Sharing Faith

Neil Harrison

11.4.2023 | Congregational Life, Mission in Ireland, Mission

Neil Harrison reflects on the current Sharing Faith programme that is helping to equip people to grow in confidence when evangelising.

The interruption of the pandemic has allowed the Council for Congregational Life and Witness (CCLW) to experiment by developing new ways of resourcing congregations in all aspects of their life and witness. Sharing Faith is one example of this through a four-part programme that seeks to help everyday church members to grow in confidence in sharing their faith with friends, colleagues and neighbours.

Recognising the changing commitment patterns for programmed activity across the church, a hybrid format of two in-person and two-online gatherings were planned to widen interest, and it was encouraging to have 16 people register for Sharing Faith.

BLOGIMAGE_11April-(1).jpgWith the programme taking place over a period of three months, the first session in February reflected on the starting point for evangelism today. David Thompson, CCLW Council Secretary, outlined a biblical approach to evangelism that requires both a high relational connection, alongside a clear distinctiveness in how we communicate our faith with our words. Perhaps in our churches, and personally, we have tended towards relying disproportionately on our acts of kindness as a witness to others, but this programme sought to equip people with the conversational knack of talking about faith in their everyday lives.

Sharing Faith is a four session, informative and interactive programme that aims to help participants to better understand the challenges for evangelism today and equip them to grow in confidence in talking about the good news and the difference it makes in their everyday lives.

We spent some time thinking about what has changed in the world in which we share our faith today. Church attendance has declined significantly over recent decades meaning a growing number of people have little or no church background. This might be hard for us to comprehend, but it is not unusual within holiday Bible clubs across the denomination to find children who are unfamiliar with well known Bible stories such as David and Goliath or Noah and the ark. Given that people are starting further back, we were reminded that our role is to accompany people on a journey of faith that can often take years.

This reality should also make us aware that there is a strangeness to our beliefs as perceived by others. The Bible will be unfamiliar and confusing so we should assume nothing in our interactions with others, recognising that people are quite likely to be sceptical of our belief in God and feel more comfortable with the secular belief that this world is all there is.

Against the backdrop of these challenges, we were reminded of the opportunity to be distinct in our witness as we live joy-filled lives that gently nudge people to consider there could be more to life than just what they can see, and invite them to ‘come and see’ for themselves (John 1:46).

Whilst the practices of how we share our faith will vary from person to person, we finished by presenting three principles that will enable an effective witness, regardless of the context. ‘Building Relationship’ is the first principle and is often an important starting part in someone’s journey to faith in Jesus. A relationship provides a more natural platform to sharing our faith and provides a better place from which to invite people along to church services or events. 

We all have a part to play in this as we consider who God has placed around our lives that do not know Jesus? How can we seek to be a little more intentional with people at the school gate, in our favourite coffee shop or at the side-lines at Saturday’s match, in ways that allow relationships to form and deepen?

The second core principle of sharing faith is ‘Cultivating Community’. Our lives together as a church are a window advertisement to the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ. If unreached people around us want to know who Jesus is, what he is like and whether he is worth knowing, then they will naturally observe our lives and the actions of the church. It is a powerful thing when people outside of the church experience the community inside the church.

If I am the only Christian in my friend’s life then I am the ‘weirdo’. However, if I can invite them into spaces around church where they meet other Christians, then it becomes less weird and more believable for them. These are informal environments around the church community that allow trust to develop, hopefully leading to greater openness and interest in the Jesus story.

In time, through building relationships and finding opportunities for community, God will begin to reveal those with an openness to the Christian faith which brings us to the third principle of Sharing Faith – ‘Inviting Encounter’. This is highly important and the Sharing Faith programme seeks to equip people with the confidence to do this in the following three ways:

  • Through sharing our own faith story of how we came to follow Jesus, or by explaining the gospel message in very simple ways.
  • Through bringing a faith perspective into an everyday conversation.
  • Through exploring the Bible with someone and helping them to see it is relevant and helpful for their life today.

This will be the focus of the next three sessions in the Sharing Faith series as we seek to equip people for sharing their faith with those around their lives every day.

Neil Harrison
Congregational Witness Development Officer

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