Talking to people about God is hard, in my opinion anyway. I find it very difficult to strike up a conversation with someone who’s not a Christian and talk to them about what I believe and why I believe it. My blog’s helpful in that sense because it means that my beliefs are never a secret and anyone can look into them, but I still feel that I can do more in terms of actually speaking to people.
In my university halls the Christian Union group runs an event every few weeks called ‘Text-a-Toastie’, where people text in a question about Christianity, along with their room number, and we then deliver them a free toastie and answer their question. This generally works pretty well; it means that those of us involved become known about as Christians in the hall and it means that everyone else gets to ask any questions they might have.
And that’s great, obviously. But it’s also not enough. Evangelism can’t be limited to one evening every few weeks, there needs to be some sort of effort day in, day out, to make a difference. As I hope I’ve made clear, I’m not writing this from the point of view of someone who’s great at it – the opposite really – so this is in no way a guide to great evangelism, this is me writing about what I could do better and what evangelism could look like if it’s put into action.
Paul writes that you should ‘do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life’ (Phil. 2:14-16). I think the main point I get from this is that good evangelism starts by being an example, and not just an example, but an example that people will not be able to ignore. How? By living well. By being willing to serve, being humble, and by getting on with one another. I look around me at the global Christian community and I don’t see a lot of those things all the time. I see a lot of division and I see a lot of Christians more concerned about arguing with one another than with meeting the real needs of those around them. Are we (and I include myself in this) really shining like stars among the people around us?
The other element in that Philippians passage is holding firmly to the word of life. The word of life could be two things: Scripture and Jesus. I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s probably best to take it as both here. We need to hold firmly onto Jesus and we need to hold firmly onto what God has said to us through the Bible. I’ve seen enough to know that having a good relationship with God is an absolutely essential foundation for building other relationships on, whether that’s friendships with Christians or reaching out to non-Christians. God’s word has to be at the centre.
I know a few people here at university who are so on it. They’re amazing at having conversations with people and getting them along to CU events or to church. I don’t know if I could put my finger on exactly what it is that makes them so good at it, but looking at them I can see their love for Jesus and their enthusiasm for their faith. People like that really inspire me and it’s so good to see them doing what they’re doing.
I think that another key point about reaching out to people is that you don’t have to be the best at debates or theology before you can evangelise. Living the life that you’re talking about is so much more essential than being able to baffle an intrepid atheist with ontology and teleology. I’ve heard it said that if you want to be a good author you should always show your reader something rather than simply telling it to them. I think the same applies to evangelism: show non-Christians why Jesus is worth following, because that’s so much more effective than just flinging words at them.
This short post has been as much a kick in the backside for myself as it has been anything directed outwards. All this stuff is stuff that I need to improve on and change in my own life, and if it’s struck a chord with you then I hope that maybe it’ll encourage you to taking steps forward as well. As Christians we can’t really escape the call to evangelise; what we can do is make sure that when people see us they see our relationship with God, and then it’ll go from there.