HEARING THE HOPE IN US
Evangelism can be scary! So many Christians are worried that people will ask them questions that they won’t know the answers to, but nobody on earth has all the answers! What’s more important in evangelism is knowing the answer (Jesus Christ) rather than being able to answer all the questions.
Rebecca Manley Pippert writes, “Our problem in evangelism is not that we don’t have enough information—it is that we don’t know how to be ourselves. We forget we are called to be witnesses to what we have seen and know, not to what we don’t know. The key on our part is authenticity and obedience, not a doctorate in theology”.
HOPE THAT IS IN YOU
God might not expect us to know all the answers but He does expect us to give an answer! And the best answer of ‘hope’ that you have is your own story of Jesus working in your life. This is good news because there is no wrong answer when sharing ‘your story’, and who is it that knows your testimony the best? Yes exactly, you do! So that makes you the number one person to share about what God has done for you through trusting in Him.
The hope people need to hear about is in you, and it’s the same hope the Apostle Paul encouraged the Colossians to share with Gentiles. He says, “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We have the hope of glory in our story, and it’s powerful (and hard to dismiss) when we share what Jesus has done for us with the people in our everyday situations.
The first letter of Peter tells Christians to “… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy and always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). This verse tells us to give people an answer when people ask us about our faith in Jesus Christ. A loving answer is a truthful response about the Christian faith, but often people aren’t asking about the Christian faith. This could be because the Christians aren’t living in such a way that sparks any interest, or it could be that people think they already know what Christianity is all about. So not only are we to share our hope but how we share (gentleness and reverence) is also important and maybe the difference in people hearing our hope or not. So then how can we gain interest in the hope we have? Now that’s a good question!
LISTEN UP I’M TALKING
In recent times the development of technology and social media has given rise to the ability for individuals to broadcast their own opinions and ideas, but unfortunately what is now happening is not fostering communication, but simply the ‘dumping’ of ideas on others without interaction. People are generally ‘talking at’ each other rather than ‘talking to’ each other.
Ken Tankersley observes this breakdown and suggests that “… we have lost our ability to listen, conversations have lost their power. They have become, superficial, one-sided, and far from transformative. Verbal Interactions are supposed to be refining, precious, disruptive, compelling, and thought provoking. In a world where tensions feel ‘heavier’ there is a profound need to empathize, connect and resonate which comes from an ability to ask the good question and truly hear others. Over the last several years we have slowly lost our ability to listen”. It seems to me that people nowadays are saying, “Listen up I’m Talking!”. But the result is that people aren’t listening.
HOW BIG ARE YOUR EARS?
You may have heard the old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. I think part of the ‘being ready’ to share our faith is being ready to listen to people, because it’s when we listen to people and focus on them that we then show care for who they are. James says, “… everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19). How big are your ears?
ASK GOOD QUESTIONS
Christians need to be good listeners by asking good questions. I know from personal experience that when I ask someone questions about their life and then intentionally listen to them it communicates concern, and after a while they usually (unless they are really self-absorbed) will at some point say, “well that’s enough about me, what about you?”. It’s by listening and asking questions about their story that we then get the welcomed opportunity to share our story, and if we are a Christian, we have God’s redemptive story within our story. Paul again gives us guidance in this when he exhorts believers to “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6, NASB95)
ASK SPIRITUAL QUESTIONS
So far, I have majored on asking questions about someone and listening well to their response, but it is also critical to ask them ‘spiritual’ questions. Maybe asking them, “have you read the gospel of John and if not, would you like to?” and then offer to regularly meet to read and discuss it with them.
Some of the other great questions used in evangelism are, “Do you have any spiritual beliefs?”, “Who do you think Jesus is?”, “Where do you find hope?”, “Do you know for sure if you are going to heaven when you die?”, or “Why should a loving God let you into His heaven?”.
Maybe we should start using some classics like, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” or “What is true faith?” (Heidelberg Catechism questions 1 and 21). These are all great questions that can lead into gospel discussions, however to have a gospel discussion you need to know what the gospel message is and the upcoming evangelism training offered by our church could help you with this.
ON YOUR MARK, BE READY, LISTEN AND SPEAK
Be ready to share about Jesus. The Apostle Paul charges his apprentice Timothy to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). Although we aren’t all going to be Pastors like Timothy was, we should be ready in the same way that Paul is teaching him to be. Evangelism is always going to be scary because mere humans are being used by God to share His sacred truth, so it is important for us to be ready by listening well, asking great questions and giving hopeful answers because we know Jesus the hope of glory.
In His Tread,
Pastor Andrew Edmonds