Seeing (and Seizing) the Opportunity
I wanted to follow up on the message from Sunday about evangelism. If you remember the steps I talked about to do evangelism were these:
Develop friendships with people outside the church. Seems strange to say it, but many of us need to be more intentional about forming these relationships, not just for them, but for us because it's easy for us to lose touch with the world and start to view ourselves as fundamentally different from "them." When we form relationships with people outside the church, we find that most people have many of the same worries, sins, hopes and dreams that we do.
Run toward the mud. If our goal is to help people find Shalom through Jesus, this is place to start. Mud can be sin, pain, shame, guilt, regret. All of these keep us from experiencing Shalom in our relationships and oftentimes all people need to hear is that God cares about these areas, too.
Listen to their story. This is the way you see where God is already working or what area of life that's not working for them.
Tell your story. Rather than simply share abstract ideas about God with them, how, how has God worked or how is he currently working in your life? Be honest about your past and your struggles. As you talk about how God helps, cares for, or changes you, you can get to the bigger beliefs about who Jesus is and how he can help them.
Invite them into community. This is not just about inviting them to church. Invite these friends into a group of believers who live authentic, Christ-like lives.
I wanted to offer some help as you develop your story. The story you tell doesn't have to be the time you first gave your life to Jesus although that might be a powerful story. But chances are you have many stories to tell where God has helped, convicted, or changed you. There might have been times where you felt lost or hurt and didn't know where else to turn. It might be a time when God broke in and taught you something new about yourself, or life or even just a time when God was near to you. You have those stories if you take the time to think about them.
Last week, we talked about the four areas of your life that when they're in order, you experience Shalom--spiritual, personal, social, and material. (These are also the areas where we can experience poverty.) So, you might develop your stories by remembering how God has helped you in each of these areas. How does Jesus impact these areas?
Spiritual: What Jesus means for your relationship with God.
Jesus shows us who God is. You don't have to wonder what God is like or make God in your image. You already have the picture of God in the person of Jesus.
Jesus makes a way to be free from sin and guilt and reconciled to God. When was a time you felt guilty and distant from God? How did knowing that God accepted you and died for you even while you were still in your sin give you confidence in your relationship with God?
Personal: How does Jesus impact your body, mind, and spirit? What difference does he make in how you perceive yourself--your identity?
You are made in the image of God. You are God's masterpiece.
You are covered in the mud of your sin, hurt and imperfections, and are in need of grace, but have been restored through Christ.
You don't have to be perfect to be loved by God.
Social: How does Jesus impact your relationships with others?
You have a spiritual family that crosses national, ethnic, and political boundaries.
You have skills and gifts that are valuable to the church and the world.
Because God is the judge, it frees us from judging others. We can simply love.
Material: How does Jesus impact your relationship with the world?
Jesus shows us the wise way to live.
Jesus teaches us to live for eternity, rather than for the now.
Jesus taught us that we don't need to accumulate things to be happy or fulfilled.
My suggestion would be that you would sit down and think about how Jesus makes a difference in each of these areas of your life. Don't let these simply be abstract ideas, but make them personal and compelling (and truthful). This exercise might even help you see some ways you didn't realize God has been working in you. If you're going to be effective in sharing Jesus with people, it can't just be abstract theories. It has to be real to you. So, how has Jesus shown himself to be real to you?