Wednesday, 6 October 2010

What's the next step?

At Formation, I spent a bit of time over coffee chatting to Mo McCracken about evangelism.

It's true, I think, that for many of us evangelism is something that simply terrifies us. We look at our circle of friends, and we realise that they're basically all Christians. Or the non-Christian acquaintances that we have we couldn't really call friends - we sit at the next desk from them at work, but the done thing at work is to have superficial, (at best!) relationships. Or else I do have non-Christian friends, but the gospel is something entirely alien to their way of thinking and they'd think I was weird for talking about Jesus, so we can't begin to think how we would ever get into conversation with them about him.

One thing that they've been suggesting at Mo's church, Christ Church Liverpool (I hope this is right - I may not be representing them exactly), is to think about what the next step is.

If we simply don't have relationships with people at work, then to think about sharing the gospel with people is a terrifying prospect. Perhaps everyone makes there own cup of tea - how about we start by offering to make a cup of tea for someone else every time I make one, and begin to build up a relationship.

Or perhaps I have non-Christian friends, but don't know how to introduce them to anything Christian. Well, perhaps the next step is to organise some sort of social event to which I invite both my Christian and non-Christian friends, to get them to intermingle. That's the next step - and it might mean that the next time the church does an evangelistic quiz, I can make up a team of my non-Christian and Christian friends and that won't be weird, and so begin to introduce them to the gospel.

You see where I'm going. The challenge is to think about the relationships I have and to think 'how can I take this relationship to the next level, progressing closer to them being properly introduced to the gospel?'

How else does this look practically?

For some, that might be thinking 'what can I do in order to make contact with some non-Christians', as we don't have any non-Christian friends.

For others, it might be getting to know the non-Christians we have contact with better to create a relationship in which it is more natural to talk about bigger, deeper issues. That might be right at the initial stages - staying in the canteen at work to eat with colleagues, making a cup of tea for other people at work, saying hello to another mum at a school gate. For others, it might mean inviting a neighbour round for a cup of tea, inviting a colleague round for a meal, arranging a game of squash with a work colleague.

For others, it might be introducing our non-Christian friends to our Christian friends. Having a dinner party, organising a trip to the cinema or a meal out, having a birthday party to which both groups are invited, organising a weekly badminton match to which both groups are invited.

You get the idea. The steps go on - from coming in contact with non-Christians to building a real friendship with them, from introducing them to our Christian friends to talking about issues from a Christian worldview and answering their questions, from bringing friends to evangelistic events to taking friends who we've got into gospel conversations with to a Christianity explored etc etc.

In the end, our friends need to hear the gospel. But the reality is that, for many of us, we need to develop relationships first with non-Christians to create a context into which the gospel can be shared, and then think about what can we do to introduce them to the gospel. Thinking 'what's the next step' is a much easier thing to do (with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel, or bringing them into a context where they might hear the gospel), than the terrifying e-word!

Just as a side note - I think that if our joy is in Jesus and seeing him glorified then we should want to share him with others. Sometimes a lack of this perspective is what causes us to be terrified about evangelism. And often we don't have to be this intentional to get to talking about Jesus. If we naturally speak about culture, life and situations we're in from a Christian worldview, and we live a distinctive life then this can and should create opportunities. But whilst that is true, I think we can still have this perspective and find evangelism terrifying because we just don't know where to start. Or we don't know how to get from the odd conversation about the gospel to really grappling with the gospel with our friends, and so thinking about 'what is the next step', is a useful way of this happening, without it becoming terrifying.

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