Gazing or Going

Bible Book: Acts  1 : 6-11
Subject: Soul Winning; Witnessing; Evangelism; Holy Spirit, Work of

I am alarmed about something that churches are facing all across America, and we are dealing with in our Southern Baptist churches as well. In fact, in the SBC, our baptisms have fallen to a level that we once observed when America was half the size it is today. In other words, we are baptizing half as many people as our churches did a little over fifty years ago. One must take into account that our denomination is twice as large as it was then as well. Sadly, it is taking four-times as many people to baptize one new Christian as it did in the 1950s. One thing we know for sure, there is no shortage of people in our land who need the forgiveness, peace and eternal life that Jesus alone offers. So, what is the problem?

There are several factors contributing to the downturn in baptisms.

1. It is more difficult to talk to people today about your faith in Christ.

I have been in the ministry for fifty years, and I assure you that it was much easier to make a “cold call” at someone’s home in the early days of my ministry than it is today. People were thoughtful and kind in those days and if you showed up their door they felt it was only proper to give you a few minutes to talk to them. Granted, there were only two or three television channels back then and people talked to each other because they did not have cell phones, email and ways to chat with each other except face-to-face. In fact, many people in the south did not have a telephone in 1950, or at best they had a phone line connected to three or four homes. Everyone listened to everyone else’s conversations by phone back then through the party-line telephone system. It is difficult to get someone to come to the door these days, if they do not recognize you. So, yes, it is more difficult to go into someone's home and talk to them about their faith or lack of faith in Christ.

2. Almost everyone in America believed in God fifty years ago.

Today, there is an increasing number of people who do not believe in God, or least they do not believe in the personal God of the Bible. They have bought into the science message and, whether they fully admit it or not, maintain that humans are merely a higher form of animal. From the earliest days in school, through college, young people are repeatedly taught they humans evolved from a lower species. The idea of a Creator is laughed at and, like all kids, the student accepts the idea in order to be accepted by teachers and peers. Yes, it is difficult to challenge the false concepts being taught today.

3. Christians are not trained to share their faith.

When I was a young boy in a local church, we were trained in the proper way to witness to someone regarding our faith in Christ. At twelve years of age, I understood major doctrines in the Bible and through our youth program had memorized up to fifty Bible verses that were useful for my personal walk with the Lord and my ability to tell others about the Savior. Though no formal apologetics training was given, we were taught how to answer questions people might have about the Bible, the church and our Lord. In many churches today there is little or no training given to children and young poeple regarding Bible doctrines and the way to deal with an unbelieving world.

4. The belief in a personal devil and a real hell has diminished markedly in the past twenty to thirty years.

If sin has no consequences, and if there is no satanic force affecting us, why does one need a Savior? That is the reason many people will not listen to the message of salvation. They feel they have nothing to be saved ‘from’. Actually, they are correct. If the death and resurrection of Jesus has not power to save a person from an eternal judgment, why even consider the need for faith in God?

5. A belief system that rejects truth, or accepts everyone’s personal belief system as appropriate, makes witnessing to the truth very difficult.

If you share what Jesus means to you, and how important eternal life is, you will get a response similar to this: “That’s great for you. I’m happy it helps you, but I have my own belief system as it works for me. All religions are the same anyway!” The rejection of 'truth' presents a barrier to sharing the "Truth" (Jesus) with others. We have all heard the line: "Religion is good and if someone really beleives I'm sure that they go to heaven. After all, we may travel different roads but we're all going to the same place." Really? We know how skewed that idea is, but it is widely held today and is used by Satan as a wall of defense against our witness to Christ.

6. Christians don’t believe it is their responsibility to attempt to lead others to faith in Christ.

The average Christian will tell you that the pastors and missionaries are supposed to tell people about Christ, but it is not responsibility of every Christian to be a witness.

7. Christians don’t know how to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit in the process of helping people come to faith in Christ.

Church members are frightened to talk to people about Christ because they feel incapable and unprepared to do so. They don’t understand that leading someone to Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. A Christian never saves anyone; the best we can do is share and let God’s Spirit complete the work of bringing forth fruit from our efforts.

8. Christians are prohibted from witnessing because they have no life to back up what they need to say to a lost friend, family member or co-worker.

As I pastored through the years, I learned that many leaders in the church were involved in sinful activities, some of them for many years. They dare not try to witness to someone because everyone in the city or area knew of their not so secret life of sin. Sure, we all fail at times, but one who practices continual sin cannot be an effective witness for Christ.

One thing is for sure, Jesus clearly said that it is the task and responsibility of every Christian to make disciples. Look at Matthew 28:18-20, known as the Great Commission: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Today let us look once again at what the Lord Jesus told the church is most important regarding our duty as believers - indeed, let us look at the church's marching orders. In Acts 1:6-11 we see what Christ shared with his disciples as he was ready to depart back to the heavenly Father.

6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

I want you to look at this passage and note four things that can keep us from sharing out faith with a lost world – four things that may well be part of the modern church and is keeping us from reaching our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors with the wonderful saving grace of Christ.

I. Purpose - Ignorance

If we are ignorant of Christ’s purpose for each of us, we will surely fail. You might fail even if you know what you are to do, but you will certainly fail if you have no understanding that it is God's purpose for every believer to witness to those without Christ.

A witness is someone who says, "This is true and I know it." Those of us who have experienced salvation through Jesus know that it is real. We have personal proof in our hearts, minds and souls. We must not remain silent about that which is, without question, the most important thing in this world – Jesus saves!

There is a broad ignorance about the matter of sharing the gospel with the lost. Some are not aware that the Jesus taught specifically that we are to "GO" into all the world with the good news of salvation. The Lord, when He was upon the earth, sent witnesses out two-by-two to take the Good News to those around them. He was revealing to them and to us that this will be the great work of the Church.

Jesus told the parable of the sower, as recorded in Matthew 13. That parable was specific about the fact that we are to sow the seeds of the gospel, knowing that much of our work will fall on hard ground, on weeds or that the evil one will keep it from taking root in the hearts of the hearers. Yet, he pointed out that some of the seed will yield incredible results. Some people who do witness become discouraged because they see so little results. My friend, share your faith in Jesus with others, and do so in love and with humility, and then leave the results to God. He will bring forth results you will never know about until you meet Him in heaven!

To put it bluntly, if you as a Christian are ignorant of God’s purpose to witness and share your faith with others, you will fail. I declare that this is one reason we are not seeing people come to Jesus today.

II. Power - Impotence

A second reason many do not witness is that they lack a sense of God’s power to do so – they live with a feeling of impotence in the area of soul-winning. Why is this so? It is because we lack the infilling of the Holy Spirit!

Spiritual anointing leads to witnessing. You can say it another way – witnessing necessitates Spirit infilling! Let me make a bold statement - if you are filled with the Spirit of God, you will witness - you will not be able to help it! If you lack the infilling of the Holy Spirit, you are unlikely to witness. Jesus said it first when He declared, "You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES." How about that! When His power is fully poured out upon a Christian, the desire, opportunity and willingness to tell others about Jesus fills the Christian heart so full that it runs over in the form of a personal witness to the saving grace of God through Christ..

Now listen to this closely. The presence of the Holy Spirit's power does not just enable a person to witness, it insures that opportunities and willingness to do so is present in. If you and I are not witnessing, it means that we are not filled with God's Spirit. Since we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, this is an indictment against everyone one of us failing to share our faith!

In Canada there was a man who had a chest x-ray every year. One year, after his x-ray, he received a yellow card in the mail. Under the “Results of x-ray” these letters: N.E.P.T. He was thrown immediately into despair. He just knew that it meant, “Not Expected To Pull Through.” He called the office and asked what he was to do and how long he had to live. They practically laughed at him on the phone. They said, “It means No Experience of Pulmonary Tuberculosis.”

Friends, God gave us the power of the Holy Spirit to insure that the Church was going to “pull through”. If we are not willing to do the work of witnessing, and we are not willing to cast ourselves down and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit so that we might do so, He will find someone else, somewhere else to do it. WE cannot get on with the task of witnessing unless we have the spiritual power with which to do it.

III. Plan - Indifference

We must care - beginning at home in our Jerusalem. In reality our indifference casts its shadow over our land. Narcissism, humanism, hedonism have made us a very narrow, self-interested generation! We are to care about those in our Judea and even our supposed enemies in Samaria. Jesus came to us when we were His enemy – He died on the cross for those who crucified Him. We cannot witness, if we do not have the heart of Jesus beating within us.

I read a story one day about an interesting person in the history of our nation. I don’t know if it is true, but it certainly may be true of many little boys and girls in our society today. This boy walked across a church yard to get to school every day. He was unloved at home and grew up to be rough young person. The church did not want him because they considered him to be a delinquent. Later he grew up to be a twisted young man. One day he finally got the attention he never got at home or from that community church where he lived. He stuck a rifle out the window a school book depository window in Dallas, Texas and shot President John Kennedy to death. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald. If someone had taken an interest in that little "Samaritan," what a difference it could have made!

Sadly, I have met people through my years in the ministry who care deeply about missions on an international level. They are burdened for people in faraway places with strange sounding names. They pray and raise money for others to go across the seas to share with those people. I thank God for that kind of burden, however, those same people would never take one second’s notice of the person across the street from their house. They never speak to a co-worker or family member about Jesus. Listen to me, we must have a personal witness as well as a burden for missions beyond our personal reach. To say we care about people we don’t know and then ignore the people we do know is to practice a falswe religion!

IV. Persuasion – Insubordination

Right from the beginning it was necessary for the church to be persuaded to get on with the task of evangelizing the world. In other words, this was not going to be an easy task, or one which would be accepted at first glance by the church. As Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples stood looking up at this amazing event. They watched as Jesus disappeared into the heavens and they did so with wonder. But, something happened just then that we must be prompted to remember. The angels involved in the Ascension of Jesus spoke to the disciples and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” In other words, stop gazing and get going!!! The angels were telling the disciples to obey the instruction of Jesus and to begin praying and witnessing.

It is insubordination for us to fail in this important task. We spend much of our time “gazing” at amazing things in God’s Word. We do that in Bible study and worship services, but when do we GO? If we spent one-tenth the time going that we do gazing, the world might just come to Christ in greater numbers than anytime in history.


I must close, but let me share with you just how important this message is to each of us. We cannot afford to fail in the great task of sharing our faith. Making sure that we see people saved is not our business, but making sure that we have shared a clear, loving witness them is our business – it is God’s business and He gave it to us.

A woman pulled from a burning building sat down in the grass outside the collapsing structure and wept uncontrollably. They assured her that she was safe and that no harm would come to her. Through tears she said, "I know that I am alright."  So they asked why she was so upset. She answered, "I did not save anybody else. I did not help anybody get out of the building. There were many people in there and I did not help anyone!" They told her that she was fortunate to be out herself and that she could not have saved anyone. Still weeping she sobbed out these words, “But I did not even try! I did not even try."

It will be a shame one day before God to see the number that were rescued from the fire that did not even try to save anybody else! Let that not be one of us crying over our lost opportunities! We must stop merely gazing and get going in the task of sharing our faith with others.