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Have you stalled in your evangelism?

May 10th, 2013

I’d passed my test the day before. The first in the Lower Sixth to do so, and with only five minors, I’m pleased to tell you. I was the bee’s knees. Utterly confident, with Top-Gun sunglasses in place and chewing gum in the mouth, I cruised round the corner in front of the lads in year above, pushing my mum’s dark green Ford Ka to the max. The engine roared. So did the crowds. It couldn’t have gone better.

And then I stalled.

Nightmare. I can still hear the jeers today.

We’ve all been there haven’t we?! Driving along, quite swimmingly, even impressively (especially if you’re in a Ka), and things are going well. It’s a smooth journey, the car is doing what it’s meant to, you’re doing what you’re meant to, and you edge nearer and nearer to your destination almost without thinking. Then, perhaps, you slow down, perhaps there’s a hill to climb, and suddenly, often without warning, there’s a chug chug chug, and then silence. You’ve stalled.

Stalling in our evangelism

If you’re like me, then you might recognise this not only in your driving, but in your evangelism. Let me explain…

Like the smooth journey in a car, we often have initial conversations with friends, with family, that actually go okay! They find out we’re a Christian, and they aren’t appalled at it! We talk to them about our testimony, and they’re intrigued by it! We show them there’s reasonable evidence for being a Christian, and they understand it! We invite them to something, and they enjoy it! God’s at work, doing what he’s meant to be. We’re giving it a go and speaking for Jesus, doing what we’re meant to be. Of course it might take a long time, like any journey in a Ford Ka, but often we’re moving along quite steadily to where we want to get to. Our friends are genuinely interested. We’re on a journey. We’re feeling good and our engine roars, perhaps our Christian friends look on, and they roar with approval too.

And then a little hill comes in the way. Perhaps a time where we don’t see the person for a while. Perhaps busyness gets in the way, and we forget to get back in touch with our friends. Perhaps the Alpha course finishes, the questions have been answered. Or we just reach a point where we don’t know where to go next to move them on in their journey. Things slow down. There’s a chug chug chug, and then silence. We’ve stalled.

Can you think of opportunities that have stalled like this? I can. Praise the Lord for his grace and power that means that over my time as a Christian I have friends and family who have asked their questions, heard talks, read some of the gospels with me, gone to church, gone on Alpha, gone on Christianity Explored, been healed, gone to mission events, debated long into the night, sung praise to Jesus, noticed a difference in my life, prayed, searched. One even told me they thought that the gospels are true, that Jesus is alive and that they can’t see any objections to the message of Christianity. And yet, at least from what I can guess, none of these folks are Jesus-loving, truth-believing, church-serving, gospel-spreading Christians today. It’s all come to a stand-still. A cross-roads. Chug chug chug. Then silence. We’ve stalled.

And if I’m honest, that annoys me. They seem so close, and yet so far. Is there any way I can bring these people to Jesus?

Can these journeys restart?

Thanks to some extremely helpful teaching from evangelist and author Michael Ots, I’ve been captured this week by one world-changing idea. One top tip for when you stall? When you’re wondering what is stopping seemingly keen and engaged and interested people from becoming a Christian? You’ll never guess. Ready? It was this:

Ask them.

Simply ask them!

However long it’s been, however poor you’ve been at keeping it on the agenda, however long it’s been since you were in touch, however hard you find talking about Jesus, ask them! Could you simply ask them a question? Instead of dropping in awkward Jesus-links at every opportunity like I so often do, instead of forcing things, could we take a step-back, and ask them?

“We’ve chatted about this before, what is that stopping you from becoming a Christian?” “So where are you are you up to with your thoughts about Jesus?” “If there’s one reason why you aren’t a Christian, what would it be?” “What do you think about Jesus nowadays?”

The question itself hardly matters, but one that specific enough to move things on and cause a seeker to reflect, to revisit older ideas and conversations, reminding them that they were once so interested, yet open enough to avoid forcing our own agenda or ideas about where someone is at. And when they answer, it enables us to have a conversation, plant some seeds, pray more specifically, understand our friends more, be genuine with them and real, asking their thoughts and opinions not forcing a pre-planned three-point outline on them at every opportunity. If things have stalled, and you’re not sure where to go next, ask!

It’s not revolutionary. It’s not rocket science. But it’s open. It’s honest. It’s genuine. It’s loving. It shows a respect for the other person. It’s light. It’s not-intense. It can be done in a car, over coffee, on the phone, in the office, at the cinema, on a jog, at the supermarket. And more importantly, I can actually think of some people right now who I could do this with. It excites me. It helps me believe again that they might come to Jesus.

Who are the people that you could ask a question? Just imagine the opportunities, the conversations, if you asked three friends! Let’s not be crippled by the chug, chug, chug and the silence. Let’s ask – gently, weakly. And let’s see what happens!

 

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