28 October 2016
60 seconds with... Rachel Jordan-Wolf
We chatted to the Church of England's national mission and evangelism advisor about why, how and who should evangelise.
Your job is huge; so can you tell us what you do without taking up the whole 60 seconds?
Keeping the main thing the main thing in the Church of England, which is talking to people about Jesus. The easiest way to describe my role is that I'm a champion for that.
Why should we share our faith?
I have an A and a B with that. A is because it's a Commission and it's the most exciting thing we can ever see – seeing someone coming to faith and seeing their life transformed by Jesus. And B is because Jesus' final words to us were to go. If we follow him we should do what he says, but it's not just because we are told to – it's exciting.
How well is the Church of England doing at evangelising at the moment?
Under the leadership of our two archbishops with a heart and passion for evangelism the culture has changed. The culture of the Church of England is a much more positive place where we recognise the importance of sharing our faith. But the Church of England is made up of hundreds of individuals and what really matters is whether they are all sharing their faith, and from Talking Jesus, an amazing piece of research we did with HOPE and the Evangelical Alliance, we looked at whether Christians are sharing our faith, and we found that many, many of us are. It was so encouraging.
What are the most innovative projects you've come across?
Well another thing that has put evangelism at the heart of the Church of England is the Fresh Expressions movement. Where dioceses have taken Fresh Expressions seriously, they have added 10 per cent to their dioceses. It's amazing, and about embracing change and innovation to reach people who were previously outside. I've seen everything from Messy Church to skate park church. It's trying to be much more creative. It's putting what we have learnt with mission together with our heart for evangelism.
What I'm always impressed with is the faithfulness of the people doing these projects. The stories I have heard of really normal, faithful people having a go, be it the teddy bear picnic church to transforming the church fete into a real village community festival. That was great. There's such a commitment to planting new churches that are relevant to a younger generation like Gas Street in Birmingham – recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work.
Do you think evangelism is just something for certain people with certain gifts?
The gift of evangelism might be quite a specific gift for some, but we are all called to witness to our faith – which is evangelism. People are mostly brought to faith because of a friend. It's about being normal – not a project, not great resources, but being there, sharing their life, sharing their faith, and then inviting them to something and talking about the difference following Jesus makes in our life. That is by far the most fruitful evangelism strategy we have You've spoken before about your work with prostitutes and drug addicts in the red light district of Amsterdam.
Do you have a plan to bring the good news to places like this, or is every case different?
There are principles that you learn about context and culture that are really important, but at the heart of everything is relationship. Even in street evangelism – which is still about being real people that follows Jesus – that's the interesting thing to others. Just last weekend my church was doing street evangelism. It's just a friendly conversation with someone on the street that is authentic and real. And we listened.
In Amsterdam we were just doing that over the long haul. You are still trying to be you. You are being vulnerable. Some of them ended up as great friends. Many of them, through no fault of their own, ended up in these situations, and little things meant a huge amount – we are all human. Just things like making a birthday cake, just real friendship and sharing life was really important.
I've also worked with homeless people in London. I'm still friends with one of the girls and have been walking with her for four or five years. I have a few friends like this, who might make it to the first night of Alpha or come to a few church services, but that's it. Some people come to faith instantaneously, but many others take a long journey. There isn't a rule.
We have to remain faithful and keep praying. The Church of England's Thy Kingdom Come initiative is about praying for this nation and praying for five people that you know to come to faith. I'm consciously praying for five of my friends, but we each just need to reach one. If everyone has a heart for one person and reaches them, then everything would change.
If our readers have someone in mind that they'd like to share their faith with but aren't sure how, is there one piece of encouragement you can offer?
God loves them more than you do, and His timing is not our timing. Pray for courage. Think of something you can invite them to, and if they say no, invite them again, and if they say no, that's ok, because you can invite them again another time. It's not about being pushy, but being persistent.