IT’S a question I’m being asked more and more these days.
With training days in the north of England, a weekend away in the south, a conference in Scotland and a packed diary of speaking events it seems more and more people are joining Activate and our mandate to inspire women to be intentional about friendship evangelism is spreading.
But why we are so passionate about sharing our faith in this particular way remains the question of the moment.
Let me explain why I am personally so passionate about Activate and friendship evangelism.
You see, I come from a background in newspapers. Actually I’m convinced story-telling is in my blood.
I wrote – and edited – my primary school newspaper.
I wrote for – and helped edit – my secondary school newspaper.
I won a competition to be a trainee reporter on a weekly regional paper in Scotland.
I trained with the Mirror Group and ended up writing and sub-editing for a daily paper in England.
Even today I’m still a weekly columnist; news, and the telling of it, is something I know a bit about.
I say all that to illustrate that I have a level of understanding the complexities involved when it comes to sharing news.
Every day in the UK scores of newspapers hit the streets, many of which cover exactly the same stories. It is rare, though, for them to cover the story of the moment, in exactly the same way. Why? Well, because the writer and the paper has a ‘style’ – a way that it likes to report – but also, each paper has a different readership. That is to say, they understand who they are writing the news for.
This picture taken from satirical magazine Private Eye may help explain this.
Okay, so it’s clearly a little bit tongue-in-cheek (and apologies if this causes offence at how it depicts readers of these publications) but it does show that each newspaper, while covering the same important story, takes a different tack in order to appeal to the people who will be reading it.
Now put this into a context of sharing the GOOD news of Jesus. We are commissioned, by Jesus, to go into all the world and make disciples (lead people to a place of salvation and growth as Christians) in Matthew 8:28, we are implored to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5) and Paul even talks about ‘being all things to all men for the sake of the gospel’ (1 Cor 9:22). So the sharing of the news is a given.
How we convey this news is still up for debate. But this is where we are confident that friendship evangelism is an effective way to do this.
If you were to stand on a street and yell the good news (hey, no judgement; I’ve been done street evangelism myself) you decline to take into consideration who you are speaking to. The words sent flying through the air could reach a man or a woman, an employed person or someone out of work, a British person or someone with a background from another culture, a parent or a child, someone with time or someone in a hurry, someone who thinks they have no need and someone desperate for help. Now although we carry a powerful message we surely need to present it in such a way that it suits the audience?
I mean, Jesus did it. In John chapter 4 when he spoke to a thirsty woman at a well he projected himself and his message using terms suitable for that situation: ‘living water’.
If I was to take this further, I would also say he didn’t just project a message onto this woman but seemed to show genuine care and interest in her.
If we were to look further still she leaves Jesus and becomes one of the first female evangelists in the world because it’s reported that she then goes to all her friends and neighbours and tells them about what she’s experienced, with salvation being reported back.
Actually, let’s park here for a moment.
Here is a woman out gathering water in the mid-day sun. This is the time when everyone else is inside seeking shade. She was clearly someone living a life that meant she would rather not be where other people were. If that’s true, it’s probably likely, given the size of the village mentioned and the culture of the day, that the five relationships Jesus mentioned to her were probably common knowledge. Maybe even public gossip. So even to get the most basic of provision she avoids people and faces the heat of the sun instead.
And yet, after an encounter with Jesus, she is somehow now bold enough to go and interact with the very same people she once avoided.
I am convinced many people prefer the sharing of the gospel to be left to platform evangelists – who most certainly have a part to play – because it eliminates the need for personal vulnerability.
But please don’t miss this incredible opportunity. The strength of your evangelism, and the power at your disposal, is being able to tell people your own story (warts and all) and how Jesus has changed your life.
Now that’s a message unlikely to come across well through a megaphone but it could be life-changing over a cup of tea.
What’s more, your story, if communicated to a friend, will carry with it authority and a stamp of authenticity. Unlike a stranger sharing the amazing news of Jesus, you have the luxury, scary as it can often be, of having lived in full view of the person you’re speaking to. She will have seen you navigate tough times. She will have watched as you handled the rough with the smooth. She will be aware that your words are not empty but tried and tested. Whether she believes you or not she will know, with confidence, that it is true for you. She will know you don’t just speak it, but also live it.
You also have the incredible advantage, when sharing with a friend, that you can help model the gospel. You can help meet her needs, speak life over her family, be encouraging when she is weak, celebrate her strength. You can BE Jesus not just talk ABOUT Jesus.
Hey, and if that’s not enough to persuade you, when sharing the good news with a friend you can tailor the message to suit them. No, i’m not being heretical – the Gospel doesn’t change but how you say it should.
When Luke wrote his gospel we got every gory detail of the birth and how Jesus came to be. Why? Because he was a doctor writing to people with an interest in this. John made sure Jesus was “I am” to his readers. Why? Because the audience was awaiting a messiah and he pointed out the signs. Paul, when speaking to philosophers described Jesus like this: “In Him we live and breathe and have our being.” You’ve maybe even said that yourself. Well, it wasn’t originally the Bible, he was quoting ancient poetry so the people he was speaking to would be drawn in.
Why friendship evangelism? Because this method considers both the message and the person the message is being given to.
Should we now not to talk to strangers about Jesus? Of course not. Allow the Holy Spirit to move and step-in to our lives. But if it’s an effective model of evangelism you’re after, it doesn’t get better than sharing your faith through authentic friendship.
What will you do today to help bless an existing friend, or will help you make another friend?
What decisions will you make today that will reinforce the message you carry?
Why not take a minute to ask God for ideas and opportunities to develop your relationships, and for God-breathed moments to talk about your faith in Jesus.
Have a great week ladies.
Remember the words of Psalm 68:11: “The Lord announced the Word, and the women who carry it are a great host.”