How to tell people about Jesus (they are probably more interested than you think)

Before we get to the best things to talk about to help people see who Jesus is, I’d like to explore the hesitation many feel about doing that.

It is no secret that many people find it hard to share the good news about Jesus. Here are some of the reasons I hear from time to time…

They imagine people are not interested. Generally speaking however, this is not true. People are quite tolerant, and open to talking about spiritual things. If you’ve already built a bit of a relationship with them, you’ll be able to talk about a lot of things, including your faith. It’s just not true that people don’t want to listen. What they don’t appreciate is an overbearing or judgmental attitude. Come to think of it, God doesn’t want that, either!

They think they need to know all the answers. It’s good to know some key responses to the common questions people ask. There are some great resources here: Understand, though, that most of the time you will not be able to explain everything. This is OK. Sometimes we just have to admit that we’re not really sure, and that we’re hoping to understand more sometime in the future. Here’s a few additional suggestions:

Ask them to explore the question with you: work on the answers together. This helps people see that you’re really not interested in cliched answers. It also helps them see that Christians are people who are prepared to apply their mind and their intellect to the troubling questions of life

Remember to take people back to the core issue of Jesus. If, for example, you are dealing with the question of why evil exists in a world governed by a good God, It’s fine to say something like ‘I have also wrestled with the question of the presence of evil in the world. I know Jesus came to break to domination of evil in people’s hearts. His promise is to bring it to right somehow, and sometimes that will involve us being prepared to engage in the fight against evil. But for me the big deal today is that I can trust God to do the right thing by me, and I can trust him to work the right things through me as I seek to follow him.’

A third reason people are hesitant to share about Jesus is because they are uncertain about the level of their own Bible knowledge. Having a good working bible knowledge is a great thing, but it will never be enough, really. There will always be things we don’t fully understand. So, just say so. People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything. People just want to engage at the level of the heart, at what matters to you, and why Jesus still matters to you. Sure, sometimes you will get to talk with a person who knows a bit about the Bible, and they may have some questions, but from my experience, these instances are pretty rare. Discussions that turn into arguments about Bible texts are rarely productive.

People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything.

Remember: you have the good news! You know who Jesus is! You have a hope that does not disappoint! That is an incredibly positive standpoint, and even though you think your life might be pretty ordinary, when you start talking about why Jesus makes a difference to you, most people will be interested enough to listen. More about this in my next post.

Q: what is your biggest fear or uncertainty about telling people the good news of Jesus? Or, what have you found helpful in addressing your hesitation?

Feel free to leave your answer as a comment…o

Grace and peace: Dave

How to tell people about Jesus … and be taken seriously (1)

Jesus says he has come to give life, and give life to the full. If Christians really do believe this (and they should!) you have to wonder why they are not better at passing on this tremendous news.

This hesitation seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, at least when viewed alongside church history since the time of Jesus and the early church. Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity has shown that early Christians were responsible for the incredibly rapid and effective spread the message of Jesus. Cultures then were very different form cultures now, but the Gospel broke new cultural and social ground on a regular basis.

If it’s true that we live in a more open and tolerant society, why do Christians today struggle to share the good news?

Maybe we’ve become too reliant on programs and packaged approaches. If we need to know the program, the outline, or the diagram, but we don’t know it very well, no one will jump when the opportunity arises. We’ve seen evangelism experts hold huge rallies, and the televangelists on the screen. We compare ourselves to these people, and we always pull up short.

Have you considered that grassroots Christianity is a much more powerful vehicle for sharing the good news about Jesus? Not only that: it is more likely to meet with a positive reception.

Here’s why: the message of Jesus needs to be observed in the context of friendship, relationship, and the realities of life. When this happens, people see what it means to follow Jesus in the context of their families. They see people doing what they can to live a Jesus honouring life at work. People showing the relevance of Jesus in the context of education or academic pursuit. People talking about the difference Jesus makes as they chat over the back fence to their neighbour.

In these environments there is so little pretence. There’s very little capacity for ‘saying one thing’ and ‘doing another. Here it is all about authenticity. It’s the sort of glass house that allows people to see what life with Jesus is really like.

This will take Jesus and his transforming grace into homes, families, workplaces, schools and any number of other social contexts. As such, it represents a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate western Christianity. Risky, I know, but what an incredible opportunity to revitalise how a watching world sees a loving God!

In the posts to come, I want to look a little more about how we can do this better.

Q: Have you ever thought of asking your neighbours over for a meal with the intention of being open about your faith in Jesus? What would needs to change for you to do this?

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Delancey St,Ormiston,Australia

Of the World, But Not In It?

I am writing a new sermon series (with Clinton) on the Sermon on the Mount. My first message is coming Sunday (Feb 07), and it comprises the whole Beatitudes passage – Matthew 5:1-12. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

I was reflecting about how Jesus calls his followers, broken as they are, to respond to the brokenness around them. One of the thoughts I had was that only a broken church can respond with blessing to the broken world they are in. This is how we reveal the kingdom of heaven, and show what it is really like.

Then I wondered about how does a church of reasonably comfortable suburban Christians start to enter into the brokenness in their community?

I was thinking we could email local MPs and local government people and ask them for guidance in where the greatest areas of need are. Then an uncomfortable realisation lodged itself in my mind, ‘why do I even need to do that? Why don’t I already know about brokenness in my own community? Why do we find it so hard to know what the greatest areas of need are? Why do we find it hard to see this?’

I think it’s because we get involved in our own lives, busy in our work, busy loving our families. We feel wronged when we don’t have any time to relax with our friends. Our churches are great, but there are so many things to do, so many programs, so many areas of ministry and service, that it’s just too easy to lose touch with the world around us. So we lose our connection with real people and their brokenness. We striving to get ahead financially, we want to make ends meet, become financially independent. We buy into the view that financial independence, comfortable living, owning the latest and greatest, brand-names-on-the-outside wardrobe, are the things that really matter. And as it turns out, we end up being of the world, but no longer in it.

Has the lifestyle of western suburban Christianity become a the new monasticism? Where Jesus’ people withdraw into their own virtual enclave and remove themselves form the world and its suffering? Is this why we do not perceive the brokenness around us?

New Year’s Revolutions

Welcome to 2009

It may be nineteen days late, but I’ve been on leave for the last three weeks, so this is the first chance I’ve had to express some thoughts and prayers I have been working through for the two months. I have called these ‘New Year’s Revolutions’, because most of them I just want to keep rolling around, returning, reforming and reframing with greater focus.

So here’s what I am looking at

  1. I want a more prophetic and challenging ministry. That means I want to listen to what’s going on in my life, the lives of people around me, the culture in which I live, and hold that up to God’s call to be a people implementing and anticipating new creation. I want to speak to and expose our blind spots and the complacencies of my own culture. I want this to be decisive, incisive and breathed by the Spirit. Please understand: I do not want to suggest that we are all slacking off. The truth is, there are lots of people at RCRC who are great servants in great ministry. But we do have a tendency to favour what like and want, rather than true needs around us. I 2009 I would love to see that change
  2. I want to see more spiritual passion. I could be wrong, but sometimes I sense that we’re wary about a rich expression of following Jesus in life and worship. Whether it’s a lavish gift, some outward expression of heartfelt joy, or a rich sense of community and acceptance when the community of Jesus followers gather. For this reason, I think it would be good to ask a few questions of ourselves:
    1. Is my celebration of God as expressive as my celebration of great exam results or the victory of the team I love? Which one is better? Which gives me more hope?
    2. Is my welcoming of Jesus followers on Sunday as warm, expressive and heartfelt as the meeting of a best friend I have not seen for a long time? Does our expression of community say something about the wonderful transformation Jesus has brought and is bringing?
    3. Is God really the centre of my celebration on Sunday? How could I give better expression of this with his new community?
  3. I want to lead and preach toward full commitment and Christ centeredness. We all know perfection only comes when Jesus returns so I’m not thinking of dividing us into business class Christians and the economy variety: some Christians who have ‘made it’ and others who haven’t. But let me ask you – and let me keep asking you:
    1. Are you in top spiritual condition? Where do you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is ‘not at all Christ centred’, and 10 is ‘as Christ centred as I think I can be’. Let’s say you give yourself a 6/10. Do you think God is satisfied with that? If not, what do you have to do to move up a notch? What attitudes have to change? What do you need to put to death? What needs to come alive?
    2. Is RCRC in top spiritual condition? What needs to change? What do we need to do more, and what should we be doing less?
    3. Are you in a context where you are being stretched theologically? Where your desire to know God and serve him is really being deepened? Are you seeking greater opportunity to grow? Have you made a goal to nurture your faith significantly in 2009? Have you signed up for Foundations? (watch this space)
  4. I want to see RCRC truly embrace a healthy outward focus. We’ve talked a lot about this: serving our community, being salt and light, being an agent of hope for Redlands. Now we have take it to the next level. I know we are all busy. Me too. I probably can’t do more things than what I am doing at present, so I need to think of the following:
    1. What can I drop or do differently? Letting something go doesn’t mean I no longer agree with it, or that it’s become bad. It may just mean that as I change and meet new opportunities being a good steward means I need to do things differently
    2. What will I do to specifically serve the outward mission of the church? Jesus has given his transforming love to me minute by minute – so how will I implement something of his transformation in my life? You may not be Mother Theresa, but here are 10 suggestions (as distinct from commandments) to start you on your way:
      1. visit some lonely people
      2. cook a meal for the single mum a few doors away
      3. ring/email school chaplains to let them know I’m praying for them
      4. offer to mentor a child at a local school
      5. get involved in something like the Matthew Stanley Foundation or the Melanoma Awareness Foundation – two causes that have been too close to home for many
      6. help Meals on Wheels
      7. pray for the Missional Communities group at RCRC
      8. send regular encouragement to those involved in RE teaching
      9. support RCRC specifically engaged in evangelism ministry
      10. just pray daily for my church to move from ‘in here’ to ‘out there’. Pray for Ministry Team people like Dan Neville, Geoff Hughes and Rod McWilliams as they seek to lead us into this

And then, a wish: I would love to see some healthy creative ministry develop, specifically for powerful communication at Sunday services. I am not talking about ‘skits’ so much, as well produced, well presented, dramatic presentations that support, add texture, and harmonise with what preachers like me present. These can be so powerful!

I wouldn’t mind betting that there are a few people in the RCRC family who could run with this – speak to me! What a great way to use your talents and gifts to bring God’s message of grace and hope to people!

Friends, I know this year will have its share of challenges. We all, by God’s grace, need to pull together and in the same direction. Ours is the rich privilege of taking the blessings God has so richly poured out on us, and using them to bless those who have no hope, or power, or love. God has blessed us with life in Jesus, and this year we get to celebrate it afresh with one another.

What we need to understand it that the purpose of that life and blessing is to carry it to the community around us, so that the world may know there is a God who is transforming His world through His Son, Jesus.

Shalom,

Dave