We are all aware that the world is changing so fast. Sometimes, I just want to scream, “Stop!” and try and catch up with everyone else. There is the constant stream of social media, in-coming text messages, emails, and WhatsApps. We are permanently connected to the outside world. In fact, it takes a conscience effort on our part to stop communication, just in order to get a break. Yet in this hyper computerised, ultra-connected, fast-paced world; for those of us who are Christians, we know that God has not changed. But how do we then, connect God – who created it all – to people who think they know it all?
For me, it will always come down to making an effort to establish genuine friendships with people outside this church.
Some eleven years ago, when my children were still small (7 & 4) – I attended an Evangelist Conference in Milton Keynes. I was all excited to go and had to make huge complicated arrangements for child care for the three days I would be away. Plus, of course, I was conflicted: leaving my children for a three-day work trip was always going to be guilt-inducing affair. However, I arrived fresh-faced and eager to hear the speakers and be inspired as to how I was going to bring Jesus to Croydon.
Yet, the three days passed…slowly. With no revelation and no one really talking to me (I was the only female there). It was awkward, stilted and I didn’t really learn anything. I remember leaving the building on the final day, resentful at all I had organised to get myself to the conference. I felt as though it had been a complete waste of time. I was having a bit of a moan in my head to Jesus as I walked to get into my car. Yet, as I sat in the driver seat, I sensed that the passenger door opened and as I looked up, although there was nothing there, suddenly Jesus was sitting in the passenger seat. It was such a tangible sensation that it felt as though I could see Him and touch Him. Oddly enough, I wasn’t surprised or scared – it seemed normal. I started the car and for the next three hours, as I drove home, Jesus and I hung out. We talked. It was during this time that Jesus gave me what I now call my blueprint for evangelism for our church. It isn’t complicated, to me, it just makes sense.
The Traffic Light System
Jesus began to speak to me about building the fringe of the church. The bigger the fringe, the bigger the pool from which to invite people to more church-based activities, and the more people that will be willing to hear the gospel message and ultimately come to know Jesus for themselves. I teach this through a traffic light system.
I talk about:
- Red Events: STOP!, Don’t talk about Jesus.
- Amber Events: The socially acceptable mentions of Jesus
- Green Events: Events which will preach the gospel and make an appeal.
Putting it into Practice
I put nearly all my effort into these events. These are really events that help build community, establish friendships groups, and help people experience something of the kindness of Jesus, without having to talk about Him. These can be huge one-off events – for example, we have an annual fundraiser. We pick a charity and support it through a fun-filled evening. In the past we have done The Pink Lounge (a pamper night for Breast Cancer Research), Puttin’ on the Blitz (raising funds for Help for Heroes) and The Green Velvet (a fashion show & pamper for Mind). This year, we are supporting Mind again, with a Croydon-wide Clothes Swap. These annual events have a significant following and people in our community see that the church being effective and supportive. Other red events can be much smaller- I encourage life groups to have lots of celebrations; these are all red events. Invite friends, have a good time, enjoy life together. Other red events have included clubs like ‘Knit’n’ knatter’. A friend of mine became a Christian directly through attending this club. Red events can also be one-to-one. A drink with a colleague after work, a coffee with someone, a shopping trip… whatever, your goal is build something genuine, to love, and one day, when the time is right, there may be an opportunity to invite them to an amber event or even a green event.
These are the events where people expect you to mention Jesus, God, The Bible. They will probably expect singing and an offering. Baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Harvest, etc. These are all good examples of amber events. When you have real friendships with people it will be natural to invite them to something that is going on in your life. This helps them get used to church – even a sense of belonging before they believe.
This is the one that gets the least profile in my system. Examples would be a healing service, an Alpha course, a Billy Graham type rally or of course it could be one-to-one, when you personally explain the gospel to a friend. We all need to be ready to give an answer to the hope to which we have been called (1 Peter 3 v 15) and there are moments we can do this. Pushing people inevitably drives them away, but loving people and gently explaining over time draws people in. It is always worth remembering too, that we aren’t called to do the converting, that is God’s responsibility; we are called to make disciples.
My Own Experience
Going back to my friend who became a Christian through ‘Knit ’n’ knatter’ – we were friends for some ten years when she became agoraphobic. However, on one occasion when I was visiting her, she said she would like to do some knitting. So, along with some friends, we set up the group and she would attend each week. Through the group she heard more and more about the church and what we do. One day, she simply asked if she could come along to church the following week. She came along with her husband, who could barely walk due to a back injury. Through a word of knowledge that morning, he was instantly healed. He didn’t know what happened, but they came back the following week and over the next few months, both became Christians. Interestingly, as soon as they were both saved, they knew that they wanted to read the Bible, join a life group, give to the offering and so on – they knew how to live life to the full simply because we had been discipling them for years and once they encountered Jesus, they knew what to do.
To Sum Up…
I started by saying we live in a constantly changing world, but God does not change. His redeeming love is constant and perfect. We get to partner with Him in joining the Great Commission of making disciples (Matt 28 16-20). It is an adventure we get to participate in with Him and I know I for one, am richer for it.
A full-time evangelist, Jaz Potter is passionate about equipping the church to reach out. Hear more from Jaz at our next Activate day: Stand Strong, in Birmingham on 7th July 2018. Click here for more details!