How do we get our precious message to ground level?
There are many matters to consider when it comes to evangelism, writes Gary Gibbs.
Did you see the recent story where, almost unbelievably, gold bars started falling out of the sky?
A Russian cargo plane was carrying the ingots over Siberia when, for some reason, the load fell out. The authorities were able to recover 170 of the bars weighing 20kg each. The precious cargo was spread over a 15-mile-wide area.
This crazy story is something of a parable of what we are about when it comes to evangelism and church planting: we are involved in a spiritually equivalent ministry.
I am pretty sure that I don’t have to convince you about the indescribable worth of the gospel. The astounding news of what the Creator of the universe has done for human beings through the life, death and resurrection of his Son is so heart-warming and awe-inspiring that every person needs to hear it and be given the opportunity to respond in repentance and faith.
The challenge we face is in getting the precious message out of the cargo plane and down to ground level! How do we do it? We have mentioned a number of times on these pages that God’s chosen method of propagating the gospel is through his people. So, here’s how we evangelise and/or plant…
First of all, it’s extremely rare for anyone to become a Jesus follower outside of the context of relationship. So we have to find a context of being ‘up close and personal’ with lost people, or in biblical terms, being a friend of sinners. Once we have built relationship bridges, there is the potential for the gospel to be transported across.
My good friend and REACH colleague Mark Greenwood has written previously about the ‘Big Yes, Little Yes, Healthy Maybe’ approach to evangelism. This is such a useful framework to use whether you are trying to reach one or plant a fresh Christian community. But in this case, we need to take the framework in reverse order!
Build a ‘Healthy Maybe’ platform. So often we want to preach Good News to others before we have been Good News to them. So let’s learn to befriend, care and serve. In the words of Michael Frost, let’s live ‘Questionable Lives’ (look at 1 Peter 3:15 and this will make sense!). Let’s live out the fullness of life which Jesus gives us and bring flavour, joy and technicolour into people’s grey, or even worse, beige lives!
Look for ‘Little Yes’ moments. This could mean offering to pray for someone at a time of need, or showing hospitality, or offering a piece of evangelistic literature, or simply being authentic in sharing about something God has done for you.
Just before Easter one of our intrepid church planting teams, Wakefield Elim Community Church, hosted 100 primary school children. In a wonderfully fun way, they shared the Easter story with them using visuals, singing, art and biscuit decorating, including an ‘Empty Tomb biscuit’! The school is over the moon and wants to bring lots more children to connect with the church. That was a ‘Little Yes’ event which will produce fruit in the future!
Go for the ‘Big Yes’. In the context of friendship, when someone is obviously seeking God, we need to be brave enough to ask them the question, “Would you like to start a friendship with God right now?”
When we are blasting out a brand new church it’s important to have events which from time to time offers ‘Big Yes’ opportunities to people. This could be through running an Alpha Course in a front room, holding special guest events and services, etc.
Finally, the motivation to do any of this must come through a fresh revelation of the amazingly costly, sacrificial action of God in sending down to earth his most valuable thing, his Son – much more precious than gold bars could ever be.
And because of Jesus, we now have the treasure of the gospel in jars of clay, and we have the privilege of sharing it with those around us!
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