Here’s an exclusive interview to whet your appetite for the ‘Love Actually’ weekend away, at the fabulous Four Pillars Hotel near Cirencester in March (1st-3rd).

Our key note speaker Jenny Baker shares with Fiona Castle what she’s passionate about; plus her thoughts on how genuine friendships can be vehicles for God’s unconditional love…

So Jenny, could you tell us what your work entails with the Sophia Network and your hopes for women in ministry?

“I set up the Sophia Network in 2007 with a couple of other people, with the aim of encouraging women in leadership to grow in confidence and to develop their gifts. We started out focusing on women in youth work as that is where our experience lay, but now the network caters for any women who want to develop their leadership gifts. Over the years I had met so many gifted women who had so much to contribute to the kingdom of God, but who weren’t encouraged to use their gifts and had nagging doubts about whether they were ‘allowed’ to lead. I believe that God made men and women to work in partnership together, and if one sex or the other is missing from the table then the church suffers as a result. I stepped down from the Sophia Network earlier this year but it’s being ably led by Sharon Prior and others, and I look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength.”

What do you think of our ideas for “friendship evangelism”?

“I wonder if there is any other way to do evangelism! Of course there are lots of ways of people encountering the gospel through events, or courses, or services, but I think it’s relationships with others that are at the heart of drawing people to Jesus. People long for genuine friendships, to know and be known in a way that goes beyond the superficial. When people get to know us, they can see the hope that we have in Jesus and the difference that he makes to our lives. There’s something very attractive about that.”

What are your hopes for reaching people for Christ in the 21st century and the best ways of going about this?

“It’s perhaps a very obvious thing to say, but we can’t assume that people have any knowledge of Jesus or the Bible, or any experience of going to church beyond the occasional wedding. But people are hungry for authenticity, for real relationships and for meaning in their lives. We need to remember that it is the work of God’s Spirit to draw people to himself, but we can get involved in that by praying and by being ready to share the hope that we have. We can also make the most of opportunities when people might be more open to talking about spiritual things – at the birth of a baby, when a crisis or disaster happens, when someone close to them dies, when a relationship breaks down, or at a time of change.”

Finally, how can we, at Activate help to enable this to happen?

“I think you do a great job of reminding us that we need to all get involved in sharing our faith and of highlighting the opportunities that arise in the lives of women, or that we can create. I’m not a natural evangelist and I need to be reminded and encouraged to share my faith!”

Come along to our weekend away, ‘Love Actually’, where you will be able to hear more of Jenny’s encouraging and challenging words, which help us to relate Jesus’ compassion to those around us.

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