Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because spiritualism is still very popular

Many Christians think that no one is interested in religion. But the truth is, while the people who identify as non-religious are a growing minority, the majority of people still believe in religion of some sort. This week I would like to give you some statistics from here in Australia to encourage you as you think about sharing Jesus with those around you. These stats are taken from a 2017 survey conducted by McCrindle research. I want to show you that you don’t need to feel self-conscious about having spiritual discussions with people.

The percentage of people identifying as ‘non-religious’ is growing each year; however, 68% of people in Australia still identify with one religion or another. In addition, 55% of Australians actually talk about spirituality or religion some of the time. So you can see that, for a lot of people, it won’t come as a surprise if you ask them about spiritual things. Many talk about spirituality already, so it would be natural for them to have that conversation with you. Starting or having a spiritual conversation with someone will not necessarily mean that you are seen as weird or ‘old fashioned’.

In addition to this, 92% of Australians know at least one Christian and by far the majority have a positive perception of Christians with the biggest describers of Christians being words such as, “caring, loving, kind, honest and faithful”. Again, as you look to share your faith with the people around you, know that despite what the media or others may make you feel, most people have a positive impression of Christians. On a side note, despite 92% of people knowing a least one Christian, 28% know nothing about Jesus and 56% of people know almost nothing about their local church. As we think about sharing with the people around us, be aware that while people may know Christians, they may know nothing about what it means to be a Christian.

During this survey McCrindle Research asked non-Christians what they thought of Jesus and the Church. When asked about the church, only 9% of people had a negative impression of the church with people saying things like, “When all else fails, the church will be there.” When asked about Jesus, people said things like, “There is nothing negative about him, he was a very moral person. So many good traits there, if he does exist.”

What does all this mean? Well for me it shows me that while we live in an increasingly secular society (only 45% of people identify as Christians and only 7% of people would consider themselves active practisers) that does not mean that people are not interested in spiritual things. There is just a smorgasbord of options for people to choose from. That, in addition to the reality that today people decide on truth by experience, means that people are trying out all the different options to see which one works for them. Wouldn’t it be a shame if, by our silence, the ‘option’ of having a relationship with Jesus was never given to them!

It also means that I can have confidence that telling people around me that I am a Christian does not mean that I will be mocked or ridiculed. I may very well be so, but as I talk to people about Jesus, most people already think positively about him.

As you live your life in the mission field that God has put you in (which is wherever you are), speak out with confidence. Spirituality isn’t dead. It’s still part of the world we live in and discussing spiritual things is still very popular.

People are still searching, in some ways harder than ever. Help them in their search for Jesus!

 

 

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because the rat race takes you nowhere!

Sometimes when I am having a spiritual conversation with someone and they are questioning why I believe what I believe, I like to turn the conversation back on them and ask them, “What about you? Don’t you feel that something is missing in your life, that things are not right, not the way they are supposed to be? Aren’t you searching for something that your current life is not giving you?” It’s easy for them to dismiss Christianity when talking in third person, but when confronted with the outcome of their own life and worldview, they pause. Those who are honest often answer in a subdued voice. “Well…yes.”

We know that, as the church father Augustine said to God, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” We call the headlong pursuit of the secular goals of money and success ‘the rat race’. But the rat race is not the right race, because the prizes it gives will never give a person what they hope it will give them. At the end of the rat race, even if you win, is just more emptiness, loneliness and disappointment.

The rat race is a big lie. It’s important to ask people those questions that reveal the lie. On the surface people may be ‘successful’ and seem to have it all together, but under the surface they know that the rat race is taking them nowhere. Talking openly about that suddenly makes the gospel more relevant. The reason we are never satisfied with the things of the world is that we were made for God and only he can make our lives whole. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Do you want your gospel conversations to be relevant to someone who is in the rat race? Ask them the questions that will help them recognise that the rat race will take them nowhere and point them to Jesus.

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Christian life stands out as so different!

I have never seen a time like this, where people all over the world are getting sick, anxious, confused, filled with uncertainties, and the economic growth is declining as the effect of the pandemic. As COVID-19 escalates around the globe, fear lingers even quicker than the virus itself! Empty shelves and crowded checkouts in grocery stores provide visual representations of the panic surrounding the spread of COVID 19..Social media photos of empty streets, shuttered shops and restaurants, reduced public transit service, closed borders and issuance of “stay-at-home” order to control the outbreak are the government officials’ response to address this public health emergency.

 

Why the Gospel is relevant today?

 

The Gospel is relevant because Christian life stands out as so different!

 

While my newsfeed and group chats are full of real-time panic-inducing news articles and updates about Corona Virus, you can easily spot on Christians, who view things differently. I know someone who is currently busy acquiring some supplies from other compassionate people and delivering them personally to disadvantaged people. You will see her optimism and how she responds in love about every given situation. You would always see her pointing people to the unshakeable hope we have in Christ. My colleague mentioned a senior band who call themselves, Ambassadors for Christ. They usually perform in daycare and age care, but since the outbreak, they started to spread the message of hope by singing in their garage.

 

As God’s people, our hope is not in anything that belongs to this world or even in our physical health, because we are looking from our lens of faith knowing who God is and who we are in him. Our confidence lies not on our own situation, but in the nearness of Christ. His perfect peace dwells in our hearts as we TRULY trust in him. We are called to be like a “lighthouse in the darkness” and, “a city set on a hill” that “cannot be hidden.” How does that practically look like? As it says in “Galatians 5:6b, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”. REAL FAITH LOOKS LIKE LOVE—BEING GRATEFUL AND GENEROUS amid everything that is happening. We are grateful that even the fear of death cannot separate us from his great love (Romans 8:35-39), and we are generous, because we genuinely care for others. We recognise that even difficult circumstances such as this are opportunities to be a witness for Jesus!

 

As Wayne Alcorn, National President of Australian Christian Churches said, “God’s plan for the planet is the church. His caring force in the earth are people like you and me…Maybe this is the time, in the midst of all these darkness and fear and terror, for you and I, to do what scriptures tells us to do, rise and shine. There’s a wonderful verse, it says, “Rise and shine for your light has come.” (Isaiah 60:1a) Perhaps, this is the greatest moment for the church, despite the terrible times we are in. Just because people are socially isolated, it doesn’t mean that they have to be lonely. Maybe you and I can pick up a phone, maybe we could facetime somebody, maybe there’s a neighbor that needs their lawn mowed, maybe there’s somebody that needs you and I to go and get some groceries or help them with some of the basic needs of life, you probably know a friend whose lost their job, maybe there’s some practical, simple way that you can show tangible expression of the love of God. This really is, a very difficult time for humanity, but in the midst of it, God’s got people like you, He’s got people like me, let’s rise and shine and let’s show the world, that in all of these, God is still real, God is still love, and he will show them his love through people like us.”

The Coronavirus has just made the gospel far more relevant to many people!

There have been many times when I have tried to start a good spiritual conversation with people, but their reaction shows that they are not interested at all in having that kind of conversation. As believers, we know that the gospel is the most important message a person could ever know and come to grips with. But there is a big difference between important and relevant!

 

Getting right with God and knowing what happens when you die just became much more relevant to our society than it was a few weeks ago. I am part of a Facebook group of pastors in our area. One pastor said that because of the restrictions on gatherings, they moved to sending a live video feed of their Sunday service to their congregation online. So none of the congregation showed up for church. But in spite of the restrictions, two non-Christians showed up looking for answers, looking for hope, looking for God.

 

The coronavirus changes everything for us as witnesses. Don’t miss this change, because it demands a change in your thinking too! Here is what needs to change:

 

You need to stop assuming that nobody really wants to talk about spiritual things or about God and start assuming that everybody wants to have spiritual conversations and is looking for answers and the hope that only God can bring!

Now is not the time to simply pray and hope that God might do something to open a person’s heart to him. Now is the time to act on your prayers and start talking with everyone you know, everyone you encounter, about life and death and God and forgiveness and hope and peace. Be bold. Ask people, “How are you dealing with all that’s going on with the coronavirus? If you were to catch the virus and die, do you have confidence that you are right with God? Can I share with you how you can have that confidence?”

 

Then share the gospel with them. When you have shared the beautiful truth of what Jesus has done to make a way for us to be right with God, ALWAYS ask if they feel like they are ready to take that step right now. If not, ask what is holding them back, and then have another great conversation about that.

 

Maybe you don’t see many people right now, because you are staying at home as we try to help contain the virus. But you can call people to check on them and have these same conversations. Don’t assume that because people have not been open in the past, it means that won’t be open now. Be bold, take action, trust God, and start spiritual conversations, then move those conversations toward the gospel!

 

When to talk to someone about God?—when you sense their deep feeling of inadequacy, brokenness or isolation

 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3-4

 

We can’t have a witnessing lifestyle without a praying lifestyle. We should pray to God to create witnessing opportunities for us. While we are persistently praying for open doors, we should also be praying for spiritual discernment to know when the door has opened.

 

But what do these open doors look like?

 

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

 

…when you sense their deep feeling of inadequacy, brokenness or isolation

 

I met Ria in a local playground. She was looking after her 2-year-old son at that time. She looked sober and lonely when I approached her to kick off a conversation. After our discussion moved past the surface to a personal level, I discovered that she just recently migrated to Australia. Her stories and body language conveyed her deep sorrow because it was her first time to be away from her parents, friends, and home country while she worked on adjusting to her new environment. Right at that moment, I felt the searching heart of a person who is ready to hear God’s transforming hope and grace.

 

I shared with her how I also struggled when we moved to Singapore many years ago, before we moved here to Australia. I made myself vulnerable with her and shared how I met God during those trying times. I did not give her a grand Gospel presentation, but only my testimony that there is real hope and freedom through Jesus. I told her that God loves her and cares about everything that matters to her. She was greatly moved when I prayed for her. She was a bit emotional as she responded in Christ’s invitation. Her face was beaming with gratefulness before we parted ways.

What do open doors look like? These phrases might help you: deep feeling of isolation, inadequacy, brokenness and misery due to a variety of reasons like relationship struggles, death of a loved one, health issues etc. When any of these events happen, people’s hearts start searching for answers and they are often receptive to hear the Gospel. These life events become doors of opportunity to witness for Christ. Pay attention as life happens to people and prayerfully step in with your testimony and by the blood of the lamb you will overcome!

 

When to talk to someone about God?—when you ask a question and they are responsive

Interacting with Christians from all different places is a joy to me. I love to help Christians learn how to have natural conversations about God with their friends, family and people they meet.

 

I’ve learned that many Christians struggle to know when it’s appropriate to bring God into a conversation with a non-believer. On one hand, Christians enjoy a beautiful and personal relationship with God, who has transformed their life, and they want others to experience God in a personal way too. On the other hand, they respect the personal views and beliefs of others and don’t want to unnecessarily offend people. So… when should you talk about God?

 

There are many circumstances when Christians can openly and naturally talk about God. One of those times is when you ask a question and people are responsive.

 

What do I mean by that? I remember a conversation I had with a tradesman when we were on a job together. We talked about all sorts of topics and what we looked forward to on the weekend coming up. He had a family birthday party on, and I shared I was also heading to a birthday party and then to church on Sunday. I asked him “What’s your spiritual belief?”. He replied, “I’m not into any of that,” and quickly changed the topic. It was obvious he wasn’t open to speaking about God, so I didn’t pursue it.

 

On another occasion I was having a conversation with a lady when I was travelling home from work. She shared how she was heading home for the weekend to take care of her disabled son and how tough life was for them as a family. I shared with her how I was going to spend the weekend and mentioned that I enjoy hanging out with friends at church on Sunday. I asked her “What’s your spiritual belief?”. She began to share with me her experience growing up with religion around her but that she never pursued church. However, she believed that there is more to life than what she was experiencing.

 

This lady was open and responsive to talk about God and for the next hour we spoke back and forth about Gods love, the heartaches of life, the reality of our experiences and the hope we can have when we personally know God, the one who hold the future.

 

You can enjoy natural conversations about God with people who are responsive simply by asking a question. What question could you ask?

 

Take a moment now and ask God to give you questions you can ask. Ask him to help you recognise when someone is responsive. Then trust him with your conversations!

When to talk to someone about God?—when they comment that there is something different about you or about another Christian

I recently sat beside a fascinating man on a plane trip in America. His background intrigued me and my genuine interest in his story led to question after question. After some time, he began asking me about why I was traveling and what I did.

 

As I shared with him about my ministry of helping Christians do a better job of sharing their relationship with God with others, he talked about how much he rejected about the Christianity he had seen. But he also referred to a Christian friend in his life. He talked about how God had really changed her life and that always kept him from discounting Christianity as fake.

 

Immediately I knew that God had given me a starting point to talk with this man about the difference between religion and real Christianity (a relationship with God). I was able to share about my encounter with God and how I had been religious before that but didn’t know God and how God had then completely changed my life.

 

The conversation lasted for the several hours of our trip. I knew of a good church in his area and encouraged him to check it out. He said, “I’m open to that now.”

 

God used that encounter to take him several steps closer to Christ.

 

Whenever someone makes a comment about how there is something different about you or another Christian, take it as God’s invitation to speak about him to that person!

When to talk to someone about God?—when you have been praying for an open door and God brings them across your path

In all likelihood there are people in your life that you have never talked to about God. You see them often, maybe at work or in your neighbourhood. Maybe they are family members. You know that God wants you to be his witness and you would love for those people to experience a relationship with Jesus, but something holds you back.

 

What would I say? What will they think? They probably would be so uncomfortable. People don’t want to talk about God.

 

Here’s the thing you need to realise: it’s not up to you to open the door for a spiritual conversation, nor to open their hearts to God. Only God can do that.

 

That’s why it’s so important to pray about these things! Stop right now and pray that God will give you opportunities to have meaningful spiritual conversations with these very people. Pray for them by name and ask God to open doors to talk about him with them.

 

But don’t stop there. There’s another important step that we so often miss.

 

We pray for open doors, but then when God opens them we don’t walk through them. The fact is, when you start praying specifically, by name, for people in your life that don’t know God, God will bring those people across your path.

 

When that happens, you should immediately recognise that God is most likely about to answer your prayer. As you talk with that person just ask them about something a little deeper than the surface-level and trust God to move the conversation towards spiritual things.

 

Don’t worry if you don’t get to share the gospel message. If you have a meaningful conversation about God, then invite them to have a Bible study with you to learn more about God. Get hold of theLifeWorks videos and simply watch a video with them once a week. Print out the discussion sheet and talk about the video. Trust God to open their hearts to him.

When to talk to someone about God?—when your relationship moves past the surface to personal issues

One of the best opportunities to share the gospel is when you have a friend that you can talk to about personal issues that are happening in your life – it can be a wide-open door. But how can you tell when is a good time? How can you know that you are not going to alienate your friend? What should you talk about?

 

I think you probably know how to tell when a friend moves from the acquaintance zone to the friend zone. It’s when you stop talking about the weather and you start talking about the important things that are going on in your life – whether they be good or bad. It’s when you feel comfortable sharing with them about your struggles and also your triumphs. It’s when you no longer just talk about superficial things, but you really share what’s on your heart.

 

Why is this a good time to talk about Jesus? It’s simple! When you are talking about personal things, a natural part of that will be talking about the person that is most important to you. To talk about what they are doing in your life and how they are helping you. Your friend will expect you to open up and talk about what, and who is precious to you. In fact, if you don’t, they probably won’t open up either and you will never even move to the “friend zone”!

 

I know from experience that it’s almost impossible to talk about difficult or joyful times in your life without talking about your Father in heaven who was with you through them. It is one of the central themes.

 

So we have established that when a relationship has moved past the surface and to the personal level is the perfect time for you to be sharing about Jesus with your friend. But what can you talk about? Well, what has Jesus meant to you? How has he helped you in difficult times? Talk about those times, your struggles and triumphs. Be vulnerable! How did Jesus help you in those times?

 

The most important thing to remember is to be genuine and honest. People in this post-modern society we live in come to truth by way of experience. Show them your relationship with Jesus. Let them see what he means to you and feel what he has done for you. This will be far more powerful than any fact or figure that you can ever tell them.

 

And last but very much not least, pray, pray, pray. Remember that it is not you, nor your fancy words that will convince someone they need Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Only he can draw someone to himself. So pray that God would use you in your friend’s life, and then open your mouth as his instrument and see what he does!

 

If you don’t have any non-Christian friends, here’s a helpful blog on how to step out of your “Christian Bubble”.  https://afci.com.au/how-do-i-get-out-of-my-christian-bubble/

When to talk to someone about God?—when they have lost all hope

In 1 Peter 3:15 it says ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’

 

There is such an outcry for hope in our world today. Not something wishy washy … but a hope based on the unwavering truth of God’s Word. A hope that is living and active. A hope powerful enough to transform, heal, and set the captives free.

 

Bev came to a gathering in the community centre. She was very prickly, angry and lonely. We talked for maybe 5 minutes. I did not say anything profound. I simply accepted her and told her God loves her. The following week Bev came again. Her words astonished me. She was quite emotional as she said, ‘Last week I was going home to commit suicide. But because of what you said .. that God loves me .. I didn’t go ahead with it. Thank you.’ We had many conversations after that. Bev gave her life to Jesus and lived to serve him.  She was transformed into a warm, generous and loving person.

 

Ellie was struggling with anorexia. She was a very private person. As we entered into a conversation, her inner turmoil became very apparent. I asked her if I could pray with her. She was happy for that. As we did, she became quite emotional and shared that she had gone through an abortion. The shame and guilt were robbing her of her life.  I was able to share with her how Jesus gave his life for her and for her sin and shame. That he would forgive her, wash her clean and set her free, if she was willing to confess to him. Ellie responded to Christ’s invitation. As we waited on the Lord, again deep tears raked through her body. I asked her what was happening, and she said ‘Jesus has just given me a picture of my daughter with Him. He has forgiven me!” Her relief and gratitude were astounding.

 

There are many ‘Bevs’ and ‘Ellies’ in our world. People who are hiding their pain and grief and struggle. People God loves with a profound love. People He puts in our pathways, because He knows we have the answer for anyone who is in need of His transforming hope. Sometimes we let fear of rejection rob us of the opportunity God gives us through His Spirit, to speak life into the lives of those who are struggling. What amazing opportunities we miss out on, when we allow darkness to rob us of His Light. If Jesus through His Spirit brings people into our pathway, it is because we are invited to be part of the process to leading them to the Giver of HOPE. We are a part of His plan for their lives.

 

As we press into Jesus in our own lives, learning to listen for the Spirit’s voice and are ready to give the reason for the hope that lives in us, a hope based on the Truth of Him, we will have the awesome privilege of witnessing God’s amazing miracle of redemption at work in the lives of others!!! What an incredible adventure we have been invited into. May you be blessed on the journey!!