I was never good at talking to girls. From an early age they were always this mysteries group who were hard to communicate with. Whenever I did attempt to talk to one it always ended badly. My mouth would go dry and I would stumble over my words.
For many of us, evangelism or simply ‘sharing our faith’ in a simply way is the very similar. We either miss the opportunity, stumble on our words, or our mouths go dry and we can’t speak clearly. Recently, I stood with a friend who was asked by a total stranger what Christians believed. The shear panic led him to try to cram everything he could into a sentence before the person zoned out. I almost had to put a hand on his shoulder and tell them to breath.
So, when it comes to sharing our faith, where do we start? Sin? Jesus? Resurrection? Do we go with something more palatable and vague? What about love, everyone wants a bit of love don't they?
The truth is that there are some words that unlock conversation and some words that close conversation down. A good example is that of sin. Sin has been used for so long to bash people towards Jesus that the whole concept has become familiarised and people roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders and give us a ‘yeh yeh, tell me something I don't know’ look.
So, what do we do? Do we miss out sin? How can we miss it out when it is central to the gospel? Without sin we are left with a Jesus who comes to do some miracles but the cross then becomes a mere symbol rather than a cataclysmic moment of salvation.
I minister in the heart of the east-end of London. In fact, we planted a church here eight years ago with the desire to reach a profoundly poor and lost community. We are 65% Muslim as a population so Jesus has to be front and centre to all we do. But with and area that has become disillusioned with the idea of sin and community they see Jesus as nothing more than a prophet or good man so we have a hard job on our hands. We have had to rethink how we tell God’s story in a way that connects culturally.
Here are some things we have been realising in the past few years.
ONE: MAKING TIME TO LISTEN
If you make time to listen, people will talk and share so much of their lives. I believe most people aren’t listened to enough; they love it when we make time for them. So much of life is about switching on the television or the computer and life is lived in one direction. When we truly listen, people love to talk. Listening shows value, care and interest. We earn the right to speak once we have listened. I recently found myself chatting to a woman who obviously doesn’t get listened too very often. I stood listening to her and after a few minutes she paused and started to giggle and then carry on. It was like she realised wow, he’s still listening.
TWO: TELL STORIES
For me evangelism is more like telling stories and listening to stories. Most people have stories to tell and share their experiences. Everyone has a story to tell. The stories can cover heartbreak, suffering, joy and wonder. Telling stories connects us; that's why people love talking about their grandchildren, history, or share about their last holiday. Our job is to simply point people to the big God story. The story of creation, de-creation, redemption and recreation. The gospel story is this: we were created, we have become de-created by our actions, and Jesus came to recreate us.
I recently had a great conversation with a young guy about the gospel. He expected me to talk about sin and how he needed to deal with the issues in his life. The problem with this is that sin inspires no one. So, I started with the beginning of the larger God story, creation. I told him how he was awesome. I told him he had been created to be fabulous and that God had created him with gifts, talents and dreams that had been lost. I told him God had planted an image deep within him that meant God has so much on offer for him to do and be. He got excited. He didn't realise God not only had gifts in him but that God in fact liked him. We talked at length about the dreams God had for his life and how God wanted to bring out the best in him. It was only then that we moved on to talking about sin and grace. Having told him he was wonderfully made by a wonderful creator, and that this creator had gifts for him and plans for his life, he then began to see how sin in his life was in fact stopping him from being involved with what God planned for him. The sin needed dealing with if he was to ever live life to the full. As I sat with this young guy he realised that to become all that he was made to be, he needed to be forgiven. He accepted Jesus and responded to the gospel.
If we understand the full gospel, the gospel of God’s creation - fall, redemption and recreation - suddenly sin needs to be dealt with.
CREATION: You were created to be with God to make, dream and partner with Him.
DECREATION: Because of sin we have headed in our own direction and left God and his partnership behind.
REDEMPTION: God comes in Christ to reconnect us to him. His death for ours.
RECREATION: God has saved us to once again partner with him in his kingdom work. Life now becomes about partnering with God in his beautiful and brilliant work.
The young lad’s salvation came because he first realised who he was meant to be and then realised his sin had stopped this from being a reality. He was gifted to bring about goodness in the world, he had wandered off track from this yet Jesus brought him home. So, what next? There was a job to finish and this is where many of us get stuck. His life was saved for the purpose of serving the King of Kings, a discipled life. His gifts and talents were originally given to him for serving the King but he had squandered them and now he was back to the beginning, ready to use them. Jesus doesn't just save us from something (sin), but for something (partnership). A disciple maker is someone who leads people to Jesus and then helps them live like Jesus in partnership with the King.
Simply put, evangelism is pointing to Jesus. It’s not about trying to drag people kicking and screaming into the ‘Jesus Camp’. It’s about pointing to the one we follow and inviting others to follow with you. Jesus never talks about joining clubs but does talk about joining him on the journey.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Why not think about who you could listen to?
Who might you be able to connect with Gods big story?
A good storyteller practises telling a story until they have it just right. Why not take time to think about your story of meeting Jesus. Could you develop your testimony and have that ready to share. Maybe write it out and then look at it again to see if there are words that start a conversation and stop a conversation. If so think about making your story as open as possible.