In the second Sharing Faith session, participants were equipped to be able to share their faith story and the gospel story with greater confidence among unreached people around their lives. It was encouraging at the beginning of the third gathering to take some time to hear the stories of how people had taken opportunities to share something about their faith with friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Taking opportunities like this is a huge challenge and it raises all sorts of anxiety and natural fears within us. What if I face rejection or hostility? Might this damage my friendship? What if they ask questions I can’t answer? Fear like this can be paralysing, causing us to avoid or miss opportunities to talk about our faith, and instead place more emphasis on sharing our faith through the way we live our lives and acts of kindness to others.
Perhaps you find yourself in everyday conversations that never seem to go deeper than the weather, recent sporting results or whatever news item is trending on social media. This session of Sharing Faith aimed to help participants to feel more confident to be able to use words to bring a faith perspective into those everyday moments.
SHINE AND SOW
Rev Dave Clawson, minister in West Kirk Presbyterian, shared insights from Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of God being like a lamp on a stand or scattering seed on the ground (Mark 4:21-34). We were reminded that Jesus’ works were spectacular but he always shared the good news using words as well. In verse 24 Jesus said ‘with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ and we were challenged to consider the ‘measure’ as our desire to ‘shine and sow’. Perhaps we have a ‘small measure’ attitude with low expectations of how God can use our witness to others that leads us to hiding our light or failing to scatter any seed.
SIX HABITS TO TAKE US OUT OF OURSELVES
Recognising that some people’s lives are not shaped in ways that offers opportunities to have deeper conversations with unreached friends, we introduced six habits to help ensure our lives are always outward facing.
1. Be kind – make it your regular practice to show kindness to others. This may be through a simple thank you, giving a small gift, sending an encouraging text message or something bigger like setting aside time to help someone move house.
2. Don't always eat alone – instead of always eating on the run, use a meal time to invite others and spend time getting to know them better. This may range from inviting someone for a chat over coffee to hosting a family for Sunday lunch.
3. Prayerfully consider your circle of influence – think about all the people God has arranged that you rub shoulders with in your life. Who do you seem to be drawing closer to just now? What are their life’s circumstances that may open a door to speak into for God? Listen and look for opportunities to follow God’s leading.
4. Read the Bible with an eye on relationships – look for how key characters converse with others, especially outsiders. What is going on in moments like Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Phillip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8), or Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). What can you learn from these stories?
5. Check your newsfeed for stories that may offer connections in conversations – what stories picture brokenness, offer hope, contrast with the gospel message, or seem to mirror it? As these stories come up in conversation, be ready to ask a subtle question or offer a different perspective.
6. Reflect on your conversations with others – take a moment during, or at the end of, each day or week, to think about what is going on in your encounters with others. What relationships seem to be opening up? Where did you have a significant conversation? How could you build on it? Where did you miss an opportunity? Why did that happen? What can you learn from that?
Habits, both good and bad, are almost invisible to us, but exercise enormous power over how we live our lives. Trying some of the practices above, maybe one at a time will help to take you out of yourself into the lives of others to witness for Christ.
A PASTORAL EVANGELISTIC APPROACH TO CONVERSATION
Dr Lena Morrow, formerly pastoral assistant in Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church, Dromore shared some helpful advice from her experience in ministry and as a medical practitioner. She reminded everyone that Jesus’ approach in evangelistic conversation was not silent, nor was it over-zealous. He spoke with humility and grace, gently pointing people to the good news of the gospel in ways that drew people to choose to follow him.
We must be genuinely interested in people’s lives and this will be clear in our interactions with them and their warmth towards us. We should pray for those we are interacting with, trusting that God is already at work in their life, and be intentional in sharing our faith, being careful not to be pushy or manipulative. When speaking to someone about our faith, we should always be attentive to how they are responding with a readiness to leave the conversation in such a way that we can come back to it another time, when perhaps they are more ready to hear it.
The guest contributions in this session were well received and led to helpful group discussions. Hopefully this translates to greater confidence in in bringing a faith perspective into every day conversations.
Congregational Witness Development Officer