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With friends like that… 

We have a message to share with our troubled world – it’s called the gospel, the good news – but we need to find appropriate ways of getting it across, writes Colin Sedgwick

Always be prepared700

A group of us were sitting around chatting while we waited for a meeting to start; my wife and I were, as far as we knew, the only Christians. One of the others decided to amuse us by telling us about an experience he had just had.

'I got ambushed by the God squad on the way here,' he said, with a big grin on his face. 'Down in the town centre. They were asking me what I thought of the state of the world – wasn’t it absolutely terrible? Wanted to give me some booklets. Trust this to happen to me! – it always does. In fact, my wife tells me that I’m a bit of a magnet for religious nutters. Can’t think why…'

There are no prizes for guessing who the “religious nutters” were. But that’s not what matters. We all joined in the fun, shaking our heads in disbelief at the misguided methods some people will adopt in order to spread their beliefs.

I felt it right after a bit to let it be known that my wife and I, as orthodox (note the small o!) Christians, might also be considered by some as “religious nutters”; whereupon someone else said much the same, as a Roman Catholic. Which put a slightly different complexion on the conversation…

But I’m getting off the point… Where is this taking us?

The main thing is obvious: we do God and his kingdom no favours if we share our faith in such a way as to make religion in general and Christianity in particular a laughing-stock. As Christians we must of course expect sometimes to be mocked and derided. But that’s no reason to invite derision by crass and inappropriate methods.

(At a conference once I overheard a minister colleague attempting to 'witness for Christ' to the cleaning staff in a way that made my toes curl with embarrassment. I’ll never forget their giggling response to his efforts once he was out of earshot: 'What do they put in their tea…?')

I suspect that not many people reading this would fall into this trap. To be honest, I suspect in fact that most of us go too far the other way and are too reticent about sharing our faith.

But it reminded my wife and me of the urgency of evangelism – of the fact that we do have a message to share with our troubled world – it’s called the gospel, the good news – and that we need to find appropriate ways of getting it across.

And that in turn brought to mind the words of Peter in 1 Peter 3:15: 'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you. But do it with gentleness and respect…'

Boiling it down, that very packed command suggests three main questions we can test ourselves with.

First, are we ready?

I fear (speaking here mainly for myself, of course) that very often we go right through a day without it even dawning on us that there might be opportunities to share the love of Jesus. But Peter says we are to be “always prepared”. Here’s a prayer we might pray: 'Lord, help me to see every person I ever meet as a potential convert, a follower one day of Jesus.'

Why not? Seriously, why not?

Second, do we know our stuff?

Peter says we need to be able to 'give a reason for the hope that we have.' All right, we may not all be great intellectuals or theologians (just as well, actually, I think), but we do need to be able to explain why we are Christians, what being a Christian means to us, how we ourselves became Christians, and what basic Christianity is all about, in clear, understandable and convincing terms.

Third, do we have a Christlike winsomeness?

'Winsome' is an old-fashioned word, but a beautiful one. According to one dictionary, it means 'attractive or appealing in a fresh and innocent way.' I think it sums up well what Peter means when he tells us to evangelise 'with gentleness and respect.'

One other thing worth noticing: Peter takes for granted that, in general, our evangelism should be in response to the other person’s initiative: 'be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you…' We don’t go stomping in in out hob-nail boots!

No. We must first listen to the other person’s voice if we want our voice to be heard. We must first meet people on their ground if we want them to move onto ours.

Obvious, really, when you think about it… 


Image | Freely photos

Colin Sedgwick is a Baptist minister with many years’ experience in the ministry.

He is also a freelance journalist, and has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, and various Christian publications. He blogs at sedgonline.wordpress.com

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Baptist Times, 06/12/2018
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