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?—Because it answers people’s search for purpose and meaning in life!

Trying to find a job can be very disheartening. All of my kids are youth or young adults, so between them and their friends I spend a lot of time with young people. I see the agony of trying to find a job. One application after another gets rejected. They move from excitement about jobs that they want to an acceptance of any place that will hire them. After multiple rejections comes a discouragement about your self worth and why you exist in this world.

That’s not just the experience of young people. Anyone in search of work has these same feelings, as does someone who has retired and wonders if they have lost all their value now that they aren’t working any more. This longing for purpose is also felt by people who don’t really enjoy their work or their life in general.

We were made in the image of a purposeful God and people know that they should be living with purpose. This makes the gospel so very relevant and can be a great starting place for a spiritual conversation.

God’s purpose for us is so central to the Christian message that I try to share it whenever I share the gospel. When you turn to Christ in faith, God forgives you, you start a new life with him at the centre of it, and most exciting of all, you become part of the stream of his activity in the lives of other people you know who are searching for answers. God wants to reveal himself to them through you!

When you recognise that God’s purpose for you doesn’t require you to be a preacher or have an exciting job, then everyday becomes an adventure as you look for doors God is opening and you find ways that God wants to use you in the lives of the people around you.

This purpose of God through you is one of the most compelling parts of the gospel.

Why don’t you start a conversation with someone today with the question, “What is your purpose in life?”

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 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 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!