Last night we held the first of 6 sessions of the CPAS course 'Lost For Words' at our church, with the Minister, two Local Preachers and myself as leaders. As its title suggests, this course starts where the ordinary Christian people are in their Monday to Saturday daily lives and helps them to see that whatever their personality - bold or reticent - everyone is capable of sharing their faith naturally, just as they would share any other good news with the people they meet.
Many Christians feel inadequate or even guilty about sharing their faith because they believe it involves door-to-door knocking, handing out leaflets or speaking on street corners but I am reminded of the saying that 'Christianity is caught, not taught'. So it is a very natural face-to-face evangelism, as we come across people in our daily lives, that we are looking at in depth in this course, and to do that we had to identify and examine our own hang-ups that prevent us sharing our faith.
First, we must recognise that God is the evangelist, not us. Our role is to live a life of prayer in tune with God and to make ourselves available to him, as we make the most of every opportunity to speak about Jesus. FEAR is one of the most common reasons given for not sharing the faith - fear of looking a fool, of not knowing what to say, or of damaging a friendship. The key is to be honest with ourselves and with God. Love overcomes fear, so if we have a genuine concern for people, wanting to help them, fear can be held in check. We need to remember to rely on God and his love for us. We need to equip ourselves, so that we are as informed as we can be, we need to share our fear with other Christians, and we must pray about our fears and for the people to whom we want to talk about Jesus.
WRONG IDEAS about evangelism sometimes prevent Christians from speaking of Jesus. One of these is that evangelists are all of a certain extrovert type of personality whereas God made us all different for a purpose, so that he could use each one of us just as we are. We can't emphasise too much that God wants us to be ourselves.
Others say that they are too busy and have no time to spread the Gospel outside the Church, but this course helps them to understand that we can use our normal time - the time sitting next to someone on a bus, or standing next to someone in the supermarket queue, etc. Still others say that they are struggling with their own faith and so have nothing to share, forgetting that it is often in sharing our doubts that we suddenly realise that our own faith has been strengthened. Besides, it is often those who have 'been through it', as we say, who 'ring a bell' with someone who happens to be in that same situation.
We stressed that HELP is at hand -
H Honesty: admitting our inadequacies, sharing them, being honest with God.
E Explore the issues, learn from one another.
L Learn new insights and ideas on how to share our faith, what to say, etc.
P Prayer for ourselves, others on the course and in the church, and 'outsiders'.
Then we looked at Prayer clues in Colossians 4: 2-6 and stressed again the Key Principle - Be yourself, with God, for others. We asked those doing the course to think about all the human contacts they had had this week and helped them to see that we all have many more contact people than we realise. So there is plenty of opportunity to speak about Jesus if we keep our eyes and ears open enough to be sensitive to the openings or questions that occur naturally and which give us the chance to speak. To help us select which of several often-asked common questions we will deal with in future sessions, we briefly tackled the question 'Hasn't science disproved Christianity?' before asking our friends to select, from a list of common questions, which 5 questions they would like us to discuss and in which order of preference. This gives us a chance to prepare adequately and to tackle the questions that bother local people most.
We ended by praying that we may have the courage to respond to those opportunities and the wisdom to know what to say, so that we may learn to speak about our faith with anyone, in a relaxed, natural, helpful way, so that they may discover and respond to God's love for them.