Ecclesiastes: Guide to Evangelism
Mike WilsonWHEN IT COMES TO TEACHING the gospel, many of us become intimidated too easily. We gulp and become paralyzed as we ask the question, "Where do I start?" Quick and easy solutions are marketed in great abundance. In this day of instant breakfast, fast food restaurants, and 30-second commercials, we have come to expect packaged thinking. In evangelistic work, we use charts, diagrams, filmstrips, and ready-packaged programs designed to make it easy.
There are two shortcomings in this approach. First, it exalts human wisdom, human marketing skills, and man-made devices for packaging the gospel - all of which can actually detract from the power of the gospel itself. Second, in our unending search for "instant" methods, we have neglected the easiest and most effective way of presenting the message - to let the text speak for itself. God's word contains the mind of our Almighty Creator. Inherent in His revealed will is all the wisdom and power needed to convert a lost soul (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18,21; 2:12-13). Let the Spirit of God do the convicting and converting in the very format that He has utilized in revealing the message.
All you need to begin your Bible study with a friend is a well-lighted room, some scratch paper for drawing an occasional chart or emphasizing a point, and most of all, an open Bible. Have your "student" read the word with you. After each paragraph, ask some specific questions to help him/her draw the meaning directly from the text itself.
"What is God telling us here?" "What is the writer saying?" Sometimes you'll get a puzzled look or a totally off-base answer, but, generally speaking, the questions will force your friend to focus on what the Word of God is saying. Oftentimes, he will re-read the verse or paragraph silently. His nose will be in the Bible as he reads with an exciting sense of discovery. I've heard comments like, "Wow! I've never realized this archaic Bible was so relevant to modern life!"
Where in the Bible should you start? Some have used a Luke-Acts reading program with tremendous success. If you are studying with one of the ever-growing number of people in our society who is not yet convinced of Jesus' identity, the Gospel of John is a good place to start. I can't recommend a better tract on "Why You Should Believe That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." With most people, however, in one-on-one studies, a great place to start is Ecclesiastes.
This book of wisdom can be used with good success in many situations. It is extremely relevant, it is non-threatening, and it has a wide appeal because its message is universal in scope. In these respects, it is a natural "door opener" to use in the first meeting of a class, or even in a social setting that evolves into an informal Bible study. A few years ago, I stumbled onto a commentator's statement which reinforces my understanding of this book's function in the plan of God: In an increasingly secular world, Ecclesiastes serves as a "negative preparation" for the gospel of Christ. It prepares the soil of the heart to receive the gospel by focusing attention on the grimness of the alternatives.
What is the meaning of life? What brings true and lasting happiness? How can I achieve personal fulfillment? From the standpoint of firsthand, and sometimes worldly, experimentation, the author allows us to follow him as the search progresses. With the drive of a Type A personality, he proceeds to investigate every major realm of human pursuit: higher learning and wisdom; sensual pleasure; power and position; materialism, and wealth. In the quest for meaning to life, all the historic pursuits of sinful men are nothing but dead-end streets. They promise much, but deliver little. There must be something more, some higher purpose . . . The stage is set for a closer look at Jesus of Nazareth.
A good commentary might be helpful to you, as the "teacher" - especially on the figures of speech in chapter 12 which depict the aging process. However, leave the commentary behind during the class period and let the bible speak without excessive "explanations." The following readings can easily be combined in a short study.
1. Some Historical Background on Solomon - 1 Kings 4:21-34; 10:1,7,23-29; 11:3
2. The Cyclical Nature of Life - Eccl. 1:1-11
3. The Emptiness of Worldly Pre-occupations - Eccl. 2:1-11
4. The Brevity of Life - Eccl. 12:1-8
5. The Only Logical Purpose in Life - Eccl. 12:13-14
This is only one of many sequences you could follow, but the important thing to remember is to let the Bible speak for itself. If you have never used this approach, I think you will marvel at the effectiveness of this God-given tool in opening people's hearts. They will relate to its contents, and you might be surprised how eager they will be to come back for more. The Bible can be understood and appreciated by the common man. The Spirit of God who revealed the Word knew what He was doing!