As we look towards the coming year, we want to focus on three specific areas of growth, both as individuals, and as a Church body – this year we want to pray more strategically, give more generously, and evangelise more intentionally. Already, we’ve seen people lift in their enthusiasm and expectation regarding prayer – our last ‘all church prayer’ was a fabulous time together as we put into practice many of the lessons shared by Gurmit and Nicole as they encouraged us to pray more strategically. And last weekend, as Mark and Paul spoke about giving, we were all challenged to embrace generosity as a lifestyle and to see how God, others and our own lives are blessed as we focus on giving. The last value we want to consider in our Focus 3 series is Evangelism, and our hope is that as we look at this important topic, that each one of us will become more enthusiastic and more intentional about sharing the love of Jesus with those within our sphere of influence.
For many people, the word evangelism brings on feelings of nausea and panic – We think of door-to-door witnessing and men on street corners with big bibles in their hands who yell a lot about sinners going to hell. Or worse still, we think of all the terrible things that people might do or say to us if they found out that we were Christians. So, instead of looking for opportunities to witness, many people keep their faith to themselves and hope for the best that someone else will do it for them.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way – The word evangelism literally means, “messenger carrying good news.” Evangelism isn’t some terrible chore that we have to ‘do’. It isn’t some cold, hard, doctrine that we need to shove down people’s throats. True evangelism flows out of ‘who we are’ - it’s letting others in on the secret of our hope - it’s letting people see, hear and feel Jesus through us. We don’t have to rant and rave. We don’t have to bash people over the heard with Scriptures. We don’t have to be loud and bossy and dogmatic. We don’t all need to be preachers, but we do all need to realize that each one of us has a critical part to play in introducing others to a God who loves them and wants relationship with them.
- IT'S UP TO YOU.
Have you ever left something undone because you thought ‘someone else’ had it covered? Have you ever come home from a night out to dinner, only to find that the back door was left wide open because you thought ‘someone else’ had checked it and locked it? How often do you think that people assume ‘someone else’ has it covered when it comes to sharing the amazing story of how much God loves us? Many people feel that evangelism is only for the extroverted or the over-confident; they believe that they are too shy or too insecure to talk about God to others and that the outgoing Christians, the ‘Pastors’ and the ‘Preachers’ will take care of the witnessing side of things for them. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Witnessing isn’t about being loud or pushy or outgoing or overconfident; witnessing is about living your life in the presence of God and allowing those whom God has placed around you, to connect with Him, through you.
Each one of us, regardless of our personality or our abilities, is called by God to bring His presence into the lives of those who have not yet experienced His love. In Matt 5:13-16 Jesus tells his followers that "You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world--like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
In a world where people are trying to find a ‘taste that will satisfy’ Jesus tells us that we are salt – and in a world surrounded by the darkness of uncertainty, pain, suffering and hopelessness, Jesus tells us that we are the light of hope and peace and love. Each one of us is ‘salt’ in our workplace and a ‘light’ in our schools, our homes, and our neighbourhoods. We are carriers of the very presence of God and we have been placed in our specific situation so that we can release His love to those around us.
It’s not up to someone else – it’s up to you and I. We don’t need to stress and strain and yell and bible-bash, we just need to be salt and light, and people will automatically be attracted to what they taste and see in our lives. People will step into the presence of God when they step near to YOU.
God’s plan is to use YOU. It’s not up to someone else. It’s up to YOU!
- KNOW WHAT TO SAY.
It’s all very well to say, “The people around me are my responsibility”, but what if I’m not very good about sharing my faith? What if I don’t know what to say? What if I just feel awkward and stupid and mess it up?
It’s true that not everyone finds it easy to talk to people about God; not everyone is confident about saying the ‘right’ thing. However, the key to sharing your faith isn’t saying the ‘right’ thing or saying it ‘really well’. The key to sharing your faith is to get in touch with your own feelings about why you love God and then telling others how you feel. Too many people believe that in order to be an effective witness, they need to have all the correct theological answers, or use the right ‘Christian-ese’ language. But the reality is, most un-churched friends and family just want to know what you really feel and why walking with God gives you pleasure and satisfaction. They are looking for ‘authenticity’, nor ‘slick professional answers’. As Christians, we just need to know why we love following Jesus and why walking with God gives meaning to our lives.
Ask yourself the following 3 “Why’s” :
- Why do I love being a follower of Christ?
- Why do I choose to live a life that seeks to please Him?
- Why do I choose to live for a higher cause than myself?
1 Peter 3:15 says “…worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. ” For many Christians, the reason we don’t share our ‘Christian hope’ is simply because we don’t know what to say – we aren’t ready and we aren’t prepared. We’ve been following Christ for so long that we’ve forgotten why we fell in love with Him in the first place. We know we do love Him, it’s just that we’ve forgotten why. That’s why taking some time to really think-through the questions above will help us to formulate a reason for our ‘Christian hope”…. And we will “always be ready to explain it.”Sample Discussion Questions
- Why do you think ‘evangelism’ and ‘witnessing’ are uncomfortable subjects for many Christians?
- Ask people to talk about a time when they shared their faith with someone who did not know God. How did they feel?
- What are some of the obstacles to sharing your faith? (fear of rejection, fear of being ostracised, fear of having nothing to say, fear of making a fool of oneself etc.) Are these legitimate obstacles? If so, what are some of the solutions to these hindrances?
- Discuss the following quote: "The sceptic may deny your doctrine or attack your church but he cannot honestly ignore the fact that your life has been changed. He may stop his ears to the presentations of a preacher and the pleadings of an evangelist, but he is somehow attracted to the human-interest story of how you—John Q. Public—found peace within" (Swindoll, Charles, “Come Before Winter”, 1988:43).
- Take some time to share with each other your answers to the 3 ‘Why’s’ listed above. (You could perhaps do a couple of ‘role-plays’ where people can ‘practice’ talking about their faith in a non-threatening environment.)
- How do you think answering these questions might better equip you to share your faith?
- Think of at least 3 people in your immediate circle of influence who you would love to connect with Jesus.
- If you haven’t already done this.... Write their names on your ‘triplet prayer card’
- Why do you think writing some names on a card might make a difference? (talk about being ‘intentional’)
- Take some time to pray in groups for the names on each of your cards.