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Feb 12, 2017

Building a Great Search & Rescue Team

Building a Great Search & Rescue Team

Passage: Ephesians 6:18-20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Search and Rescue

Category: Evangelism

Keywords: fears, insecurities, prayer, evangelistic temperature, motivation for sharing


This message continues our focus on how to become good Search & Rescue team members in the kingdom of God. We address some of our fears and insecurities as well as some of God's truths and tools for answering them.


Building a Great Search & Rescue Team

February 12, 2017

INTRO:  Share your answer to a couple of questions with someone sitting around you today:

  • If you could introduce someone who has grown up in a big city like A. or Chicago, Calcutta, India or Beijing, China, to your favorite place on earth, where would that be and why?
  • If you could take someone to your favorite restaurant, what would it be and why?

Did you know that you were just being an evangelist?  Not necessarily in the strict biblical sense of the term.  But you were just doing what a good evangelist does—try to convince someone of something they have found really enjoyable and good and which they think other people would really love too. 

            We all evangelize all the time.  When we try a new restaurant that has amazing food, we want others to experience it.  We may even take them and pay the tab so they can enjoy our discovery. 

Some folks (I’m not saying who…Robert…or John!) are so enthusiastic about a particular sports team that they buy the jersey and wear the team colors and name of their favorite player not to mention team stats.   

Truth is, when we love something, we talk about it.  And we usually try to convince other people to join us in our enjoyment of the person, place or thing we love so much. 

So why is it that we have such difficulty talking with our friends, our families, our neighbors and our acquaintances about Jesus and what he’s done to change our lives?

  • I don’t have difficulty talking about Sandy to my friends.
  • Rather than shying away from talking about my children, I’m always on the lookout for a listening ear and interested acquaintance.
  • I feel the same way about Mosaic. I like telling on you all!  I like “bragging about”…in a spiritual sort of way, of course…how genuinely loving and kind you all are. 

So why do we get so tongue-tied when it comes to talking about the Gospel or Jesus or God and His truth? 

  • I don’t think it’s because we don’t love Him; we do.
  • I don’t think it’s because we don’t want others to share in the experience of being a child of God; we do.
  • I don’t even think it’s because we don’t believe it’s true; we do.

I don’t think there is really any other explanation for the difficulty most of us have in sharing Jesus with others than that there is a very BIG spiritual battle raging around and in us every time we feel the Spirit of God nudge us to speak up about Jesus.  I haven’t met a Christian yet who doesn’t feel that battle.  And I don’t know of a zealous evangelist for Jesus that doesn’t get a whole lot of push back for sharing Christ with others. 

We can talk all day about sports teams or food or vacations or work without having anyone get their hackles up.  But talk for 3 minutes about Jesus with people who don’t know him and I can guarantee you will frequently find people plenty willing to push back. 

            How do you explain that if there isn’t some strong spiritual dynamic operating around this whole issue of sharing Jesus with others? 

            It’s not a new dynamic, however.  In fact, if I were to ask you, “Who do you think was the greatest, most effective N. T. evangelist?” what would you say?  (Peter?  Paul?)  I think it’s safe to say that the Apostle Paul was THE most powerful 1st century evangelist that we know of.  He started more churches in more cities than anyone else we know of in the early church. 

            So would it surprise you to learn that one of the foremost N.T. passages on spiritual warfare, Ephesians 6, is the very same passage where Paul himself asks others to pray for him in regard to his boldness in sharing Christ with others? 

19 “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” 

This request of one of the greatest evangelists to ever live comes right after these words about the spiritual battle we are in:

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

            One of the things I asked you to do last week was share with me the personal doubts that assail you whenever you say, “Yes, I want to be part of God’s “Search & Rescue” team in this life but….”  About 30 of you gave me your responses.  So I collated them and grouped them into general categories of reasons why we all have such difficulty sharing Jesus with people disconnected from Him. 

            Basically our answers seemed to boil down to a couple of things:

1.) Things that are going on inside OUR heads and hearts, mind and emotions.

2.) Thinks we think are going on in other people’s heads and hearts, minds and emotions. 

Take a look at the responses.

OUR Personal Feelings

  1. Feelings of INADEQUACY
    1. I don’t know enough
    2. I’ve not changed enough myself
    3. I’m not Christ-like enough myself
    4. I’m not a strong enough Christian
    5. My own sins
    6. I’m not good at it.
    7. I’m not qualified to tell them.
    8. I get tongue tied talking to people.
    9. I don’t have the gift of evangelism.
    10. Awkward moments
    1. I won’t know what to say/
    2. I’ll say the wrong things.
    3. I feel self-conscious
    4. I don’t have time to build the relationships needed to share Jesus or care for new believers.
  1. FEAR…
    1. of rejection. (5 x)
    2. of people.
    3. of what they will think of me.
    4. that I won’t be liked or accepted.
    5. of losing a friend if we conflict.
    6. of reprisals from that person or my company.
    7. of pushing someone away from truth by being too forward with it.
    8. It’s just intimidating!

Anybody in here who can’t identify with at least one thing on this list?  Of course not.  We ALL are in the same spiritual battle…and nothing makes that more obvious than trying to rescue people from the clutches of Satan and hell. 

What does the word of God have to say to each of those common, personal feelings?

#1 & #2-- Inadequacy & Self-doubt:

2 Corinthians 3:5, 6  (NIV)

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

How about FEAR?

Paul himself struggled with fear:  I Corinthians 2:3-- I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.

Yet he encouraged his young, rather timid son I the faith not to let fear keep him from experiencing God or doing what is right. 

2 Timothy 1:7“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)

            The Apostle Peter, well acquainted with persecution for the sake of the Gospel, commanded his spiritual children not to let fear silence them. 

I Peter 3:14-- But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”

Paul reminded the church in Philippi that watching other believers suffer persecution can embolden us to share Christ “without fear.” 

Philippians 1:14-- And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Luke wrote about how fear of God can drive away fear of people and actually lead to a church that grows because it’s members are sharing Jesus and seeing new followers of Christ added to the church:

Acts 9:32-- Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

So looking at what Peter and Paul and Luke and the Early Church all experienced and said about the challenge THEY faced sharing the Gospel of Christ, what would you say WE should DO to follow in their footsteps?  What practical actions can we take to raise the evangelistic passion and temperature of our souls? 

1.) READ about the stories of our brothers and sisters who are suffering for following Christ and bring the Gospel to others.

2.) Memorize:  Get these passages of Scripture in our hearts and heads about the love of God for us.

3.) PRAY for each other as the Early Church prayed for each other:  boldness, adequate words, freedom from fear, fear of the Lord rather than people, opportunities.

Remember the last 3 challenges I gave to join God’s Search & Rescue team last week?  PRAYER, PROXIMITY and PROCLAMATION.

1.) PRAYER—for spiritually disconnected people.  This week I’m asking us all to add prayer for each other and our own boldness, fearlessness and Gospel-talk.

  • What have we done with that? How will we grow God’s heart of love for the lost if we don’t?  How will we see their hearts prepared for the Gospel if we don’t?  How will we get the boldness and overcome the forces of darkness/evil if we don’t pray???

Lastly this morning, let’s talk a little more about the 3rd challenge from last week:  PROCLAMATION…talking about Jesus with someone.

We started this morning talking about how we are all evangelists all the time for a host of things we really like or enjoy—good food, beautiful places, nice people, great movies.  We all “proclaim” what we enjoy and value. 

ILL:  What is the difference between someone who asks you out for coffee or lunch so that they can spend more time with you, discover more about you and even possibly become a close friend or soul-mate AND someone who invites you to coffee of lunch so that they can recruit you to a multi-level marketing organization and make more money because of you? 

  • One values you for who you are while the other values you for what you can do to make them wealthier.
  • One loves you by giving of their time (and maybe money) to enrich your life while the other feels like they might just be using you to enrich their life.

We can just smell the difference between someone who is passionate about a relationship with us because they love us and someone who is trying to develop a relationship with us because of something they are trying to get for themselves.  The same is true when it comes to sharing Jesus with spiritually disconnected people.  They can tell when we are spending time with them or sharing the message of Christ out of a sense of duty or guilt or because it gives us something (like a “spiritual project” or sense of personal accomplishment).  But when we do anything just because we love someone or feel compassion for them or truly want to bless them by giving them the best we have to give in life, people can tell the difference. 

            We know from the Bible that it was and is LOVE that compelled and moves God to go after sinful, rebellious people like us. 

  • John 3:16
  • Romans 5:8-- But God demonstrates his ownlove for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Ephesians 2:4, 5-- But because of his great love for us,God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
  • Romans 8-- 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here’s the reality:  We search for what we value.

Every search-and-rescue operation happens because someone values someone else.  Every search you make on the internet happens because you value something. 

How many of us wear a ring of some sort?  Do you ever find yourself fiddling with it?  That’s a good thing, especially if you are married.  It’s there to remind you of the vow to God you made to value and cherish your spouse.  Or maybe you have a ring that was given to you by a family member.  It reminds you that you are part of something bigger and loved by others. 

ILL:    Kevin Harney tells the story of being in a movie theater watching a show with some friends. He says, “I had taken my ring off.  I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing as I moved the ring from finger to finger to thumb, using only one hand.

            “At one point, while I was moving this precious circle of gold from my pointer finger to my thumb, it popped off and hit the floor.  I heard, cling, cling, and then silence.  Then there was another clinging sound, then another.  As best as I could figure, the ring had rolled two or three rows down from me

            He went on to explain that, apart from the gold itself, the ring wasn’t particularly expensive—no diamonds or precious stones.  But it was the ring his wife had given him when she vowed her life to him.  It had HUGE value because of its personal significance. 

            So, while the movie was still playing…and since there weren’t many other people in the theater, Kevin slipped out of his chair, in the dark, and moved stealthily down 3 rows to begin his search.  Remember where he was:  in a movie theater!  Just imagine the Garland Theater or AMC downtown.  They’re not known for hospital-like cleanliness. 

            He says, “I got down on my knees and slowly slid my hands across the floor.  Inch by inch and foot by foot my palms slid across the area under the chairs.  After about 5 minutes my hands were stickier than the floor…and I still hadn’t found my ring.  So I moved up a row and started the process all over again.  Still no ring.

            Then a thought flashed through his mind.  “Maybe the ring had slipped into one of the cracks between chairs!”  He had avoided those areas because, well, you can guess why:  they were even more repulsive than the floor.  So, breathing through his mouth and steading his nerves, he upped the ante and dug between the chairs with his fingers. 

            He says he found all kinds of surprises…but not his wedding ring. 

            Now, why would a guy go to all that trouble for a little band of metal?  Clearly, the object of his search was so valuable that he would do whatever it took to find it again. 

Doesn’t that sound just like God?  When Jesus came to earth, that journey was far more humbling and repulsive than getting down on your hands and knees in a dark movie theater.  He got his hands far dirtier…and bloodier…than we ever could in a theater floor.  Why?  Because of love.  Because of the value God places on us.  And He did it even though He knew that most people would keep running and keep hiding and keep hating Him.  God got dirty bearing our sin on the cross because of love. 

            Don’t you feel the difference?  He didn’t do it out of guilt or duty.  He did it out of love. 

When WE get down on our hands and knees in this world searching for lost sinners like us because our hearts are filled with the same love of Christ, people feel the difference.  They may still hate the message and even the messenger, but they will know they are not a project or a means to making us feel better about ourselves.  They will know we’re not sharing Jesus because it’s our religious homework assignment. They will know they are LOVED because love truly feels different!  That’s why love is THE most effective driving force for evangelism, hands down. 

            That’s also why enjoying the love of God for us will change us. 

That’s why spending time talking with the God of love in prayer will change us. 

That’s why singing about the greatness of His love and reminding each other of that love and reading His love letters to us in the Bible will fill our hearts with genuine love.  It will enable us to walk down the street…or the hall at school…or the corridors at work…and see people as God sees them. 

            Jesus had a way of seeing the sick and stopping, of noticing the broken and reaching out, of making space and time for rowdy children whom others didn’t think were important…and touching those like lepers who everyone else saw as untouchables. While being holy God in human flesh, Jesus was more at ease around a table full of sinners than a temple full of sanctimonious clergy types. 

            I think that happened as he spent time with the Father, as he “prayed.”  That’s why prayer is SO vital.  We can’t hope to have the love of God in our hearts without spending time in the company of our loving Father. 

APP:  So that is what I think we need to do more when we come together:  spend some time in God’s presence, in the loving lap of the Father.  This morning, I would like to invite us to pray about the love of God and about that love gripping us more and more.  I would like us to pray about our lost family members, lost neighbors, lost coworkers and classmates.  Let’s pray to love every person God puts in our path the way God loves them…and as we love ourselves.  Let’s pray to value every person we meet as Christ values them and for the willingness to get our hands dirty searching for them on the dirty theater floor of this world. 


Questions for further study, reflection and discussion:

1.)  Do you agree or disagree with the contention that sharing the Gospel of Christ is actually part of the spiritual battle?  Reread Ephesians 6:10-20.  How can different components of the armor of God help us with witnessing?  How can you personally and others use prayer to become verbal about witnessing of Christ?  How and what do you think we should be praying specifically for each other when it comes to verses 18-20.

2.)  Identify 2 or 3 of the strongest personal obstacles to boldly proclaiming the Gospel.  Then identify at least two verses of Scripture that speak directly to that issue.  How can those verses help you be renewed and transformed in your thinking and feelings about Gospel sharing?

3.)  Spend some time reading a handful of the stories found in one or two of the reference books cited about the persecution and martyrdom of God’s people.  What does hearing those stories do to you?  Does it make you want to be bolder or more fearful? 

4.)  Motivation in witnessing matters.  While none of us will probably ever have the best, God-given motivations 100% of the time, what can we do to be more deeply and personally impacted by the love of God that moved Jesus to constantly reach out to others disconnected from God?  What can we do to see every person we encounter as Jesus saw (and loved) them?  How does prayer and worship affect your experience of God’s love?  What other things help you embrace, feel and be changed by the love of God?

5.) Share what you are doing differently or experiencing with Christ these days that is helping raise your evangelistic temperature one degree?  What could your small group do that will help?