When to talk to someone about God?—when celebrating life’s milestones

Talking about God should come naturally to Christians, but the reality is that for many it can be a daunting task. Sometimes we just don’t know where to start; at other times we know what to say but think the other person may not be interested, or we don’t want to risk offending our good friends.

 

But think about it, if you’re talking about how much God loves us, if you’re speaking in a way that is loving, if you discuss how much God cares for you, how you have seen God at work in your own life or in the life of the person you are speaking with—when you approach a conversation like that, do you really think that is offensive or of little interest to those who know you?

 

Today’s answer to the question, “When should I talk to someone about God?” is…

 

…when celebrating life’s milestones.

 

Recently I celebrated my 40th Birthday. Birthdays can often be a wonderful time to reflect on life, what has been in the past and dreams for the future. In doing so, I see Gods faithful hand at work in so many ways, both in my own life and also in the lives of those around me.

 

For this 40th milestone I chose to enjoy the company of close loved ones, mainly family, beside a local river for a relaxed afternoon BBQ. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect, the company was special, and I couldn’t help but use my birthday speech to share some of my reflections.

 

Now, everyone knows what happens after you cut your birthday cake at a significant birthday such as a 40th. No guesses for what happens next. Whether you like it or not, people are waiting, their eyes are fixed on you. There is the pause, and then someone says “speech!”. Well, that was my cue. Being the birthday boy, I had permission to speak and everyone would listen.

 

I knew everyone in front of me was there because they value sharing life with me. I could confidently say to every person who came that day that God loves them—whether they know God personally or not, the Bible tells us that God loves all people.

 

During my speech I tried to simply and plainly recount the many ways I had seen God at work in all our lives: how God is faithful to us as a family, how he brought comfort during the loss of a loved one, how he healed a nephew from sickness, protected a brother at work, saved another after serious accident, blessed mothers with children, and continues to provide for all our needs.

 

Birthdays are great opportunities to share about God’s impact on your life, but so are graduations, weddings, baby showers and dedications, job promotions, award ceremonies, retirement parties, times of sickness, funerals, and the list could go on. At these milestones in life, people respect your life journey and are genuinely interested and want to celebrate your story with you.

 

When it’s your time to celebrate one of life’s milestones, take the opportunity to make a speech and use that privilege to boldly share your experience of God in a way that shows people how great and good he is. You never know what God-conversations with people may happen because you spoke up!

When to talk to someone about God?—When God prompts you!

This blog series aims to help you know when ‘now is the time’ to share the gospel with the person you just met or with someone you are walking with towards Christ. John and Andrew already shared with you the first two hints we must recognise:

 

When to talk to someone about God? …

When they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things 

When their life is falling apart, or they are facing a crisis

 

Today’s answer that I would like to ponder is:

You know it’s time to talk with someone about God …When God prompts you!

When we receive Christ, we have been reborn in the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). The Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, bringing with him an entirely new life of love, relationship, and service to the Lord. Jesus said that the people who trust God would be like sheep who recognise the voice of their shepherd and follow him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). The Holy Spirit was given to lead, direct, and comfort us (John 14:26; Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20).

 

So, learn to listen and obey when God prompts you to speak to someone in your life about God.

 

You have to realise that the Holy Spirit will speak to you, guide you, and warn you about things. Pay attention to the things you might typically or inadvertently dismiss. Don’t reject random thoughts or ideas. Ask yourself if it is the Holy Spirit (or just your own voice) trying to tell you something. Recognising God’s voice, his prompting, ONLY comes with regular time with God through his Word (the Bible), conversation with him through prayer and through your growing relationship with the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit, your Helper, to sharpen your hearing, so you’ll recognise his voice and his words more clearly.

 

In Philippians 1:9, Paul’s prayer mentioned his desire for the followers of Christ to be filled more and more with love, with knowledge and all discernment from the Lord. Notice that the first thing we ought to be praying for is for our hearts to be filled with inexhaustible love. As I spend time seeking the Lord with all my heart, I get to grasp and experience his mind-blowing, selfless love for me and for everyone he placed in my heart to fervently pray for. Out of the richness of his love, I am compelled to bend my knees and pray that he will open my eyes to the things that only his eyes can see (1 John 4:19). That he will break my heart for what breaks his and that he will show me how to love others like how he has loved me—a perfectly unlovable, sinner saved by God’s grace! As I develop a heart that is in-tune with his heart, it becomes natural for me to ask and pray for knowledge, sensitivity from his voice and all discernment from the Lord as I witness for his name’s sake.

 

He sure loves answering those prayers! Although I am working in a community of believers, he has been opening my eyes to countless opportunities to witness for him in my daily life! Just as I am so familiar with my husband’s voice (even when he clears his throat!) though my eyes are shut, I know that it was God’s sweet, still voice that prompted me to pray for the IT guy who fixed our internet connection; that encouraged me to share the gospel with the mum whom I just met in a fast-food chain after I picked up the kids from their school; that whispered to me that the members of my family who were yet to know Christ were ready to hear and receive the TRUTH about Jesus; to be a listening ear to an anxious mum I met in a friends’ party which opened a door for me to pray for her and share God’s sovereignty over everything; that opened opportunities for me to “stand in the gap” and warn believers to return their ways to the Lord—and those have been just few of the times I have sensed the Lord leading me, among others!

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a person who has an outgoing personality, persuasive in speech, and has plenty of time in the world to socialise and meet up with people! I have as much trouble of my own as everyone does. I am only able to follow the Lord’s leading out of his inexhaustible resource of love, grace, compassion, empathy, which drives me to invite people to Him! And also, in doing all the witnessing, it is not me but it’s the Holy Spirit working through me, as it says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The Holy Spirit will empower your witness for you! If you are not pumped up with that, I don’t know what else can reassure you! Acts 1:8

 

Another truth that can encourage us not to look at our inadequacies as we engage people in God-conversation is the passage in Titus: ” But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 “He saved us”—it isn’t our job to save that person whom we are leading to Jesus. God saved us, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit“. Regeneration is the beautiful truth that God sent his Holy Spirit to regenerate people, to open their eyes to his love, grace, and truth. It’s not up to us to penetrate through to the inner core of their hearts, or their distractions, or their disinterest in spiritual things. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit. He takes over the moment you step out in faith and begin sharing Christ with someone!

 

As we have all experienced the generosity of God’s grace and love, I encourage you to pray just like Paul’s prayer: pray that we will always be filled with infinite love for the Lord, for his people, with knowledge, wisdom and all discernment from the Lord! You will never regret the FULLNESS of joy and abundance of life you will receive as you take part in Christ’s agenda!

Fathers’ Day 2019

Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

Even though the Bible does not explicitly mention Fathers’ Day, we can see the importance of Fathers to God as he gave them special honour throughout history.

 

One example is when Abram’s name was changed to “Abraham”. God told him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” (Genesis 17-4-6) It is evident that fatherhood has a place of honor in God’s eyes.

 

The Apostle Paul also clearly emphasised the importance to God of honoring our fathers, Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:3)

 

The Bible also uses the marvelous analogy of God as our father countless times (Isaiah 64:8; 1 John 3:1; Psalm 103: 13; Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 68:5; Matthew 6:26; Matthew 7:11; 1 Corinthians 8:6). A fathers’ role isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s important to look at God’s word to see the perfect example of what a father should be, to encourage fathers to work towards being more like our heavenly Father.

 

As Proverbs says, “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7). The greatest gift you can ever give to your children is to live righteously. Children who grow up guided by godly fathers acquire greater knowledge and wisdom. They are more likely to make wise decisions in life, and therefore, succeed. Beyond that, God himself will bless the children of godly men. Godly fathers are not typical followers of “how to be a good father” checklists. Rather, they are followers of God before anything else.

 

Fathers, do you love your children? Forget about all the gifts or extravagant travel plans you think of to give to your children. Honour and love God above anything and anyone else and walk justly before God. That’s the greatest thing you could ever give to your kids. Always remember that your family’s future depends on how you live today!

 

You might feel that too much time has passed with the wrong priorities in your life. You may feel that you have lost your family through focusing on things that don’t really matter in the long run. But you need to know that it is never too late to turn back to God and put him in the centre of your life.

 

Put God in the centre and watch how he gets involved in your family relationships.

 

As we celebrate Father’s Day, today, as a father, let your family know that you are putting God at the centre. If you are a child, honour your father for the positive things he brought into your life. Encourage him in his walk with God.

When to talk to someone about God?—When their life is falling apart, or they are facing a crisis

A person is desperate for God’s help when they are facing personal crisis. This is a time when you should definitely talk with them about God.

 

A few years ago, our son Ryley suffered a major injury which resulted in him being in ICU for 4 weeks. It’s amazing how life can change in an instant. One second you are enjoying a weekend away with the family, the next instant you know your family will never be the same again.

 

I’m sure you have heard the saying that goes something like, “God uses tragedy to get people’s attention.” One person I know put it this way, “Suffering, the spiritual shortcut.” That is, it will either push us further away from God, or bring us closer. I think for many people it may be a bit of a cliché to say these things, however we can tell you that it certainly got our attention!

 

See the thing is, when tragedy strikes or your life is falling apart, one of people’s first reactions is to cry out to God for help. Even if we don’t realise it, we do it. I would challenge anyone who has had tragedy strike to say they haven’t cried out a variant of that statement. This was most certainly our reaction! The instant that I saw my son lying there in a pool of blood, I cried out to God, “Help!”

 

As soon as I cried out, “Help!” God answered by sending his supernatural peace and reassurance. Not because of anything we had done, or that we were more holy than others, simply because he loved us, and as a Father he wants to comfort us. Later on, sitting by our son’s bedside, not knowing if he would ever wake up, if we would ever get to tell our boy that we love him again, we were calm. Yes, we were worried; yes, we were sad and still are to this day, but we were calm. Many people commented, “How can you be so calm?” It was quite simple and can be summed up by 2 verses. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding…” and Ephesians 3:19 says, “To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”

 

While we sat by our son’s bedside in ICU, we saw a lot of people come and go. We witnessed firsthand the despair and hopelessness that people experience when their child is at death’s door. We could see, and almost feel their hopelessness and grief.

 

For us it was different, simply because we knew 2 things beyond a shadow of a doubt—that God loved Ryley more than we could ever possibly imagine and that he had a good and perfect plan for Ryley’s life—whatever that may be. And that was comforting beyond comprehension.

 

So, when should you share with others about a real relationship with God? Without a doubt you should share when people are going through a crisis, whatever it may be. At that point in time, people are crying out for these things:

  • A reason that this is happening. For us, we didn’t understand why this happened to Ryley, but we had a confidence in the love and sovereignty of God in that situation. And only a knowledge of that love and sovereignty will be able to help people through those situations. Our experience, as Christians, of God’s nearness and help in times of crisis becomes a huge connecting point with others in crisis, who do not know God personally.
  • Someone to care. One of the most amazing things happened. As soon as I got off the phone from emergency, I called a few people to ask them to pray. They passed the word on to others and so on. By the end of that first day, we knew there were people literally all over the world praying for us. Talk about an impact!

 

So, if you know someone who has something tragic or hard happen to them, or if they are facing a crisis in their marriage or with their kids (or their parents) first let them know you care! Ask if you can pray for them and be there for them. But then let them know about the love and sovereignty of God. Let them know there is a God who cares for them more than they could imagine, who loves them with an everlasting love. Point them to the One who wants to be their Father in heaven.

When to talk to someone about God?–When they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things

If you force someone into a spiritual conversation it can have a negative impact on their openness to God or to future discussions with you. So how can you know when to talk to someone about God?

 

In this blog series we will be highlighting a number of signs that let you know that now is the time to have a God-conversation with a person in your life.

 

Today’s answer to the question, “When should I talk to someone about God?” is…

 

…when they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things.

 

Think about how Jesus approached this question of when to have spiritual conversations with people. When you observe Jesus’ life in the gospels, you recognise that he was always trying to identify the seekers among the crowds of people he interacted with. As soon as Jesus recognised that someone was searching for answers, or that they were thinking about God, or that they were aware that something was still missing in their lives, he immediately focused on that person and tried to help them see that a right relationship with God was what they needed.

 

In John chapter 3, when Nicodemus showed up at Jesus’ door at night, saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him,” Jesus knew he was searching, so he headed straight for a truth that he knew would begin a life-changing discussion with Nicodemus. He said to him, “You must be born again.”

 

In John chapter 4, when he encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus began probing to see if she was searching. He began talking about living water that can satisfy your inner thirst in a way that physical water never can. The further that conversation went, the more obvious it became that this woman was searching. Jesus immediately began talking with her about her sinful pursuit of love in the wrong way. He also described God’s nature and how we approach him. All the way through the conversation, the woman was totally involved in the back and forth. It wasn’t a lecture; it was a great conversation that led to her bringing her whole village out to meet Jesus.

 

We could keep going and talk about Zacchaeus, the woman with the haemorrhage who touched him in the crowd, the scribe who had questions about eternal life, blind Bartimaus, the man let down through the roof, the Syrophoenician woman, etc, etc.

 

In the midst of his talks to the big crowds, while he was healing person after person and casting demons out of all who were oppressed, as he interacted with people along the way—in every circumstance and encounter, Jesus was on the lookout for seekers. And so often, the thing that showed him a person was searching for answers was that they were asking questions.

 

When a person asks you or someone around you a question about God, even if they ask it nonchalantly, you should always focus your attention on that person and begin responding to them as though they are searching for God. Talk to them about what God means to you. Ask them a question that will let them express themselves at whatever level they are comfortable with.

 

When someone mentions what your faith means to you, share with them on the personal level about your relationship with God. Don’t just talk about theological truths about God. Tell them what he means to you personally.

 

When someone brings up church, talk about the difference between religious Christianity and a personal relationship with Jesus, who is alive.

 

The first and most obvious sign that it’s time to talk with someone about God is when they ask a question that opens the door.

 

Why don’t you stop right now, and pray that God will bring someone who is searching across your path today? Ask him to show you they are searching by having them ask a question!

 

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“In its simplest form, what is the Gospel?” This question was asked of me by a church leader. Although, this is a question I also love to ask Christians everywhere I go. Why? Because the message of the Gospel is the only message that has the power to transform lives, restore families, unite communities and heal nations.

 

This message is profoundly simple yet profoundly powerful. Without this message of love and hope no person on earth can be saved from an eternity of torment and judgement. This message of the gospel must be understood in order for a person to be forgiven of their sin and restored relationally to God.

 

The gospel of Jesus is the one message that has remained unchanged since it was first proclaimed in Jerusalem by the Apostle Peter, just after the death and resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago, resulting in three thousand souls turning to Christ. It’s the unchanging message of the gospel that convicted Martin Luther, a catholic priest, when the church had gone astray to lead a movement that refocused believers on the essential tenets of the Christian faith. It’s the same unchanging message of the gospel preached by Billy Graham in the 1900’s that saw millions of people from many nations surrender their lives to Jesus. It’s this one unchanging message of the gospel that Christians are called to share with the people all around them today.

 

There is no salvation without this message, no hope without this message.

 

What is this message? What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

The Apostle Paul puts it simply in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

 

“I delivered to you as of first importance” Paul says. In a way he is saying; there is nothing more important in the Christian faith than this so pay attention. This is the essential truth you must not get wrong. This is the gospel boiled down into two great truths. Did you see them?

 

Christ died for our sins, and he was raised on the third day. That’s it!

The evidence that Jesus died is that he was buried. The evidence that he rose again is that he was seen by many (Cephas, the twelve, more than 500 brothers, James, the apostles, Paul himself). But this is our one unchanging message. This is the gospel. Two truths:

 

“Christ died in our place, for our sins, and he was raised again, he is alive today and we can know him personally.”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, when you learn these two great truths, you will never have to wonder what to say when it comes to sharing the gospel with people in your life. Every conversation you have with people will be different, but every conversation can revolve around these two great truths when you know them.

 

So today, I give you two simple challenges:

 

First, ask God for an opportunity to share these two great truths with a person in your life that needs Jesus. When God gives you that opportunity, keep it simple and share boldly.

 

Second, ask a Christian friend the question – What is the gospel? Listen to their response and share with them these two truths straight from the pages of the bible. Then encourage them with these two simple challenges.

 

Are you ready to grow in your relationship with God each day? Start off your day with Time With God daily devotion. It will take you into God’s word in a way that connects you relationally with the Lord. Sign up now at https://afci.com.au/time-with-god/ to receive Time with God directly in your email!

 

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first four SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”
  4. “We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.”

 

The fifth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle

 

When you think about the evangelistic activity of your church, where do you see evangelism taking place? You would probably say at Christmas and Easter time; you may have a fair or carols or maybe a special evangelistic service. You may even have a special Mother’s Day or Father’s Day service. Or maybe you have an evangelistic event on Valentine’s Day or Anzac Day, and you probably have different ministries you would say are evangelistic. These are the times when people typically think, “It’s evangelism time.”

 

Now, just take a moment to think about the budget you put into these things. Think about how much effort and resource is tied up in these events every year at your church. Then consider how many people you have seen repent and turn in faith to Jesus at those events. Feel free to pause here and write down some of your thoughts.

 

 

When you think about the response you have seen, let me ask you, have you seen numbers of people responding to Jesus to match the effort and resource expended? Most church leaders I talk to say, “No”.

 

Let me challenge you with this question: What if you put that budget and those resources into developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle among your people? I can hear some leaders saying, we can’t stop doing these things, but think about it. Has your approach to evangelism caused the believers in your church to develop a personal witnessing lifestyle? Does your church have a witnessing culture or is your approach to evangelism simply keeping your people busy organizing events, while few people respond to Jesus?

 

We know cultural change takes more than just a weekend seminar. It takes consistency over time to change a culture. That is a primary reason EvangelismSHIFT is a two-year journey we take churches on.

Many leaders are committed to evangelism and putting on evangelistic events. As leaders we preach the gospel and the word of God faithfully, but if we are honest, we struggle to personally live as effective witnesses in our own daily lives. Bible colleges are so valuable to the church, but they typically don’t teach leaders how to live effectively as witnesses for Jesus.

 

We ourselves must learn how to live as witnesses if we are ever going to be able to pass this lifestyle onto our people so that they live as effective witnesses in their daily lives. Cultural change begins with leaders. So where should we start?

 

Wouldn’t you agree that we typically look around and see a church that seems to be growing and we think, what are they doing that we can adopt. But when it comes to strategy, the best place for us to start is imitating our Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul understood this. He even said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

 

Each of the four gospels were written by the gospel authors to make a theological point about Jesus.When it comes to each of the gospels, all the events in Jesus’ life are put in order to emphasis the point they are trying to make.

 

But when you look at all the major events in Jesus’ life, there are statements around them that act like time markers. As a result, you can take the major events of Jesus’ life and lay them out chronologically. This exercise allows you to ask the question, did Jesus have a clear strategy for developing those people who didn’t know him into people who would become multiplying disciplemakers?

 

The answer to that question jumps out of the chronology. There are clear phases that Jesus went through strategically to develop multiplying disciplemakers. When you study Jesus’ process, you discover what Jesus’ objectives were and how you can achieve those same objectives in our time and culture today.

 

As leaders, we must understand Jesus’ approach to ministry in order to SHIFT the way we approach ministry. Why? So that when someone comes to know Jesus personally, they don’t just do what typically happens, come into the big collection of Christians who sit in church for decades, being taught the word and growing spiritually, but never getting involved in the Great Commission. Rather, they come into a culture where they are actively taking their next step in developing an effective witnessing lifestyle and becoming a disciplemaker who contributes to spread Jesus’ spiritual movement across the world.

 

We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle. This is the fifth SHIFT that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

Our EvangelismSHIFT vision is to see a movement of churches across the world whose people have a culture of living as witnesses in their everyday encounters, calling others to respond to Christ.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we want to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first three SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”

 

The fourth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.

 

What! Don’t focus on the lost? This sounds ridiculous; don’t we evangelise to reach lost people?

 

Well yes, but our focus as leaders should be on activating believers as effective witnesses. We don’t forget about lost people but our focus is on activating the believer. Why? Because this is the approach we see in Jesus and the Apostle Paul. If we had time, we could also explore this focus in the New Testament Church.

 

Let’s take a look at Jesus. In his personal life he was all about reaching lost people. He came to seek and to save the lost and he modelled this to his disciples. Just think of him reaching out to Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. There is also his life changing time spent with Zacchaeus and many others. In his personal life Jesus reached out to the lost!

 

But when it came to his ministry strategy, what do we observe about Jesus? We see Jesus activating believers as effective witnesses.

 

Think about it. Jesus calls his disciples and says to them, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. In effect, he is saying to his trainee ministry team, I will train you how to reach the lost. But not only that, I will also train you in a way that you will then be able to train your own disciples, and in turn they will be able to reach the lost and train their own disciples.

 

Isn’t it interesting that we see Jesus send out his 12 disciples to reach the lost, then we see him sending out 72 others and then at the beginning of the book of Acts 120 are gathered. I find it interesting that 72 and 120 are multiples of 12.

 

While Jesus ministered to the masses his focus was on a few—equipping them, training them, activating them as effective witnesses.

 

And this is the same mindset we see in the Apostle Paul. As an imitator of Christ, Paul was committed to reaching the lost. He tells us that he became all things to all people that by some means he might save some.

 

In his personal life Paul was committed to reaching the lost but when it came to his interaction with believers, Paul was constantly challenging them in their witness.

 

Think about Paul’s teaching on prayer as it has to do with evangelism. Prayer was a priority for Paul, and he talks a lot about prayer. What does Paul say to us about prayer and evangelism?

Did you realise that Paul never instructs believers to pray for the lost? Not once. Now, there is no doubt that Paul did pray for the lost because in Romans chapter 10, talking about his fellow Jews, he says “my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved”. Paul prayed for the lost, but he never instructed us to pray for the lost. I’m sure he wanted us to, but that was not his focus. Paul’s focus was activating believers and his teaching on prayer connected to evangelism reflect that focus.

 

Paul says to pray that God would give you open doors to be his witness and when God gives you an open door he says make the most of every opportunity you are given. Paul tells us to pray for boldness to speak and, as you speak, pray that the Holy Spirit will empower what you are saying.

 

Paul’s focus when he taught about prayer was always about praying for the believer and their witness. Activating believers for evangelism was the focus for Paul, just as it was Jesus’ focus.

As leaders, we need to SHIFT our focus to activating believers. Activating believers is where we should be focusing our money and resources for evangelism, our staffing for evangelism, our teaching, our training, our evangelistic efforts.

 

If God has positioned you as a leader in your church for the equipping of the saints for works of ministry, let me ask you this. What is the greatest ministry Jesus Christ wants the people in your church to have? Isn’t it Jesus’ ministry, to seek and save those who are lost. After all, why has he left us here? All other purposes in the lives of believers will be fulfilled so much more completely in heaven. He has left us here to be his witnesses!

 

Your purpose as a leader is to equip your people as witnesses. All of Jesus’ ministry was geared around equipping his disciples to become fishers of men, then multiplying them to equip others to become fishers of men. Even our events, small groups and gatherings that are designed for the lost should also serve to equip believers in their witness to the lost.

 

We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses. This is the fourth shift that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared you the first two shifts we must make

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”

 

The third shift that must take place is this:

 

3. We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.

 

If you have spent time leading people to faith in Jesus Christ on the personal level you know the reality is that no one comes to Christ all at once. Everyone goes on a journey towards faith in Jesus Christ.

 

As we travel around speaking to all types of Christian churches, we often survey the church with a few questions. We ask people to “Put up your hand if you came to Christ at the age of 16 or older.” These are the people who can remember their journey to faith.

 

We ask people to think of the point in their life when they began to move towards Christ. For some, they met a Christian and saw something different in their life and wanted to find out more. Others faced a crisis in their life and began to ask the hard questions. Still others may have heard something on Christian radio or television, or they attended an event and heard the gospel for the first time and began to wonder about God. Some may have read something. What about you? What started your journey towards Jesus?

 

Something starts people moving towards God and they have this sense that there has got to be more in life. At some point, all of us who are believers went on a journey that saw us place our trust in Jesus Christ.

 

In every church we survey, we have people tell us how long the journey was from when they first started moving towards God to when they trusted in Jesus. For some it was just a couple of months; for others, decades. Now and again we hear someone say “it happened all at once,” but this is rare.

 

Think about your own life. How long was your journey to faith? From the thousands of people we have surveyed, the most common length of people’s journey to faith in Jesus is about 2 years.

 

When you think about that stat, what does it tell you about Evangelism? It tells me that everybody goes on a journey. Some people’s journey is quicker than others’, but everyone journeys to faith in Jesus. That reality means that we must rethink how we do Evangelism!

 

Wouldn’t you agree that, traditionally, we have seen Evangelism as helping people take the last step in their journey to faith in Christ? This is one of the key reasons many of us avoid evangelism all together. We see our work colleagues, neighbours and family members and know they are so far away from Jesus. We wonder how we could ever share the gospel and help them take the last step to faith. Where on earth would we start?

 

There was a time when a ‘last-step’ approach was legitimate. There was a generation who went to church because it was the socially acceptable thing to do. We had ‘revival meetings’ to help people already in the church turn to Christ for salvation.

 

The generation that followed were people who still held a Christian worldview but didn’t see the need to go to church. Some still sent their kids to Sunday school because they valued the good moral teachings. You could still knock on the door of these generations, present the gospel and it would connect with things they accepted as true and they would turn to Jesus.

 

Today, however, we live in a culture where we have a rapidly growing number of adults who have never been to church, read a bible or heard of Jesus other than as a swear word. When we share the gospel and speak of Jesus, in their minds we may as well be speaking about Peter Pan. They have no mental framework to cause them to believe what we are saying. They are starting a long way further back in the journey to Christ from previous generations. The further our society gets away from God the more we must expand our approach to evangelism to include journeying with them.

 

Now, there is a necessary caution when adjusting our view of evangelism like this. When we understand the idea that people journey towards faith in Jesus, we can get so focused on their journey that we never get to the last step and share the gospel! We must understand that evangelism is never complete until a person understands the gospel and has had an opportunity to respond to Jesus.

 

As a leader, when you equip your people to take this relational journey towards Christ with the people they know, they come alive. It’s so freeing for your people to understand that evangelism isn’t just helping someone take the last step to faith but journeying with people, helping those people take the next step in their walk towards faith in Jesus.

 

When your people understand this reality they begin to relax in conversation and enjoy journeying with people to faith. When people journey, they begin to look for opportunities for their friends to hear the gospel. Because they have been journeying with their friends, when the time comes to share the gospel, it no longer seems like a huge issue because sharing the gospel occurs naturally in the context of that relationship.

 

We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism. This is another one of the shifts that we help churches take through EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

 

 

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

In my last blog I challenged church leaders that we need to change our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I shared with you the first of five shifts we must make—“We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”

The second shift that must take place is this:

 

2. We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.

When people think of the word “evangelism” there are typically two strong responses. Some people get super excited and are passionate about evangelism while other people try to avoid the topic and are greatly turned off when evangelism is mentioned.

I suggest to you that people avoid the subject and get turned off because typically when we preach and think about evangelism we often just think of the final step in conversion—helping someone step across the line to faith in Jesus. We can’t blame our people for thinking evangelism is just this last step because this is how many of us leaders also think about evangelism.

Evangelism is so much more than helping someone cross the line to faith in Christ. Yes, it includes this vital step and, in fact, evangelism is not complete until that person has heard and understood the gospel and been invited to respond to Christ … but it’s also so much more.

Evangelism is the relational journey believers go on with unbelievers until they respond to faith in Jesus!

Here is the reality. When people who came to faith in Christ are asked, “What is the primary factor that led you to put your faith in Christ?” the vast majority reply, “It’s because of a relationship I had with a Christian.” Just think of your own journey to Jesus. How would you respond to that question?

Yes, people may have made a decision at an event or church service, but we must recognise that the major factor in someone turning to Christ is a relationship with a real Christian.

As I work with believers of all different kinds of churches and hear their stories, I consistently see that their journey towards faith in Jesus started when a Christian began a real relationship with them. Even if the gospel isn’t mentioned immediately, that person’s journey towards Jesus is accelerated when a believer becomes their true friend. From that point on, everything else is a natural progression toward them encountering Jesus for themselves.

Wouldn’t you agree that as leaders we struggle in building real friendships with non-churched people? Our people struggle with that too. It’s not natural to spend relational time outside our Christian circle of relationships. We have secular acquaintances, but our friends are believers. This is a huge problem we must address!

What would it look like for you to cultivate an environment in your church where there is an expectation that your people will build relationships with non-church people?

Let me be real with you—it will never happen unless your people see this in your life. As a leader you must become what you want to multiply.

When you look at Jesus Christ, what do we see him doing when he called his first disciples? When they were called, we immediately see him in their homes building relationships and reaching out to unbelievers. He was known as “a friend of sinner”. The religious leaders criticized Jesus for spending time with unbelievers and yet he says to them, “It’s the sick who are in need of a doctor.” Jesus explains that he is the shepherd searching for lost sheep and the woman looking for her lost coin. “This is who I am”, Jesus was saying to them, “and all who follow me will become as I am.”

Even when Jesus’ team of disciples grew and he was surrounded by followers, what do we see him doing? We see him intentionally carving out time in his schedule and prioritizing relational time with unbelievers.

We will never reach this generation unless it’s through the relational connection believers have with people in their lives who don’t know Jesus.

We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism. This is another one of the shifts that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .