The men surrounded Candace after the community meeting. They knew Candace was a Christian. They had some serious questions for her.
This scene played out a couple of weeks ago. Actually, I see—and participate in—scenes like this every week.
This is the texture of the new evangelism. This is the true heart of being “missional.” This is how today’s spiritually hungry people are finding a real relationship with Jesus.
The men who circled Candace included Jim, a university professor and researcher; Don, a widower; and Rich, an airline pilot. They had just experienced a community Lifetree Café program entitled “The Bible: Real? Relevant? Reliable?”
Since they had become regular Lifetree attendees, they knew, respected, and liked Candace, who is another regular attendee. They wanted her response to their major questions and doubts about the Bible. “For the next 75 minutes,” Candace said, “we talked about the purpose of the Bible, life after death, what it means to be saved—you name it.
“All of them kept asking me questions. And the really amazing thing was, I had a biblical answer to every question they asked,” she said. “I had always been so reluctant to enter into discussions about Christian doctrine, afraid that I’d let Jesus down by saying the wrong thing or coming across as judgmental. But in that environment, with those people, whom I’ve gotten to know, trust and like over the past year, sharing my faith was completely natural and easy.”
Candace is a “lamp on a lampstand.” She’s not a preacher. She’s not a door-knocking evangelist. She’s not a hard-sell “closer.” She’s a friend. And she’s effective. She naturally converses with her friends about another one of her friends—Jesus.
Candace’s story exemplifies several things for any church wishing to effectively impact lives with the Good News:
- Make everyone a minister. Establish a culture of the priesthood of all believers. Remind (often) everyone that the real ministry of the church is everyone’s calling. The paid staff are merely trainers and encouragers to those who actually “shine the light.”
- Promote seed planting. Help your people understand their role in spreading the Good News. It’s not their job to convert anyone. They’re simply called to plant the seeds of faith. God does the converting. Paul explained the division of roles in 1 Corinthians: “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”
- Train your people. They need practical help to be natural faith conversationalists. How do they engage their friends in meaningful and non-judgmental conversations that include faith? (A great resource for this training is God Space by Doug Pollock.)
- Let your people practice. Provide safe opportunities for people to talk about their faith. Churches often tell their people to get out and share their faith. But they neglect to provide opportunities for people to practice doing that. That approach is as fruitless as a swimming instructor who merely lectures students without putting them in the pool to practice. (I love how Lifetree Café supplies the “pool” for believers to practice their faith-sharing skills every week.)
- Celebrate the stories. Set aside time for your people to tell everyone about their recent faith conversations and where they’ve led. People find encouragement and recommitment when they hear how God is working through ordinary people, their fellow believers.
Candace reflected on her time with Jim, Don and Rich. “It certainly made a believer out of me. People really are hungry for spiritual truths. And God places Christians in the right place at the right time.”
Absolutely right on piece! I just had a conversation with a friend in ministry and we talked about how it’s “preached” to go out and share your faith with others but what does that really mean? What does that look like? I have personally had more conversations about God in coffee shops than anywhere else and those moments have impacted my life and the lives of the people who have asked the questions.
Very well said Thom. You are spot on. It is so much more effective when it comes out of a natural conversation that God has provided for us. Your idea of allowing environments for people to learn to swim is excellent. Thanks again!
Years ago, at the seminary, they allowed me to write a J-term class with a couple of friends. It was intended to be a cross cultural immersion type of experience. We set about being “Christian” friends to people from what were deemed, by DHS, to be needy families/individuals who had also indicated that they were unchurched. I remain convinced that REAL Evangelization efforts take place, not between those “preaching” and those being “Preached AT”, but between friends.
God Space is a fantastic book. The appendix of questions that build faith-building conversations is worth the price of the book.