The ‘Little Yes’ – the need to investigate
Just because someone isn’t saying ‘yes’ to God, they are not necessarily saying ‘no’, reckons Mark Greenwood.
My wife is one of the best in-vestigators I know.
She’s way better than me at problem-solving and this is largely due to the fact that she is fab at drilling down into the details.
There’s a downside – it can take ages to decide on the shape and brand of the new kettle we’re planning to buy. The upside is that our choice is just about as informed as it can possibly be.
Whether it’s changing job, moving house or buying a new utensil, many of the decisions we make in life involve some form of investigation.
Having preached the gospel over four decades now, I have seen the face of culture, the world and the church change – but the one thing that’s always been there is people’s need to investigate faith.
In my view that need has increased significantly over the last couple of decades, and if we want to be effective in our evangelism we need to actively create space for investigation.
Reasonable and true
I am fascinated by Paul’s conversation with King Agrippa and Festus in Acts 26. In verse 24 Festus interrupted Paul’s defence.
“You are out of your mind, Paul” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.”
We preachers have not always been very good at showing the ‘reasonable’ side of Christianity.
We’ve been good at the ‘true’ part, declaring the gospel with conviction and passion, and calling for people to respond. What we haven’t done so well is understanding that just because someone isn’t saying ‘yes’ to God, they are not necessarily saying ‘no’.
What it often means is that they need time to look into things.
Just a few verses later we read that Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long – I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
Could this be?
I love the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. In fact, I have one of Helen Yousaf’s amazing paintings in my study, depicting the scene.
In verse 29 the woman tells the villagers, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
She has just met Jesus and is not even fully sure herself. So she invites investigation.
Then we read, “Many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’
“So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.
“They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.’”
What started with ‘come and meet, could this be?’, ended with ‘now we really know’.
What a great lesson in moving from invitation to investigation.
Last summer 164 Elim churches signed up to run the Alpha Course. Some were small courses and some were bigger, and many were online, but it was a thrill to see that those churches were committed to go on a journey with people where they could investigate the Christian faith.
We had some great stories of people coming to Christ and being baptised.
These were people who were willing to investigate, and we created space for that.
We are planning another Elim-wide Alpha this autumn. We are partnering with Alpha for the next three years and want to encourage every Elim church to run Alpha at least once during that time.
That means that we are committed to helping people say a ‘Little Yes’ – to decide to find out more about the God we love.
Will you join us on the journey?
Who are your friends, family and work colleagues that might be willing to find out more?
Who are the people in your world that you could invite to come on Alpha with you?
Talk to your church leader about running Alpha in your church. It doesn’t have to be a massive course, it can simply be a mixture of your friends who follow Jesus and your friends who don’t, having some food together and doing Alpha.
First published in the April 2022 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.
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