I’ve just re-read the blog I wrote yesterday about The One Day Generation and have been thinking about my final, rather harsh comments about the church’s poor presentation of the good news about Jesus. It’s unusual for me to be negative, as I’m normally a very positive person. By nature I look for the silver lining in every cloud. And yet if I’m honest, I don’t think that the UK church in general is very good at talking about Jesus, or finding interesting, fun and creative ways of communicating the gospel.
The thing is, I feel like that myself – that I don’t do a brilliant job in sharing Christ with those around me. And so I’m addressing myself here, as much as anyone. As a leader in the church I have no excuse criticising others about this. If I don’t like it, I should change it. Or at least work on it. Improve it. I don’t want to be one of those people who moan, saying ‘something should be done’ but then not be prepared to do something about it myself.
So, what am I going to do?
1. Tell Others
The main thing I know I need to do is simply to tell others about Jesus. But I need to do this in a way that is authentically ‘me’, being myself and allowing my faith to spill out where-ever I am, and particularly when I’m outside of church. So when I’m with family and friends, or with neighbours or shopping I need to make the most of every opportunity that comes. As my Grandpa Luther got older so he became increasingly house-bound but he didn’t let that stop him sharing Jesus Christ. When anyone came to his home, be it a family member or the gas-man, he wouldn’t let them leave without disarmingly saying ‘let’s have a word of prayer’ and before they knew it they were being prayed for. He assumed that’s what everyone needed, and so got on with it – and many heard about Jesus in the home of this elderly frail man. It’s easy to assume that nobody wants to know about God, but we know that’s not true. What if we lived with the assumption that everybody is hungry to hear? We’d probably be much more open about our faith.
2. Learn from Evangelists
Whilst I must be ‘me’ and not try to be someone I’m not, I know that in every area of life I can gain from others. So something I want to do in the next 12 months is spend some time learning from the masters. If possible, I will spend some time with some great Christian communicators, but I mustn’t forget that these days there are so many other ways of benefitting from the wisdom and experience of others, through books but also by listening to mp3 talks, reading blogs or watching online videos. Most fantastic communicators use powerful stories to make their point, as Eugene Peterson explains: ‘Even the most sophisticated of stories tends to bring out the childlike in us – expectant, wondering, responsive, delighted – which, of course, is why the story is the child’s favourite form of speech; why it is the Holy Spirit’s dominant form of revelation; and why we adults, who like to pose as experts and managers of life, so often prefer explanation and information.’ I know I need to use more stories.
3. Use Available Resources
Whilst it’s easy to criticise some forms of Christian communication, I know there are some good resources available and I must use them. One of the best and well-known continues to be the Alpha course. We know from testimonies at our baptism services at The Belfrey that Alpha is still the most successful communication tool for helping people become followers of Jesus, which is why Alpha is to become a key priority for us as a church in the coming months. But there are other resources too, like Francis Chan’s BASIC video series, which I have begun to watch over the summer. I need to make use of what’s available, and use it.
This morning I watched on the i-player the highlights of Manchester United’s stunning 8-2 win over Arsenal at the weekend. Arsenal had their excuses, with a weakened team on the field, and tired from their midweek Champions League game, but nevertheless they were rightly criticised by the pundits for a poor game. United, in contrast, were outstanding. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I watched them play the game of football with confidence and finesse. And as I watched United I thought that is what I want to experience more of in the church – that sense of exhilaration and pleasure as Jesus Christ is presented brilliantly, beautifully and relevantly – offering the very best we can. If a shoddy, second-rate performance won’t do in the Premiership as they play for a silver trophy, how much more will it not do in the church, where the issues at stake include people’s eternal destiny.
The church is supposed to be in the business of saving souls. That’s our core business. As a church leader I need to make sure I’m giving my very best to this. Will you join me?