Chapter 15

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
NETWORKING FOR EVANGELISM

OBJECTIVES:

Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

• Write the Key Verses from memory.
• Define “networking.”
• Explain how the church is a network.
• Discuss the strengths of networking.
• Discuss the importance of spiritual gifts and networking.
• Explain the unity that is to result from networking.
• Explain the practical application of networking.

KEY VERSES:

. . . that ye be like minded having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Philippians 2:2-4)

INTRODUCTION

You have already learned much about evangelism in this course, and perhaps the magnitude of the task is somewhat overwhelming to you. Truly it is a “great” commission!

But you are not alone in facing this challenge. You are part of a great host of laborers in the Lord’s harvest fields. In this lesson you will learn the importance of networking with others for evangelism.

NETWORKING

A network is the joining together of many segments to make a whole. Simply stated, a network consists of people talking to each other, sharing ideas, information, and resources to achieve a common goal. A network can be compared to a knotted fish net with a multitude of cells of

varying sizes, each linked to all others directly or indirectly. The human body itself is a network of nerves, muscle, and blood. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a divine network of three joined together.

When we network for evangelism, we talk with other believers, churches, and Christian organizations to share ideas, information, and resources to achieve the common goal of reaching the world with the Gospel. No denomination, church fellowship, or mission agency should think of itself alone as the chosen instrument of the Lord to evangelize the world. Networks in horizontal relationships with others are the plan of God as illustrated in the structure of the Church.

THE CHURCH IS A NETWORK

The Church is an example of networking. Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-31. In this passage the Church is pictured as a united body of many parts with gifted believers functioning together in ministry and mission. Just as a natural body, every member of this spiritual Body has a purpose. It is a cooperative, coordinated function with the rest of the Body. The controlling power of the network of the Church is the authority of God’s Word and the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE STRENGTH OF NETWORKING

People have used different examples to illustrate working relationships with others. Some people have used the example of a chain linked together:

If you work together as links in a chain, the weakest link affects your chain. The weak link can cause the chain to break, and communication between the others is broken.

Some people have organized for a task based on a pyramid structure, with leaders at the top, workers at the bottom:

This type of organization has similar problems as the chain structure. If leadership fails at the top or middle levels, or if people fail at the bottom, functioning is hindered:

For years, this is the way we organized people to do the work of the ministry. But this structure results in competition rather than cooperation. People step on others to get to the top. Believers should organize for the work of the ministry in the pattern of networking. Networking does not have the problems of the chain link or pyramid organizations.

Here is a diagram of a networking structure:

Even if a portion of the network fails, the surrounding network continues to function. The network functions similar to a natural body to which the Church is compared. If your thumb is broken, your other fingers or your other hand come to its aid to help it accomplish necessary tasks.

The same is true in the Body of Christ. When you network with others for evangelism, they provide strength where you have weakness. You provide strength where they have weakness. People do not compete with one another, for in networking there is no “top” to get to.

In networking, we combine resources for the purpose of evangelism. None of us has all the spiritual gifts. Alone, we have a limited range of abilities. We also have limited time, equipment, materials, and finances. But together, we have powerful resources to reap the spiritual harvest.

Another strength of the network is that it is always expanding as believers reach out to build relationships with those outside of the Body of Christ and bring them into the network. Thus, the network is ever increasing in size.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND NETWORKING

Ephesians 4:11-16 reveals that God has set special leadership gifts in the Church to equip or prepare the other members for the work of the ministry. These special leadership gifts are those of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.

The task of these leaders is to prepare people for the work of the ministry by helping them discover and use their own spiritual gifts. In the New International Version of the Bible, the word “prepare” comes from a Greek word that means setting a broken bone or putting a joint back in place. It implies bringing separated parts together so the body can function normally.
Networking does not eliminate God-given leadership. But instead of dividing the Body of Christ, it is the responsibility of Christian leadership to bring different groups of people together to accomplish the common goal which is the work of the ministry.

NETWORKING IS UNITY

In the original languages of the Bible, unity refers to “oneness and unanimity” in Greek and “joining together” in Hebrew. Unity is a very powerful force. God destroyed the work at Babel because He knew the people were united in purpose and nothing would be impossible for them (Genesis 11).

The most graphic illustration of unity is that of the Godhead. Jesus prayed that believers might be one, even as the Father was in Him and He in the Father:

That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou has sent me. (John 17:21)

The result of unity is evangelistic impact: “So that the world may believe.” Believers networking in unity are an answer to the prayer of the Lord for the purpose of evangelism.

The focus of our unity cannot be doctrinal, because of the various interpretations of doctrine by different denominations. It cannot be organizational because of the many Christian organizations. The focus must be unity of spirit enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The purpose of networking is not to form a single world church under a human authority, but it is unity within diversity that seeks to work together to accomplish God’s purpose:

Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself;

That in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

Despite doctrinal differences, all true believers have positional unity in Christ. We are all part of His Body. Because of this, We should seek functional unity in ministry:

. . . that ye be like minded having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Philippians 2:2-4)

It is by our loving unity that the world knows we are Christians:

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF NETWORKING

The practical application of networking for evangelism means that we set aside our own activities to cooperate with other believers to spread the Gospel. We share our ideas and research with others. We pray together and work together towards a common goal. We share resources of people, spiritual gifts, equipment, and finances–all for the purpose of evangelism.

A NEW NETWORK

The Bible records two separate incidents involving the use of a net in the natural world which illustrate a great spiritual truth. The first event occurred at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry and is recorded in Luke 5. The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Jesus told them:

Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught. (Luke 5:4)

Peter said:

Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (Luke 5:5)

When they let down the net they caught so many fish that it broke and they had to call their partners in another boat to come help them. The catch was so great that it filled both boats and they began to sink. Peter was amazed at this but Jesus told him:

Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men. (Luke 5:15).

The catch Peter was experiencing in the natural world was nothing compared to the great harvest

he would reap in the spiritual world as he became a fisher of men. A similar incident is recorded at the end of Christ’s ministry in John 21. The disciples fished all night and caught nothing. At Christ’s command they cast in the net and, once again, it was filled with fish. But this time was different than the first. The net did not break:

Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three; and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. (John 21:11)

These two events actually happened in the natural world, but they were parallels of a great spiritual truth. The first time the net broke, but the second time it did not. What made the difference?

The first net was an example of the efforts of man. Peter was a fisherman by trade. He knew the natural methods and the traditions of fishermen. Through the broken net Jesus showed him that the efforts of man alone could not fulfill the vision and work of God. When Peter realized the great work to which God was calling him, he cried out:

Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. (Luke 5:8).

Peter would become a fisher of men. The old network could not accommodate the great spiritual harvest he would reap. Peter would have to abandon the traditions of man. He must cross the line of separation between Jew and Gentile. The old network must be broken and he must become part of a new network.

Between the first and the second fishing trips, a new network was created. These natural fishing incidents were parallels of what happened in the spirit world. God was raising up a new network. It would break down the division between Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, slave and free. It would expand to include Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Titus and a host of other people, and it would stretch from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, to reach the uttermost parts of the world.

The challenge of the Great Commission cannot be accomplished with anything less than a new “net” in the spirit world. God said that in the last days He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. The Old Testament prophets predicted that in the final days of spiritual harvest the cycle would be so great that the plowman would overtake the reaper.

This great spiritual harvest cannot be reaped by one man, one organization, or one denomination alone. This is why God said in these final days He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh.
Responsible teamwork must be applied to our evangelistic efforts if we are to reach the harvest in time. The New Testament apostolic example required a team of dedicated people laboring effectively toward the single goal of evangelism. How much more this is needed as the shadows of night begin to fall across the spiritual fields of the nations of this world.

Remember how John and his brother were mending their nets when Jesus called them? They were attempting to repair something that was worn out. Jesus called them to leave their worn out nets and exchange them to become fishers of men. By responding, they became part of the new network for evangelism. Now the question is this: Will you remain behind trying to mend the old net of denominational and doctrinal differences, or will you hear the call of Christ? Will you lay aside the old network of competition for the new network of cooperation in order that the world may be reached with the Gospel?