Whilst we were unable to gather for activities during the pandemic, individual church members were present in the community more than ever due to furlough and home working. This allowed new and deeper relationships to be built with neighbours as we journeyed through a genuinely shared experience. Building on these relationships opens up great opportunities for community witness in our everyday conversations.
This has grown an awareness in congregations of the need to consider how they might encourage and equip church members for sharing the Christian faith in simple ways amongst their friends, neighbours and colleagues.
For some time, we have been aware that many Christians struggle to talk about their faith. Perhaps there is a fear of damaging a friendship or a lack of confidence in what to say. Regardless of the reason, we have privatised our faith leaving any sort of evangelism to the experts and enthusiasts. Often people need to take small steps toward Jesus over time, and the most effective person to accompany them on that journey is a Christian friend who is kind, offers their time, and shares how their faith makes a difference, in ways that are natural and gentle.
In the season ahead, perhaps a helpful approach to getting going again in the community for a congregation will include a healthy balance of ‘come and see’ groups and events, alongside an ongoing encouragement and equipping of everyday church members to ‘go and tell’ those around their lives about Jesus.
In preparing church members to be witnesses locally it is helpful to be led by the example given by Paul to the Thessalonian church
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Sharing our lives and sharing the gospel are both essential in communicating the good news of Jesus to others, and each of these elements are considered below.
Sharing our lives
The complete collapse of our programmes during the lockdowns, exposed how much we depend on ‘running things’, rather than ‘slowing down to really get to know people’.
Suddenly we were much more dependent on the quality of our living witness– how good a neighbour, workmate, friend we were as Christians. Would we really be known for our love? What have we learned from that? How has it challenged us to consider how we act, react, give of our time, share our lives?
That begins with cultivating a listening ear. Having our ears cocked to listen to the conversation that is running underneath the things people say. Are they sad, suffering, ashamed, struggling – their hearts softened to the kind of little word in season that, when planted, is a subtle indication of our love for them in Christ, and opens up a whole new depth to a relationship, sharing and an opportunity to care. Good ‘evangelistening’ usually comes before effective ‘evangelism’.
There’s a real opportunity these days for having a livelier conversation. People aren’t so comfortable (e.g. cost of living crisis), have been shaken by uncertainty (e.g. war in Ukraine) and find themselves strangely vulnerable (e.g. pandemic and climate change). Those aren’t things for us to shamefully exploit in a manipulative way, but they are openings for us to gently and appropriately talk about the way we are dealing with the concerns we all share, and how our faith in Christ makes a difference.
Sharing the gospel
At some point, people need to hear the good news about Jesus and congregations can seek to prepare their members for sharing their faith in some of the following ways:
i. My story: Give people the skills and confidence to talk about what God has done in their life. A session to equip people for this called ‘Telling your story’ is included in the Share resource linked below.
ii. Gospel story: Most of us have a big gap between understanding the gospel and being able to explain it succinctly and clearly to someone else on the back of a napkin. A session to equip people for this called ‘Telling the gospel story’ is included in the Share resource linked below.
iii. God’s word: Exploring the Bible with others is a great way to open up conversations about God’s story, the Christian faith and the difference it makes in our lives. Some resources to help with this are linked below including ‘All the days of my life’, ‘The Word One-to-One’ or ‘A Better Hero’.
As you think about ‘Getting going again’ in your local witness, take time to consider how you might begin preparing your congregation to share their lives, stories and the gospel with others.
Share is a resource that helps support congregations to develop their community witness, and grow in confidence in telling others about Jesus.
All the days of my life is particularly aimed at those in later life. It is a journey through Psalm 23 that aims to bring to light an awareness of God’s presence throughout life as those who use it look back, then gently consider a response of faith and trust in the Good Shepherd.
The Word One to One takes you through John’s Gospel in bitesize ‘episodes,’ presenting the Bible text alongside helpful notes to guide your conversation.
A Better Hero is a pocket-sized booklet which runs through four short passages from Mark’s gospel. There are three simple questions on each passage, and a ‘food for thought’ question which tees up the next study.
To read the previous blogs in the Getting Going Again series, please click the links below:
Blog 1 // PROFILE
Blog 2 // PROVISION
Blog 3 // PRESENT
Blog 4 // PRELUDES
Neil Harrison is PCI's Mission Development Officer.