Pastors and preachers need to speak not only to the faithful...
Last night the Most Revd Justin Welby shared his wisdom on evangelism with our team here at Premier. Here’s his top ten on sharing Christ with those around you…
1. Evangelism isn't something you can opt out of
Welby says that one of the problems in our approach to evangelism is that we have professionalised it. ‘I think we professionalised evangelism, clericalised it in some places…Unless you're one of those folks who does this for a living, you can't do it. That's exactly the opposite of the pattern you'll find in the scriptures, and at the best points of the tradition. And, it's a nonsense.’
2. Do it, not out of duty – but because you love people
We need to come at this ready to question our own hearts, says Welby. Just how consumed are we with the wonder of Jesus’ love? ‘We share the good news, not because it's a duty and we have to go home just before we go to bed, and think, ok, tick box, did share good news today. But because we're so consumed with knowing how wonderful Jesus is, that we want to talk to others about that.’
3. Evangelism isn't about results. Don't measure success by those who instantly convert
Welby describes growth as a collateral benefit. ‘If we're going to be a Church that reflects the nature of God, we will be a Church that goes out, and brings in. Growth is a collateral benefit, but it's not a sign we're doing it right.’
4. Remember it's good news that you're sharing
The first thing we need to remember, is that this really is good news, says Welby. ‘There's a problem with human beings, which is that we don't know God. One way or another, there's a barrier between us and God. God has solved the problem, and it's open to us to take that solution into our lives by opening our lives to his presence. And the Bible says that God so loved the world – because this is about life – that he gave – because it's him taking the action – his only son, Jesus Christ, he himself. So that all who believe in him, that's just put the weight of lives on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. This is about hope, it's positive, it's really good.’
5. Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work
Let the Spirit lead, Welby advises. ‘The Holy Spirit is at work, doing extraordinary things…’ Welby calls us to trust ‘that the Holy Spirit is taking people at the right pace, and with the love that embraces them from God, not with the kind of manipulation that people are tempted into; all of us are.’
It’s simple. Try it. Welby says that when you pray, you'll be ‘astonished at what happens’.
7. Be prepared that your conversations may only bear fruit when you've left the scene
Welby reflects back on his years in commerce; seeking to witness to Christ:
‘Years and years ago, when I was still in the oil industry, and I was doing a particular project, and travelling around with one of my colleagues all over Europe…we spent hours sitting at airports, waiting for aeroplanes. We’d sit in the bar and have a couple of beers, and you know, chat,’ Welby says.
‘He asked questions, from time to time, about the Christian faith; he was absolutely not a Christian. I was always looking for ways of sort of saying something, but I think just by the grace of God I didn't particularly, I just answered what he asked.
‘Anyway, I moved on, he moved on, and I thought that's the last I'll hear of him. About five or six years after I got ordained, I bumped into someone who I'd known at work, who said:
“Do you remember X?”
I said “Oh yes.”
He said, “He sends his best wishes...He told me to tell you that he became a Christian…He said it was all those talks in airports.”
'God is a lot better at this stuff than we are, we just need to be ready to be the witnesses he calls us to be.'
8. Don't complicate things. Only answer the questions you've been asked.
Listen carefully for the questions being put to you, Welby says. ‘The role of a witness to Jesus Christ is to take someone they're talking to or listening to, the next appropriate step for that person. What's normally appropriate is to listen very carefully for the questions you're being asked, and answer them, not the questions you're not being asked. ‘
9. Always be ready to give an answer
Welby is a scriptural man; he draws us back to the biblical instruction to prepare ourselves well with answers for why we believe what we believe. ‘Well, I'm going to sound like a cracked record here, but this comes back to…in 1 Peter 3: Always be ready to give an explanation, a reason for the hope that is within you. But with respect, and gentleness, depending on your translation.’
10. Realise the importance of evangelism
Will we take up the mantle to share Jesus? If we don’t, there will be big consequences, Welby says.‘If you go back to 1944-45, there was a report by Church of England Commission called 'Towards the Conversion of England'. One of the…themes in it, is that while every Christian fails to be a witness, we will fail to move towards the conversion of England. I think that's a fair summary…I think there are lots of people who can communicate the Gospel clearly. But we need to recognise that we're all witnesses. And we all need all to be equipped to be witnesses.’
Unbelievable? presenter Justin Brierley blogs on all things theology, apologetics and ethics.