From that time, Jesus began to preach saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matthew 4
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice to address them – Acts 2
My wife, who was right next to me, dug me in the ribs and said, “what shall we say?”
“Not sure” I replied, “but you say something as she’s a woman.”
So it went on, as we stood side by side in Toowong shopping centre in the ‘training phase’ of learning to make disciples. We had been told by Steve and Dave that morning, that lunchtime training would be a practical exercise involving our going out onto the streets to talk to people about our faith in Jesus. I distinctly remember thinking at the time, “wow do people actually do that?”
That was a decade ago now, and we did end up talking to the lady, and she was most indignant about our approaching her to talk about Jesus; it was probably one of the worst brush-offs we’ve had. Back at base camp though, many came back with incredible stories of others wanting prayer, being able to share testimony and sharing Jesus with complete strangers. There was much rejoicing, much amazement and a new sense of perspective.
Many are sceptical of course, that such action is relevant or necessary in the Christian faith. Why can’t I just share with my family or friends they ask, rarely admitting that doesn’t happen either. On the whole, modern Western believers simply don’t share the Gospel. It is an indictment on us, that after sitting listening to endless sermons, and engaging in sometimes brutal theological debate, few of us can share Jesus with a non-believer.
My biggest argument for going out onto the streets, is that it sharpens you such that you can share your faith with anyone. Like yesterday, as an example, where I shared Christ with a Bunnings employee who was interested in skateboarding. Sharing the Gospel has become a natural and intentional part of my life. But it wasn’t always like that.
What do we say to a complete stranger, how do we open up a conversation?
The first thing I would say, is that you have the Holy Spirit with you, particularly I believe, at such times. In my own instance, I learned a lengthy Gospel presentation (Torben Sondergaard’s) off by heart, such that I could use either all of it, or just part of it at any time in a conversation. It was a useful beginning and even now is a backdrop to answering many questions people have.
In meeting someone cold on the streets, I will usually start with something like, “we’re a community of believers who feel we never get out and share our faith with people enough, so if God could do something for you to do, what would you ask him to do?” Inside 15 seconds, I will know if there is interest.
If I’m on a plane, or in an Uber I will look to start a conversation that usually begins with business or work. I can then easily move that conversation to “another part of my life involves working within the housing commission where I live, with the poor and marginalised. I do that because I have a strong faith.” It goes from there. We always try to pray with the person, as I feel strongly God will always move in a person’s soul with such interaction, even if we don’t ever see it. Always.
Others recite their own testimony, “oh can I tell you how God moved in my life?” or tell a simple Bible story that is relevant to somebody’s life, all the time keeping a natural conversation.
Sometimes, we get to spend an hour with someone and share the full Gospel, other times we’ve got 5 minutes. The bottom line is, you need to be learn to share the Gospel and continue to learn how to share along the way. That includes the Father’s incredible love and our coming judgement because of sin. The story has to centre around the person of Jesus Christ, God’s complete answer to that story. For most believers, doing this is something they have never learned.
These days, we are trying to get people to commit to meeting ongoing as we seek to make Disciples, Jesus ultimate calling on our lives. We are running Discovery Bible Studies which are simple and easy, and engage all participants while allowing Jesus to lead. We’re not there yet, in fact along the way we are often disillusioned. To be frank, the disillusionment comes mostly from other believers who come wanting something different, so enthusiastic at first until they discover that church was never meant to be the church they have had, and that they actually need to be the church. There can be much pain.
Is that useful for you who read this? I don’t know, we meet many who are unsure but would like to do more, too embarrassed perhaps after a lifetime of listening, that they still cannot. When we scratch away, we discover so few can actually tell others of their faith through normal, everyday conversation. We were too, so please, take heart, you can learn! It is for all.
Just two more things to say; one, pray, pray and pray some more. God answers. Two, practise again and again. Open your mouths my friend, and let the journey begin. You will be fulfilled, the angels will rejoice.