Evangelism, or proselytising, sounds spooky, weird, and manipulative, and the kind thing you’d do to people you don’t like. Our society hates the idea of imposing your beliefs on others, though have you ever tried that? Like getting your flatmates to do the washing up?
A few comments to begin with.
- You're not selling Jesus. I've worked in sales, it can be a dirty business though there's nothing inherently bad about selling things. But Jesus isn't a product for sale - he's a person to meet. It's different.
- Calling people ‘non-Christians’ is plain rude. No one self-identifies that way in our society, so it’s lazy and a power play to define others by not being like you. Christians are 1-2% of the population at best, defining people as "not us" is arrogant. And counterproductive if you want people to explore faith and change who they follow.
- Having a ‘mission week’ sounds colonial and oppressive. Would you want to be on the other end of someone's mission?
- Though I’m 100% for culturally appropriate events where the good news of Jesus can be explain and heralded. A talk at a pub quiz is just strange though.
- But, whatever people say, it really is ok to talk about money, religion and politics.
- Especially at University. More interesting conversation takes away the awkwardness - if you never get past football punditry then evangelism can feel like "And Hart saved... hey, y'know Jesus sav..." Just don't go there. Ever. Ever.
- When people don't listen it's horrible. If you've ever had a salesperson or a politician or a JW come to your door you'll know what that's like. Don't be the rude evangelical who throws doctrine at people. I've been there. People tolerate a lot of weirdness in life, Christians epecially, but that's no excuse for being weird (and this comes in many varieties including in our society being overly intense, overstated).
- Research suggests that people become more religious at University not less.
- Inviting others to consider Jesus is not inherently weird or evil.
SAY NO TO
- Burdening others
- Being gentle
- Being motherly
- Being affectionate
- Sharing your life and the gospel.
If you follow Christ, you're loved. So then love.
1. LOVE PEOPLE
People say that preacher Francis of Assisi once said “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words.” He didn’t. And if he did, he would’ve been wrong. In the end words are always eventually necessary, one way or another.
But, you don’t automatically have the right to be heard by anyone… “I’ve read and heard almost every missional strategy out there. In the end, love people and be available” Jon Tyson (Trinity Grace Church, New York)
- Invest in friendships without an agenda. You, me, all of us – are made for community.
- Take responsibility for your budget and budget for a generous social life.
- Take responsibility for the people in your life. Learn to cook.
- Do what you do, and do it with others. Which doesn’t mean invite 9 Christian friends around and one person you can all gang up on. That's intimidating. That’s just weird. But shop, eat, play, open-door, have Netflix and a big enough screen, be a hub for people…
- Listen, be interested in others, because people and this world are really interesting. Be interesting by being interested in others. Podcast www.radiolab.org
- Share the gospel of God –take responsibility for your words – it’s not enough to just parrot a gospel outline if what’s heard isn’t what you meant. How do people think/feel about the ‘Christians’ or ‘Evangelicals’? Do you know?
- Who you live with next year is basically decided by the end of October - the decision isn't explicitly made but the people you've got deep friendship with by then you'll probably live with. And if you only hang out with the CU people you'll have to live with Christians. If you want to live with a Christian then one day in the distant future I suggest you marry one. Christians can really be quite annoying so until you have to live with one, don't. (Yes, I'm overstating my case...)
FULFILLMENT - The gospel fulfils right desires that human beings in the image of God have. We look for the right things in the wrong places. What we really want is Jesus. He calls us to himself.
SUBVERSION - The gospel subverts the wrong desires that ruined and rebellious human beings have. We look for the wrong things in wrong and right places. Jesus says no, and calls us to himself.Be patient! When asked him what he'd say if he had one hour to share his faith, founder of L’Abri, Francis Schaeffer replied, "I’d listen for 59 minutes and talk for one."
Develop emotional intelligence – which as it happens will also make you a whole lot more employable and a better friend. More curious, more self-aware, harder to offend, quicker to empathise.
2. LOVE WITH A BIBLE
Use UNCOVER. Do what the first CU members used to call "personal work" - you, a friend and a Bible.
Eugene Peterson “There are no experts in the company of Jesus. We are all beginners.”
Sit alongside people and let Jesus do the talking. Let him walk off the page. You, me, anyone – get born again by the word of God. Love people and love them enough to invite them to consider Jesus.
 …when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thess 2:13)
Don't be afraid to open a Bible. This is a living word. This is where people can meet Jesus. And as you do it, always pursue honest answers to honest questions. Keep your L-Plates on. Have the humility to get help from those ahead of you who can guide your reading to develop a thoughtful mind and a large heart.
Get to CU. Get to church.
Get to www.labri-ideas-library.org
Think hard like Terrence Malick. Love deeply.
IMAGE: CREATIVE COMMONS - Roey Ahram.