Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Sharing your faith at University

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.
 [5] For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. [6] Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. [7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. [8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. [9] For you remember, brothers, our labour and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1 Thess 2:5-9)

  • Flattery
  • Greed
  • Glory-seeking
  • Burdening others
  • Being gentle
  • Being motherly
  • Being affectionate
  • Sharing your life and the gospel.
Paul makes ten references to ‘the gospel’, ‘the word’ or ‘the gospel of God’ in the first chapter and a half of his letter – as that message which brings people to be ‘loved by God’ (1:4), turned from idols to the Father awaiting the return of his risen Son who will deliver those receive the gospel word for the day of wrath. A cosmic event has occurred and another is to come and God’s means of communicating to his world is through people gentle, motherly (and fatherly as he later says), affectionately sharing their changed lives and the gospel word with other people.

If you follow Christ, you're loved. So then love.

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 
  • 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...)
Dr. Daniel Strange, says gospel communication is subversive fulfilment.
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.

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.

[13] …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
Think hard like Terrence Malick. Love deeply.


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