Evangelism Week 3
Week three: Getting The Message Right
J John in his book natural evangelism begins this chapter by wanting to stress that it is important that we explain our faith clearly and in a way that people can understand, he believes that often people pretend to understand when they do not because they do not want to look stupid so J John says failing to speak in a way that can be understood can have disastrous consequences.
We shared some stories of how we had been misunderstood and then using Acts 11 we discussed communicating and listening skills. Our general conclusions were that we needed to be careful about using long words or Christian jargon. Also to be better listeners we need to reflect back by asking questions about what we have heard, and not be thinking about what we are going to say next.
J John says that getting the message right means being able to explain what a Christian is and how that has made our lives different he believes the application is all important. For instance, a Christian is someone who has been forgiven the application of that is that we can live free from guilt or fear today. We looked at a number of statements about what a Christian is and how we can express the difference that makes to our lives.
Another area we looked at was whether those we are talking to are thinking of what we are thinking. What are people’s preconceived ideas? Billy Graham used a theme in his crusades of return to the faith you know, we felt this would no longer apply because today people on the whole do not know anything about Christianity we need to start at a different point. To get the message right we need to be aware of the culture we speak into.
J John says it is hard to define God, and that God is a mystery to be encountered and experienced. Karl Barth said All we can know about God is what God has revealed to us. We discussed what the popular concepts of God in our society are. Many people have a concept of God that is what they want God to be like. Pascal said God made man in his own image and that man has been returning the compliment ever since.
J John told us about Robert Bellary who did some research asking people what they thought God was like. He had a response from a lady called Sheila, she said God is so loving he would never judge anybody, that God does not require people to go to church and he does not expect people to lead moral lives. Bellary said the woman was a Sheilerist she had a religion based on her subjective opinions of who God is.
To often Christians try to make God nice by not explaining his character fully. We want to talk about love but not about judgement or we want to talk about blessing but not about taking up our cross . This means people who do respond to our message or likely to fall away because we have not given them the whole truth. Many of us have heard people say things like become a Christian and all your troubles will be solved, it is a nice message but not true.
J John says that it is sometimes tempting to miss out certain aspects of Gods character to make God sound more marketable. It is easier to sell the idea of a nice God to someone rather than the idea of a God of judgement . But we are not in the business of making people feel good instead we are trying to convey the idea that God has revealed to us in Christ who he is , how he relates to the world and how we can know him overcoming the alienation caused by our disobedience and waywardness.
In summary this week we felt we had learned that getting the message right involves practising being good communicators, that our testimony needs to not only be about who God is but about the difference He has made to our lives and that we must resist the ideas of our time when they take us away from talking about the whole character of God.
Homework for his week is to define God in a way people will listen to that encompasses as much of his character as you can in no more than 35 words!