How evangelism can be fun
Like many Christians, Mark Roques struggled with evangelism – until he discovered how to talk about Jesus in a credible, natural and engaging way
I remember years ago when my children were young I found it difficult talking about the Christian faith with non-Christian friends and neighbours. I knew about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) but failure to carry this out was my daily woe. I wanted to talk about Jesus and His death and resurrection but it often sounded awkward and cheesy. I dreaded conversations that might touch on Christian faith. I remember praying - "Lord, I hate evangelism! Can I be a Christian and ignore the Great Commission?"
Truth be told, I lacked both confidence and imagination in my witnessing! I discovered that many Christians also dreaded the e-challenge. In church I heard sermons that made me feel guilty about not sharing the gospel, but I never heard a talk that helped me to talk about Jesus in a credible, natural and engaging way.
I began studying the gospels. How did Jesus talk to people? I discovered that Jesus told fantastic stories and he asked great questions. He had a gift for imaginative and engaging storytelling. I began praying: "Lord, how can I imaginatively share my story of a good God who loves this broken world and wants us to follow in His ways to bring blessing to the world, without sounding like a Bible basher?" I started exploring these ideas with my Thinking Faith Network friends, Gareth Jones and Arthur Jones. They helped me enormously.
We had another breakthrough when we realised that evangelism becomes easier and much more relevant when we engage intelligently with the hidden secular beliefs that are seldom mentioned or even noticed. Let me explain this key idea with two vignettes from my work as an RE teacher. On one occasion during a lesson, a young boy said to me. 'RE is rubbish because it isn't factual. It's just your opinion so who cares what you think?' Boffins call this view materialism.
On another occasion, a 12-year-old girl informed me that 'Heaven will be whatever you want it to be.' Boffins call this view relativism. I began thinking and praying about this. Could we at TFN develop a way of talking about Jesus that was both imaginative and engaged with these hidden materialist and relativist mindsets? Traditional ways of doing evangelism seemed to fail on both these counts.
I began exploring this storytelling way of talking about faith. I was talking to Jane, a social worker and she said: 'I'm really into Hinduism because it is much more tolerant than your Bible stuff!' This is what I said:
'Jane, have you heard about the man who crawled 870 miles on his hands and knees to find peace with a Hindu goddess? The journey was awful as insects and snakes threatened the pious crawler on a daily basis. Jagdish explained his faith like this: 'I had a debt to pay. There were times when I couldn’t bear to go on. But something always came along to renew my faith.'
'Jane, how do you make sense of this strange story?'
Jane was 'all ears'. I continued thus:
'Now some say: "Jagdish, you are crazy. Stop crawling and get the train." Others say: "I so admire your faith but it is not a path I choose." Some contend: "Jagdish, you can pay your debt to God by self-torture. Well done!" This led me very naturally into Christian communication: 'Jesus has paid the debt for us by dying on the cross. He has the authority to forgive sins'. (Mark 2:10).'
Jane was intrigued!
I shared this story with all kinds of unchurched people like Jane. I was thrilled to find that they didn't glare at me as if I were a Bible basher. They often told me how fascinating and engaging these stories were. Wow! Telling stories and getting people to think about them from different angles really was enjoyable and fun. It took the dread out of evangelism and replaced it with joy, creativity and thanksgiving to God.
Now I have a wide range of stories that I use whenever I want to talk about Jesus. I find out what people naturally enjoy talking about and then I build bridges into this enjoyable chat zone. Gareth and I call this 'bespoke' evangelism. We tell intriguing stories and we invite people to look at the narratives from different angles. We always finish by saying something important and edifying about Jesus.
So if I want to talk about repentance I have a story and some questions in the locker. Ditto the cross, the resurrection, the incarnation and the kingdom of God. Even why I believe in the angel Gabriel!
Telling stories and asking questions is natural, disarming and fun. This approach has liberated me to talk about the incredible hope I have in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you would like to know more about this creative, storytelling approach to evangelism read my new book The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith.
Mark Roques preaches in Cragg Hill Baptist Church in Horsforth, Leeds. He is the director of RealityBites which is part of the Thinking Faith Network based in Leeds.
His book The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith can be ordered at http://thinkfaith.net/realitybites/spy-rat-nails
The book has several five star reviews on Amazon
Photo | Tanja Heffner on Unsplash