We all want to see people come to Christ, and we’ve all sat through sermons where we’re made to feel guilty about not sharing our faith and we promise to try harder next time. Our series on being equipped for engaging in faith conversations will aim to give us a framework for understanding what’s going on, as well as some do-able approaches to sharing our faith.
I will admit that in the 2 years I’ve been here, I’ve had a focus on trying to collect Christians to build up the numbers in the church.
Yes we have to do that right now to get back to sustainable numbers.
But last week I asked us to consider about making our Sunday Services a serving of milk for enquirers rather than meat for mature Christians. And we might decide to do that, but first we do need to build up our numbers of mature Christians. But our core purpose of the church is making disciples. We are an evangelical church, which means we take seriously the call of the great commission of Matt 28: “Go, and make disciples” Discipleship includes seeing people come into the Kingdom of God as new believers as well as building up the faith of existing believers. We need to be working on both of these as the church of God.
With a level of trust that we cannot comprehend, God has given to us the privilege of sharing with the lost people of the earth the life giving message that salvation is found through faith in Jesus Christ, and that we can peace through the relationship we gain when we give our lives to Christ.
But, there is a crisis in Faith Sharing in this country.
Results of the last NCLS – many of our Baptist church members are 20+ year Christians. How many of us are 20+ ? Good that you’ve stuck with it, but what does this say about us as the church in Aust?
Maybe the church is being sustained by the Christians joining us who came to faith somewhere else. (swapping sheep) Qu – Are we a pasture for mature believers?
At some point in the recent past the pendulum swung, and Christian churches realised the need to engage with our communities and get among them to serve them and support them, not just expect them to rock up on Sundays so we can preach at them.
It is true that people will more likely listen to our message if we have some credibility as genuine people with integrity. But what happened was that once we got that credibility as good people who serve our community, we stopped sharing the Gospel, because we didn’t want to lose that credibility. We don’t want to feel like we’re being persecuted for our faith.
Tracey Ullman skit – accurate or satire?
The question is – Why don’t people talk about their faith?
Cultural taboo? Religion and politics.
Fear of rejection? – you won’t like me, you might tease me or ridicule me and my faith
Lack of confidence in the message – is it really good news? Do I really believe it enough myself to be sharing it? What if I’m wrong and these people change their lives for nothing? What if I’ve changed my life for nothing?
Lack of confidence in getting the message right – what actually is the gospel? What does it take for someone to become ‘Saved’?
Lack of confidence that anyone will respond – what difference does it make? Isn’t it just easier for me to stay here doing my thing, and they stay over there doing their thing? They seem pretty far away from God, does he really want to save them. Are they beyond saving? I tried it a few times and it didn’t seem to work, so why bother?
In theory we know that God’s Word won’t return to him void (Isaiah 55.11), but we have trouble believing it when the opportunity comes.
When we share our faith we feel very vulnerable. And that’s because we are making ourselves vulnerable. And that feels very uncomfortable, and very uncertain.
We all as humans have this Fight or Flight tendency. Dark alley.
Fight – “hold up the values of Christian society” Street preachers – repent or burn. Mighty hand of vengeance!
I believe there is a place for the street preachers, I admire their courage, and they have a role in proclaiming the Gospel. It’s not what Christ was mostly like, but no one can say they didn’t know. And if you think Australians don’t like to preach, every day there seems to be someone on TV preaching to us and wanting us to submit to their views on whatever issues. The latest example is the push to change the date for Australia Day. Whatever view you hold on that there are plenty of people out there wanting to challenge you. So you can’t say that preaching is Un-Australian!
Most of us tend towards flight though – run to the safe place and bemoan our persecution.
Our greatest example of someone who made themselves vulnerable is God!
The vulnerability of God – Word became flesh
And we are called to join in the vulnerability of God. Being vulnerable to love means feeling weakness and Foolishness, being a stumbling block.
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10.16
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1.21
John Wimber – “I’m a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?”
Decided to be the biggest fool in the eyes of the world, and the eyes of the church also. One of the founders of the Vineyard Movement. He was a great biblical teacher and church planter. Remained a humble fool.
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called,both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1.23-25
Keep in mind that if Jesus had people rejecting his message, then there is no certain way that we will have 100% success. (John 4 – smokescreen)
THEREFORE THERE IS NO “SURE-FIRE” WAY TO SHARE THE GOSPEL … and be effective.
Don’t you just wish that God would show himself and make our job easier? Don’t you wish there was just some way to prove God’s existence to people, to prove that Jesus actually existed. People’s stories and testimonies are powerful, but they’re just so subjective. If only we could prove it!
God wants people to struggle, to wrestle with the evidence and make up their own mind about whether to respond to his call.
And the evidence is there, and it demands a response. Case for Christ/ Case for Faith. The X faith answers the 4 basic questions that people have:
Where did I come from? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my life? And where will I go after I die.
Really it’s not just a question of Fight, flight, but a third way of staying and engaging and turning the other cheek. Engaging with people means being vulnerable, being foolish in the ways of the world – being generous with what we have, paying taxes, being generous in your spirit, keeping ourselves pure and holy.
What we’re calling for is Open, foolish, unashamed engagement.
(Godwin’s law – Hitler) The conversation will come around to God eventually, so let’s not shrink back when those opportunities come.
Scripture reference – 2 Peter 3. 8-18a
Next time – smokescreens and peacemaking. Let us pray.