learn to trust a Christian. They may have had a negative experience, but the first threshold is when they realize that all believers are not whack-a-doodles
That’s how the first seed gets planted.
Think about your own story of coming to Christ – you probably got to know someone who was following Jesus first.
That’s threshold #1. Threshold #2 is when non-Christians move…
From complacent to curious (Stalk)
Like the stalk… they poke their head up and start asking questions. Instead of not caring about spiritual matters, they start feeling curious. They might ask you, “what’s your church like?” In that moment, you’re going to get super excited, but don’t scare them off. Take a breath, play it cool and tell them about our church.
This is what you do, you say “We meet at Tatum Ridge Elementary School on Sundays at 10AM. When you pull up, you’ll see Hope City flags, there will be people to greet you at the door. Grab a cup of cold brew coffee… it’s free and it’s amazing. We have a great kid’s program.” Walk them through it.
When they start asking questions, you know that you’re making progress.
The 3rd Threshold non-Christians cross on their journey to Jesus is:
From closed to open to change (Head)
This is often the hardest threshold to cross. People might start asking questions about Jesus… they might be curious… but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re opened to applying it to their personal life at this point.
One of the most obvious things I can think of is tithing. It’s like, “You want me to do what with my money?” When that basket comes around, it’s like “I’m out!” Making changes to your life is hard stuff and it takes time. Whether that’s giving of your finances or giving up an unhealthy habit… This can often be an obstacle to faith
In fact, Earlier in Mark 4, Jesus tells of some seed that is scattered among thorns. At first it grows, but something happens:
19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
What are the obstacles to faith? Jesus mentions a couple of them:
- Worries of this life – Stress/Anxiety/Fear of what people will think
- Deceitfulness of Wealth – If a person is affluent or well-off, that can be an obstacle to faith. That’s why Jesus said it’s hard for a rich person to enter Heaven. Typically, there is no burning platform or crisis or discomfort in their life that money can’t solve at some level.
- Wealth can cause you to believe that you are good enough
So, the seed is unfruitful… Seed sprouts a stalk… then grows a head… then the kernel. Threshold #4 is:
From meandering to seeking (kernel)
Most non-Christians don’t want to make decisions right away. They don’t want to be strong armed. They’re just browsing. This stage is when a person moves from generic ideas and thoughts to actively seeking answers to the big questions of life. Who is Jesus? What happens when we die? Then questions get really personal. The question I’m asking right now is, “God why did my mother’s cancer come back?” They’re seeking answers to big questions and that’s when the ground is now ready for ripe grain… which is the last threshold It’s when people move from:
From the world to the Kingdom (Ripe Grain)
When a seed and a soul is ready for harvest time… and that person crosses from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God. The holy spirit works and they have this realization, “this isn’t just good news about Jesus, this is good news for me.” They decide, “I’ve been in charge of my life for so many years. I’m letting go and I’m putting Jesus in control.” Jesus, you be LORD. You be the boss of my life.
That’s what we pray for every week at Hope City. Our prayer is that the gospel would take root in your life and produce fruit.
20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
You might plant a seed and it may have this ripple effect. You never know what might happen. It may be tempting to think, “I’m not a good evangelist… I’m not really good with my words.” Don’t buy into that thought! You might think, “I’m a brand-new Christian. I’ve have to put some mileage in before I can share my faith.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Some of the most passionate, most effective evangelists I’ve ever seen are brand new believers. They’re baby Christians. Why? Because it’s fresh to them. They didn’t grow up in the church and their faith isn’t stale. The change is obvious and organic. They naturally want to tell others about what Christ has done for them
And you can do that anywhere. You can do that in a backyard BBQ or you can do it over coffee with a friend.
Often times, it’s easy to get trapped in a Christian bubble where all of our friends are people from church or small group. That’s great! That’s amazing! But Christ calls us to build bridges to non-believers and to intentionally take risks for the gospel. We’ve got to trust the holy spirit enough to stretch ourselves and step out of our comfort zones
I want to challenge you to do 2 simple things: INVEST AND INVITE
The first one is: INVEST
Pour time and effort into your relationships with those that don’t share your faith in your everyday life. It might be a co-worker… a buddy at the gym… a mom from your fitness class. Whoever it may be. Invest in building a relationship of trust… Don’t be weird. Be normal. You can treat them to coffee and catch up on life. You can say to a co-worker, lunch is on me today “what would you like?” This is my go to. Most people love coffee and everyone loves food. I love to treat people to stuff because it gives me an opportunity to get face to face with them. Little things like that could be all you need to build trust.
Did you know: 82 % of the unchurched are likely to attend church if a friend, co-worker, neighbor or family member invites them. 8/10 people that you ask would most likely say YES! As of right now, stats show that only 2% of church members in the US invite an unchurched person to church. We need to change that statistic!
The second thing you do while you continue to invest is you: Invite
As you invest in your relationships with non-believers, we’re going to create fun opportunities over the weekend for you to invite your friends too. That’s why we do things like Super Hero Sunday or Easter Egg Drop. It’s to give you an easy invite tool. Listen, you don’t have to grow the seed. Your job is to scatter it and let God do the rest. All you’ve have to do is place this invite in their hand and say, “Hey, want to come to church with us this weekend?”
They say no! okay. INVEST, INVEST, INVEST, and then hit them with another INVITE when the next event comes around at Hope City. I gave my life to Jesus because a senior in high school scattered invites everywhere she went. I know it’s simple – but it works.
Another way we can share our faith is through baptism. Baptism is a public proclamation that you have decided to follow Jesus. Maybe you’re here and you’ve made a decision to follow Jesus, but you’ve yet to be baptized. A great next step on your faith journey is to get baptized. Maybe you’re here and you were baptized as an infant. We believe that baptism should be a decision that you make for yourself. Your next step might be to get baptized.
Two weeks from today we are having baptism weekend. Why wait? You can sign up to get baptized. When you exit, look for a table with BLUE balloons. That’s where you can sign up. We want to make this next step as comfortable as possible. That’s why we’re having a class for you next week at the Hope City HQ immediately after service. You’ll be able to ask whatever questions you may have about baptism and the process. If that’s you, take the plunge. Get signed up to be baptized today.
Remember this as you go into your week, you don’t have to GRILL them with your faith. Just talk about your faith around the grill