A few months ago a friend of mine who does not usually attend church, nor follow Jesus came to church unexpectedly. It was one of those moments that you could never have seen coming. It took me by complete surprise when my friend said that she would be coming to church with me and not only that but she wanted to sit way down near the front to hear the music and the message. It was an amazing time. As we sat there in church together I felt the Lord having a bit of a chuckle as He observed the delight in my heart when I realised what He had been up to. You see this was not a time that I had planned, I had not been the one that had invited my friend, I had not been the one that had done all the usual asking and inviting yet the Lord had been in the background reaching out to my friend and had put a desire in her heart to attend church that evening! God is always on mission. He is always reaching out and quite often at times and in places that we don not realise. What a delight it is when we catch on to what he has already been doing.
The Lord is at work in the lives of our friends, families and colleagues that don’t know Him; our job is to partner with God in reaching these people. We must always remember that mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa.
We can partner with God if we commit ourselves to Biblical Conversations (represented by the image of a Coffee Cup, as we often talk over a cuppa); if we have an understanding that God wants to redeem all places (represented by a pair of swimming goggles as I saw the Lord reach out to someone in a swimming pool) and Me or you in this case. You are important in the equation; how you live your life is a testimony of the Gospel at work for non-believers to see.
1. The Coffee Cup (Biblical Stories)
Often in reaching out to others we practice up on our conversation skills so that we can have a good chat with our friends that don’t know Christ. We remind ourselves to not ‘get in people’s face’ whilst we are talking; we remind ourselves to not force a spiritual conversation when the opportunity is not there and we encourage ourselves to listen and hear what the person may really be saying as we try to discover the needs in their life. We then try to have a conversation with our friend and look for opportunities to connect our faith at the right time.
All this is very well and good yet let’s look at the topic of Biblical stories in our conversations. How can we share Biblical stories with those that don’t know Christ yet in a way that reveals Christ to them? We often want to tell our friends about whom Christ is; we want to give a verbal explanation of the gospel yet there is also the concept of sharing a Biblical story to reveal who Christ is. William Bausch says that,
None of us has to be a theologian to appreciate the story of the Good Samaritan and no one, however degreed, has a claim on all its meaning. Stories like the Good Samaritan do not give us facts nor do they really give us proofs for anything. Instead they do what they are meant to do: provide us with images and ways of thinking about life’s imponderables with God as the reference point.
Sharing Biblical stories allows people to see that God is the centre point and they are given access to understanding and perceiving God in ways that they may not have considered. Stories help people remember more clearly as they draw on the imagery; the right hand side of the brain is engaged and the story heard becomes embedded conceptually in the mind. In ancient times the Word of God was spoken long before it was read. Storytelling was the way of communicating the wonders of God.
1. What does the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) reveal about Christ?
2. How would you tell this story to a non-Christian friend? What language would you use? The King James language or something else? Discuss
3. What Biblical Stories has the Lord used to impact your life? Which of these could you share with your non-Christian friends to reveal who Christ is? Discuss
4. In sharing Biblical Stories with your friends, what do you feel are the most important keys to keep in mind whilst sharing?
2. A Pair of Goggles (Redeeming all Places)
Late last year I was doing spending time exercising in a hydrotherapy pool as a way to mange an ongoing injury. Each week I would visit the pool 3 times and do an hours walking around. One particular day I was joined by a family friend who does not know Christ yet, as we were walking up and down she said to me, “Tina, what do you think about the resurrection?” I was needless to say surprised that this question was raised as we were simply walking up and down in a swimming pool. My friend went on to explain that she had in her younger years trained to be a teacher in a catholic school. During her training she had read a book about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and had written an essay arguing both sides of the story, for and against. I was delighted that she wondered what I thought and I was happy to give my response.
What was interesting for me was the fact that God again was on mission. He was reaching out, he had provoked this lady to think and He didn’t mind reaching her even in a swimming pool! It was not like we were at church or in some religious building to have this discussion; it was in an everyday space. As the church we need to be encouraged that Holy Spirit wants to reach people everywhere, where they are. He is not waiting for them to enter some religious space that often we subconsciously bound God to.
A friend of mine, Andrew (not his real name) works for IBM. He is convinced that the Holy Spirit wants to reach out to those in his business environment. He says this about reaching out to those in his workplace.
One of the key principles that I believe helps me maintain a right relationship to my colleagues is how I view them. I dislike the term non-Christian because I find it creates in me an unseen barrier between myself and those I am trying to reach. This affects my mindset and can result in me seeing them through eyes of judgement rather than grace. I prefer to see them and treat them as “unknown disciples”. I say unknown because they are unaware that I am discipling them.
Andrew has a correct outlook. He understands that God wants to reach those in his everyday environment and he has committed himself to discipling people even when they do not realise this is taking place.
1. When has it been evident to you that God is reaching out to those in the everyday places that you spend your time? Explain
2. What keys have you discovered so that you can effectively partner with God as He reaches out in your everyday spaces?
3. Why do you think some Christians feel that God reaches out to people more when they are in a ‘religious’ space? Discuss
4. Pray for each other that you would look more to see where God is moving in your everyday spaces.
3. Me (My Actions, My Words)
The New Testament makes a point of telling us that our actions and our words are to be different than when we were not following Christ. And further to this the New Testament encourages us that our actions and our words have an ability to draw people closer to knowing Christ. (Col 4:3-6, Matt 5:13, Matt 5:16). So basically, the exhortation is to live it not just speak it!
As Christians, we can have great Biblical conversations and we can be convinced that God wants to redeem all places but we also need to have lives that are reflective of one who follows Christ. Henrietta Mears in talking about the book of Colossians says that, “the truth is that the Life of Christ did not end when the Gospels were completed. Christ is living in us. His life is told in living letters that are known and read by all
People” . When talking about outreach in the New Testament, Michael Green also explores the fact that the quality of the lives of those in the early church was so blazingly distinct that it affected those around them that were not the Christ followers .
1. Actions speak louder than words with our non-Christian friends. Discuss
2. Have your actions ever negated the Christianity you are trying to convey? Explain
3. If our words are meant to be more Christ-like, what would this mean for you?
Bausch, William J. Storytelling : Imagination and Faith. Mystic, Conn.: Twenty-Third Publications, 1985.
Green, Michael. Evangelism in the Early Church. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2004.
Mears, Henrietta. What the Book Is All About. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1987.