28 October 2016
Evangelism for dummies
Your easy-to-understand guide to evangelism, looking at when, where, who to and even what to do when it all goes wrong. The experts give us their advice on how we can all share our faith.
Chapter 1 - who should be an evangelist?
Some Christians are amazing evangelists, and can reel off amazing stories of bringing people to Jesus. Gavin Calver, the Alliance's director of mission, is one of those people. So we asked him exactly who should be following his example.
"The short answer is that although some are set apart with the specific gift of the evangelist, all who love Jesus need to play their part in evangelism. Nothing will change in the UK if we're dependent on the odd charismatic personality who can deliver a rousing talk." Compelling stuff. Gavin says we need a mobilised Church, with every person playing their part and stepping into all that the Lord has for them. He went on: "We all have colleagues, neighbours, friends that the Church may struggle to impact with the good news through any other means than us. So let's all get active. God is doing great things and we need to play our part and join in with Him.
So we can all evangelise - whether we feel like evangelists or not.
Chapter 2 - what you need to know before you go
But wait, am I allowed to say anything? We've all seen those cases in the media of people who aren't allowed to wear their cross at work, surely talking about faith is a no-go? "You need to know that you have far more freedoms to share the gospel than you think," says Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Alliance. "In fact, as our Speak Up resource shows, whether in public of private, whether at work or at play, you have more freedoms than most people in the world today."
While it's important that we exercise these freedoms with responsibility, accounting for professional duties, cultural sensitivities and the need to never abuse trust or authority, it's vital we exercise these freedoms, he goes on: "This is because the gospel is synonymous with freedom, both personally and socially. Historically, the liberty to share the gospel, and the freedom to accept or reject Jesus, has informed religious freedom for everybody. In turn, religious freedom has supported many other human rights and civil liberties. So, if you don't use your freedom to share the gospel, you may eventually lose it."
The fact is that, you are in relationship with God because someone, somewhere, at some time talked to someone about Jesus. So, you should know that you are free to Speak Up.
Chapter 3 – what to say
To many people, evangelism can seem daunting. How do you start a conversation about faith, and once you have, what should you say? Well actually, nothing, says Rachel Jordan-Wolf, the national mission and evangelism advisor for the Church of England, who believes listening is the place to start. "Always start by asking more questions than giving answers."
That's the way to engage the person you're speaking to, she says. "What do they think the meaning of life is, have they ever prayed, do they think there is a God?"
But when should we ask these questions? "There are certain cues. Sometimes it's because you are talking about the difference God makes and they are asking questions, sometimes it's when they are going through a difficult time and you can offer to pray for them."
Even if that cue doesn't arrive, you can still have other conversations: "One thing we can all do is work out what sort of thing our friends would come to at church – and if it's not happening – make it happen. You've got to be part of a church you are comfortable to invite people to. Some people who come to church just like the experience at first – and that's important. You don't need a major event to invite someone to church if you're comfortable with your church. I call it friend-proofing church and it's a challenge for everyone. We need to make sure we aren't doing anything weird."
Chapter 4 – what to do when it goes wrong
"Don't be put off, but consider what you can learn from this and how you may do things differently next time," says Carolyn Skinner from Third Space Ministries, an organisation that shares faith at sporting events, gyms and clubs, among many other 'third spaces'.
She said that while sometimes it relates to our approach; it can just be a question of timing or circumstances. "As long as you have shared your faith sensitively and with compassion, then remember that their response is not your responsibility. We are called to share with grace and truth, and we leave the rest to God." Carolyn said she finds it useful to remember that we can't save anyone, as Billy Graham says: "It's God's job to judge, the Holy Spirit's job to convict and our job to love."
Chapter 5 – the next steps
It's a journey that continues past conversion and into discipleship, so make sure you always have something else to invite someone to. Rachel Jordan Wolfe heard a really good story from one of the Church of England dioceses: "There was a church that gave out 1,000 mince pies at Christmas. From this, 400 people came to the carol service. Following that, 20 people came to Alpha and two people came to faith and got baptised. And that's good. We've got to put people on the journey and have something to invite people to next – always thinking of the next step." Keep inviting, keep investing and keep believing that God can do anything.