You don’t always have to share the gospel

Why do most people feel anxious about sharing their faith with others?

Have you ever thought “What do I say?” or “Where do I start?” Deciding where to start depends on your view of evangelism. We typically only think of evangelism as helping someone take the final step of putting their faith in Christ. But when you recognise that everyone journeys to faith in Christ, and that journey takes time, you realise that in fact, evangelism includes journeying with a person towards Christ. Your current conversation with them is about helping them take the next step in their journey (and may not include crossing the line today)!

In our day we are seeing an ever-increasing distance to cover in a non-churched person’s journey to faith in Christ.

 

There was once a time in Australia that it was unusual for people not to attend church. Then came a generation that didn’t attend church but still sent their children to Sunday School because they valued the good moral teaching. After that generation came a generation that had minimal exposure to church or Sunday School but still had some exposure to Christianity through Scripture in school or civil public events. But we now have a generation of people having children that have never seen a Bible, never heard the gospel and don’t know who Jesus is, other than a swear word.

 

There was a time when you could logically refer to the authority of the Bible and people would listen. Now people look to their own experience, rather than the Bible, for spiritual convictions.

That means that the journey people take towards God is getting longer as each generation passes. While salvation is an event that takes place in a moment in time, conversion is a journey towards faith in Jesus, and this takes place over time.

 

The time varies

For some people, this journey is very quick. From the time they sense God reaching out to them to when they place their trust in Jesus may only be days, weeks or even months. For others this journey may take years, even decades. People take this journey at different speeds depending on what is happening in their lives and the world around them as well as the type of Christians they encounter along the way and their exposure to the gospel.

 

But here is the exciting thing. A person’s journey towards Jesus can be greatly accelerated by two factors.

 

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Personal Crisis

A person’s journey to faith is often accelerated by a personal crisis. This may be a positive crisis like having a child or moving to a new country, or it may be a negative crisis like being diagnosed with a terminal illness or losing someone close to them.

 

A Redemptive Relationship

The second significant factor that can accelerate someone’s journey toward Jesus is when there is a Christian in the person’s life who is intentionally building a redemptive relationship with them. As the Christian prays for them and works to help them journey towards Christ, their journey to faith picks up speed.

Now, when you think about these two factors at work in the life of someone you know, who do you think God has sent into that person’s life to help them journey towards Jesus? That’s right—God has sent you into their lives!

You see, you don’t always have to share the gospel in every encounter, but it is your responsibility as a Christian to help people take their next step on their journey towards Jesus. That is why it’s so important for you to ask questions and listen to them.

Learn where they are in their journey to faith and ask God, “What would the next step be for this person, and how can I help them take that step?” Then take action!

Understanding the journey helps you pray specifically for their next step and rely on the Holy Spirit to work in your relationship. When he does you see answers to prayer long before the person puts their trust in Christ for salvation.

Understanding the journey helps you know the part you play and what still needs to happen in your relationship to help your friend move one step closer to Christ.

Understanding the journey helps you relax in conversation. You stop assuming your friend understands Christian terminology. You begin to have a conversation at the level they engage with. You don’t feel pressured to get them across the line in one conversation, so your conversations around Christ are much more natural.

Understanding the journey helps you take action and become more intentional in helping that person take the next step rather than feeling disabled by the thought of having to take a person from zero to faith in one quantum leap.  

 

Last thoughts

Remember, your aim is always to help people arrive at the place where they trust Christ for their salvation, but today God wants you to experience the freedom of simply helping people take the next step on that journey to faith in Christ.

Who can you take on a relational journey towards Jesus today? What step can you help them take?

Witnessing Lifestyle Priority #3: Helping people take the next step on their journey towards Christ

How should I tell someone that they are going to hell?

 

I was at a BBQ with friends and God gave me the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And then the question came, “So what you’re saying is, if I choose not to believe in Jesus I’m going to hell?” Wow—what a question! How do I tell someone they are going to hell?

 

That wasn’t the only time this question has been asked of me. I take some comfort in knowing that people have heard and understand the gospel to be able to articulate such a question. But it is an important question that demands a thoughtful explanation. After all, the good news of Jesus is just that because without Christ it is very bad news.

 

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

When we see Jesus in the Bible, he never wavered from speaking the truth. He was straight in pointing out the sinful behaviour of people and calling people to repent of their sins – Matthew 4:17. Why is it that we often avoid confronting people about the eternal consequences of sin? Maybe it’s because we feel the weight of our own sin and don’t want to judge others. Maybe we think this will offend them, but most often it’s because we don’t want to ruin our relationship with people. But what was the result of Jesus speaking truth?

 

“News about him spread” across the land. Matthew 4:24

 Why did news about Jesus spread when he preached such a clear message of truth and repentance? Why was it that hell-bound sinners were attracted to him?

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Remember, John tells us that Jesus came “full of grace and truth”. Even though some received his message as a hard message, in his actions Jesus loved them with a sacrificial love. They felt Jesus’ heart to see them restored to his Father. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The people saw Jesus’ words match his lifestyle—a lifestyle of grace and a message of truth that brought life to their souls—and this was attractive to them.

 

Isn’t this the very thing that the people in your life are so desperately searching for? Grace in a world that judges them and truth in a world of lies and deception.

 

2 Peter 3 talks about the coming day of judgment for all that reject Jesus. A day God promises will come. But in that same passage we read “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [to return] as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

 

What a true picture of God’s grace in light of the truth of Jesus. He is patiently waiting, desiring all to be saved from the coming judgment. In grace and truth the Word became flesh and it is in grace and truth he waits for the day of judgment. As we live and speak the gospel are we characterised by those two words—grace and truth? God will provide you the opportunity, the open door to speak the truth for him. He will also give you each day to walk in his grace and display his grace in every encounter you have with people.

 

Last thoughts:

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

How do I respond to someone who asks if they are going to hell? As Jesus would—full of “grace and truth”, and as Peter explains—with “gentleness and respect”.  

 

My mates go for a drink after work, what does this mean for me?

Heading down to the local pub for a few drinks after work is very much a part of Aussie culture. Being invited by work colleagues may excite some but for others the thought of being in a worldly environment proves a challenge to their way of thinking. What does it mean for me when my mates go for a drink after work?   

I have come to realise that when I am invited for drinks a significant step has taken place in my relationship with that person. In effect that person is saying “I value spending time with you and I enjoy your company.” This invitation also reveals to me something significant about that person. This is an environment where they feel relaxed and comfortable to spend time together.

 

Let me ask you this

Isn’t this the place we want to be in our relationship with the people in our lives, where they feel comfortable to initiate spending time together? Don’t we want people to feel relaxed and to trust us enough to be who they are around us?

Accepting an invitation like this can send a powerful message to your mates. It can show them that you also value your relationship with them and feel comfortable to be yourself in “their world”. Accepting an invitation breaks the myths that Christians are out of touch with this world, that they are judgemental and in their own “bubble”.

 

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Most practically though, this may be the perfect opportunity for you to get to know them better and develop a true redemptive relationship with some colleagues. Could this be an opportunity to have conversations that go beneath the surface?

It would be crazy for me to suggest everyone should always accept this invitation. For some, being in an environment like this would present too great a temptation. For others, entering a situation like this may cause a stumbling block to others. So “take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” 1 Corinthians 8:9

But for many, we must remember our focus is not where we are but our focus is to be why we are there. Jesus has sent us into the world, just as he was sent into the world by his Father in heaven (John 17:18). Like Jesus we are sent into the the world, but as his disciples we are to live a life committed to purity and keep ourselves “unstained from the world” James 1:27

 

Last thoughts

For the Christian, the invitation for drinks after work by mates isn’t an invitation to get drunk. Neither is it an invitation to just go along with the world. It can be, however, an invitation by God into that person’s life, an opportunity to bring Life (Christ) into that relationship.  

 

What the Bible says about salvation is what counts

It can feel right that God should accept sincere people of all faiths, or that people should be given a second chance after they die or that we shouldn’t condemn people who believe differently from us, but God has revealed how he works in Scripture and so the Bible, not our feelings, must be our basis for whatever we believe about salvation. Understanding what the Bible says about salvation will set you up for effective evangelism, as you will be able to share God’s salvation plan with those who don’t know Jesus yet.

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