Lesson 8

Approaches to Witnessing

(Acts 16)
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Introduction: Have you ever wondered exactly how you should approach converting unbelievers? Should you hope to catch their interest in the future by talking about Revelation? Should you point of the important differences between your church and others? Should you start out with the benefits of being a Christian? Should you start out with important doctrines? Let's see what the Bible teaches us on this topic!

  1. Goal One

    1. Read Acts 16:16-18. Was this slave girl a witness for Jesus?

      1. Did Paul and Silas appreciate this "witness?"

        1. What kind of tone do you think she used?

        2. Would it have been better if she had gone ahead of them like an announcer, instead of following them? (By following, she sounds like a heckler.)

      2. Why did the evil spirit cause this girl to shout out this true message? How was the devil benefitted by this? (It could have been that the devil wanted it to appear that Paul's work was somehow associated with fortune telling. It could also have been that the devil simply wanted to annoy Paul and Silas.)

        1. Have you ever found in your witnessing that one of the devil's helpers is trying to antagonize you?

        2. Is there a lesson in witnessing here that even true messages can be inappropriate and inspired by the devil?

    2. Let's read on. Read Acts 16:19-22.

      1. What kind of a dispute did the owners have with Paul and Silas?

      2. What kind of dispute did they say they had with the disciples?

        1. Why did their complaint differ from their actual concern? (They did not want to complain about a petty money issue. They had to show it was not the money, but the principle of the matter!)

        2. Did you notice they had an appeal to patriotism? (Verse 20-21: "These Jews ... us Romans")

      3. Why did Paul perform this miracle of casting out the evil spirit from the girl? Because the slave girl wanted it, or because he lost his temper, or neither reason?

        1. Was Paul's action intended to be a witness to this slave girl?

          1. Was it intended to be a witness to others?

          2. What would those who witnessed this conclude about the authority of Jesus?

      4. Why do you think the owners did not stop the slave girl from harassing the disciples earlier?

        1. Did they deserve what they got?

    3. Read Acts 16:23-24. What kind of prisoners did the guard believe that he had in Paul and Silas? (Dangerous. Both his instructions and his actions in putting them in an "inner cell" and putting them in stocks showed that he thought they were dangerous.)

    4. Read Acts 16:25-30. We now come to the heart of our study on witnessing. How do you explain that the guard asked about salvation at this point in time? There is no indication he knew anything about these two disciples other than they were dangerous?

      1. Were fellow prisoners the only ones who were listening to Paul and Silas praying and singing? (Apparently the guard had been listening too.)

      2. If the guard heard enough to know to ask to be saved before the earthquake, why did he wait until after?

        1. Is there a lesson here in witnessing for us?

        2. Is there a difference between knowing and being convicted of something?

      3. What is necessary to bring someone from mere knowledge to conviction?

      4. What caused conviction to come on this guard? (He felt that Paul and Silas had saved his life.)

    5. Read Acts 16:31. Consider the various approaches to witnessing. How would you describe the approach of Paul and Silas to this guard? Why didn't they first explain Jesus' teaching ( Matthew 25:36) about prison ministries?

      1. Why did Paul and Silas refer first to Jesus in response to the guard's question about how he could be saved?

      2. Our lesson suggests that, like Paul and Silas, our first step in witnessing is to tell others about Jesus. Why should our "goal one" be to start with Jesus instead of the distinctive doctrines of the church or some aspect about Christian living? (Telling a person about Jesus and what He has done for us creates the "guard situation" -- people realize their life has been saved by Jesus.)

  2. Conviction to Desire

    1. Read Acts 16:32-34. Were Paul and Silas teaching the guard and his family doctrines? (It seems at least some doctrines were taught because the text says they taught the "word of the Lord.")

    2. Is the sequence here is important? The guard did not ask how to be saved based on the praying and singing (v.25) of Paul and Silas. The earthquake motivated him (convicted him) to ask how he could be saved. It was after he asked to be saved that the disciples taught the word to him. Why, as a practical matter, is it that approaching people first with Jesus and not doctrines is the best way?

      1. If you were able to show someone the truth of a doctrine in the Bible, why would they not follow that truth? Isn't our job to show people that they should follow clear teachings of the Bible?

        1. Has there ever been some Biblical action that you know you should take in your life, but you do not take it? What reasons might you have for not doing something the Bible commands? (Mere knowledge, mere understanding, is not enough for most people. They have to have a desire to do something. Generally, people "desire" not to follow some doctrine that requires a change in their life.)

        2. What is the best way to create a desire in someone to obey the teachings of the Bible? (People are motivated by love, they are motivated by appreciation. When a person understands the cross, and what Jesus suffered for them, they understand His love and that motivates them. The love and sacrifice of Jesus softens the heart of the unbeliever. This guard believed the disciples had saved his life and that motivated him to be willing to change.)

  3. Desire to Action

    1. Why did the guard wash the wounds of Peter and Silas? (This shows his compassion and appreciation.)

    2. The guard and his family were then "washed" (baptized) by the disciples. After we teach a person about Jesus, and they are motivated to believe, should we suggest that they be baptized?

    3. Is this a "rule" of witnessing? Whenever you witness, should you give a "call" to action?

      1. If you say, "yes," how important is the call? (The call is critical to turning desire into action.)

    4. As you look back at this story, what were the most critical facts that caused the story to happen? (Casting out of the evil spirit and the earthquake were the critical "event." We should not leave this story without, once again, recognizing the critical role the supernatural, the Holy Spirit, has in setting up the background facts for witnessing. The work of the Holy Spirit, coupled with faithfulness of Paul and Silas, converted this guard and his family (and who knows how many other people.)

    5. Friend, do you see how this works? Our witnessing must first start with Jesus. That will melt the heart of the individual so that they will be inclined to obey the doctrines. However, we need to be alert to help move individuals from mere knowledge and conviction to doing something about it! Will you agree to carefully consider your approach to witnessing so that you can be a better witness?

  4. Next Week: Church Life and Witnessing.

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Lessons on Witnessing

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