Last time I explored Paul’s metaphor of our calling to be “ambassadors of Christ”, and raised a question about whether the use of this metaphor in the Anglican churches amongst which I serve currently in London needs to reflect more of Paul’s emphasis in 2 Corinthians 5 on the message of reconciliation, not just the manner of the representative.
So assuming that this reluctance to see Christ’s ambassadors as having a message to share is simply a lack of confidence (not a deliberate assertion that no message needs sharing), how do we build the confidence of our church members to represent Christ in words as well as actions? There is a plentiful literature out there on both the “why?” and “how?” of personal evangelism* but here are three principles I’ve observed:
- Demystify evangelism. It’s really not a specialist activity separate from the rest of our lives, but using words to point people (as portrayed in Grunewald’s painting above of John the Baptist at the crucifixion) to a unique Saviour who means everything to us. We don’t need to switch into religious jargon, we simply need to be convinced that Jesus is the best news, and that everyone needs to hear about Him. To this end the simple book “Intentional” by Paul Williams (our church’s “book of the term” at the moment) is fantastic at reminding us that all we need to do is to have in mind what the good news is in a nutshell, and to seek in every conversation about life’s big questions to “get to Jesus”. Williams includes in the second half of the book some worked examples how you or I might “get to Jesus’ life or words” from a passage in the gospels. Included are questions like “How do you know God exists?” and “All good people go to heaven, don’t they?”, and just that section of the book is a great resource.
- Lead by example. The leaders must be sharing the gospel themselves, and church members need to hear about how it’s going. A culture of personal evangelism flourishes when it can spread from those who model it as well as telling others about it. In preaching I will often include stories of friends or family (names changed!) for whom I am praying that they will receive Christ. I mention conversations I have had with them about faith, whether brief or long, books I have given them about the gospel, or opportunities to study a gospel passage with them. I pray for family and friends who are not yet believers, for opportunities to point daily contacts to Christ, and at church we encourage everyone to be doing the same.
- Get your confidence. “Get your feet wet”. Get members involved in low-key evangelistic activities alongside others who are more confident. Interview church members with real stories about their efforts to share Christ. Offer a simple course like “Six Steps to Talking about Jesus”. I recommend this one because it outlines simply not just “how” to go about building connections with and praying for those we know or meet who don’t yet believe in Christ, but also what our message about Christ is, and why it matters to share it. Tracts such as the “Four points” one are good to give away, too, along with always having a gospel to hand to turn to or give away.
We are ambassadors of the King of Kings! So let’s have our message clear, and deliver it with courage and compassion.
John Chapman, Know and Tell the Gospel (5th Edition, Good Book Company, 2016)
Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Crossway, 2007)
Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg, Becoming a Contagious Christian (Zondervan, 1996)
Bill Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room (Zondervan, 2006)
J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Inter Varsity Press, 2011, originally published 1961) (less practical, but great on what evangelism is and is not)
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2006) (mainly on the “how to”)
J Mack Stiles, Evangelism (Crossway, 2014)
Paul Williams, Intentional (10publishing, 2016)