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04 July 2014

Evangelist J John

Evangelist J John

idea: You've been an evangelist for 33 years. As someone at the forefront of Christian evangelism in the UK, have you noticed any changes over that time? 

J John: I have found people are much the same;they have the same needs and the same hurts, as well as the same aspirations. I don't find people any harder to engage with than when I started. I think people are hungry for something. Alfred Adler said people were hungry for security, Carl Jung said people were hungry for significance and Sigmund Freud said people were hungry for love. This hunger might get articulated in different ways but I think people are very receptive. 

You became a Christian as a student - what was your own path to faith like? 

While studying psychology at university I met another Christian called Andy Economides (now an evangelist too) and he introduced me to Christ. My friend Andy built a bridge from me to him and Christ Jesus walked over it.
I didn't have the vocabulary to articulate it but I knew something was different –it was 9 February 1975. The next day I took a homeless man for breakfast. After that I told a friend on my course I'd met Jesus and he was amazed. I then ended up leading him to the Lord! 

One of your main skills as a communicator is the ability to be funny. Is that why people resonate with you so much? 

Well it's not like I think: 'Right, today I am going to make people laugh', because I'm not a comedian. There's a lot of humour in the Bible that we don't always see because Hebrew or Jewish humour is humour by exaggeration. Jesus tells his disciples about being careful when pointing out the speck in someone else's eye to first take the 'telegraph pole' out of your own eye. You can imagine the disciples saying: 'Oh Lord, that's such a good one'. So for me, when I am funny I am just being myself. 

Have you ever had a wilderness period, or times when you've questioned your calling? 

No I haven't. I've always known this is what God has called me to do.
But within the context of that, there's been cycles and seasons where you might focus on one thing more than another. 

The most popular church vocations are pastors or youth workers. Not many churches employ an evangelist. And yet evangelism is just as crucial to what goes on inside the church – if not more. Have churches got their priorities wrong? 

The number of churches that have never done any training on evangelism is shocking. The Great Commission was to go out to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth;what did Jerusalem represent? It was the place where the disciples denied Jesus. Jesus says to the disciples he wants them to start in the place of their greatest failure. What is that for most of us? It's our neighbours, family, friends, or colleagues.
I think evangelism is more of an intentionality. If you don't have an intentionality about anything, then it's not going to happen.
We need to equip every member of the church so this intentionality becomes natural for them to cultivate the web of relationships they have already got. And I don't think people know how to do that. 

What are the biggest barriers to sharing the gospel with people?  

I think people have a fear about what others might say or a fear of articulating the message correctly. But the perfect love of Christ casts out fear. If the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, that means we've got the power. One thing an evangelist does is to affirm, encourage, equip. I'm very committed to that, and to equipping leaders to preach. I don't think church preaching is good in Britain. 

Can you expand on that a bit? 

Well, we could make preaching more accessible. Knowing how to preach at Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, or Halloween, for example. I'd say look at what cards are being sold in the shops. And that's what you should be preaching on. Why would I not be preaching on that?

Can you tell me about your name? Does it stand for anything? 

It's Greek Cypriot –the nearest equivalent is John John. 

J John established the Philo Trust in 1980. This works to communicate the relevance of the Christian faith. He lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire and is married to Killy and they have three sons and one daughter-in-law.
For more information visit the Philo Trust  

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