a) I’ve tried it before and failed to get any obvious results.
b) It involves potential embarrassment, certain discomfort and I’d much rather do something else - preferably involving chocolate.
However, I love Jesus and I know He has commanded me to witness with my words and actions to those around me who are lost. So…what to do?
Would you begin by reading one of Paul’s classic passages on evangelism, to set out some principles?
From 1 Thessalonians 1 v 1-10, write down:
» The content of Paul’s message
» God’s part
» Paul’s part
» The outcome
We can summarise Paul’s challenge to us simply as:
Life and Lip
If we want to see people’s lives transformed by the gospel in this life and saved for eternity we must trust totally in God’s transforming power as we live out the gospel amongst them and pass it on to them. Paul shared his life with people. No amount of well-organised programmes will work if Christians aren’t actually speaking about Christ and living out their devotion to Christ amongst their non-believing friends and family. But, like dieting and exercise…it is hard.
The fact is: we are engaged in a spiritual war. Satan doesn’t sit back and allow us to live out and speak about our faith in Christ, without sticking a spanner or two in the works. So let’s look at some of the issues and temptations we will face in our evangelism amongst women.
Expect to suffer
Although we don’t like to hear it, we read in 1 Thessalonians 1 v 6 that Paul makes it very clear that evangelism costs. It is a risky business. I remember hearing the Australian evangelist John Chapman once give the following example about the Apostle Paul. He said that when Paul arrived in a new town to preach the gospel, he didn’t check out the local Bed and Breakfast… he checked out the local nick because that’s where he invariably ended up! But amazingly it was as Paul suffered that the message rang out and people were bowled over by the gospel. Now, we are unlikely to get tossed into jail, although in the future that could be a reality. But we will often suffer verbal abuse, the cold shoulder, mockery, sarcasm and people slandering us behind our backs. That is the reality; that is what we should expect. But if we don’t get this expectation straight in our heads we will give up at the first sign of opposition, we will think we must be doing something wrong.
But if we expect to suffer, to face ridicule or rejection then we are more likely to start taking risks for the sake of Christ. We should follow Paul’s example as the Thessalonians did - see 1 Thessalonians 1 v 6–7. It’s true in life isn’t it? That if you expect something to hurt but know it’s good for you, you do it anyway. Like, visiting the dentist or having your eyebrows waxed… [yes, ok…and like dieting and exercise]. We must get this straight - expect to suffer! Don’t be surprised by it…
Preach Jesus Christ as Lord
Paul said to the Thessalonians: “…for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonains 1 v 9-10)
We need to be convinced that evangelism isn’t limited to just telling people what Jesus did on the cross. We are engaged in evangelism whenever we speak about the true and living God and His rightful claim on people’s lives. Not just what Jesus has done for us, but what we owe Him in terms of worship, giving Him our whole lives. The Thessalonians didn’t just ‘pray the prayer’: they turned from idols to serve the true and living God. Their lives were transformed - turned inside out.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has suggested that one strategy in our evangelism is to identify people’s idols for them. Ask someone: ‘If God denied you something, what thing would it be that would make you really angry?’ This test reveals two things. Firstly, it reveals their idol – what they live for. From there it’s pretty simple to demonstrate to someone how futile it is to build our lives on transient things. That should lead to an interesting gospel conversation. Secondly, it reveals their wrong approach to God – their ‘entitlement’ attitude. You see this in our culture all the time: Road rage is all about entitlement attitude, ‘How dare you pull out in front of ME!’ Sulking in the restaurant because they have run out of sticky toffee pudding is all about entitlement attitude: ‘How dare they not have enough of what I want!’ And most importantly, we see entitlement attitude when we treat God like a divine Father Christmas who exists to give us what we want. We see it as we all shake our fists at God because He hasn’t given us exactly what we think we deserve in our lives: ‘How dare He?’ It is into this climate that we are to speak of Christ and His lordship over people. And it usually goes down like the proverbial cup of cold sick.
So, the Christian’s temptation in this individualistic, personal entitlement culture is to do a ‘good news - bad news’ type of thing. We’ll tell them the good news about salvation first and then tell them the bad news about Christ being the Lord of their life later, like the small print on a dodgy contract. But if we only talk in terms of Jesus our saviour, we are in danger of perpetuating syncretism; where people just bolt Jesus onto their lives. Under this system, Jesus is just a bonus, a nice life - or perhaps I could say ‘a death insurance policy for beyond the grave’.
That’s not what God wants our evangelism to be like.
No, we must be proclaiming Jesus as the rightful Lord of people’s lives, and modelling what that looks like in reality. It may not result in as many bums on seats but we will be much closer to what Paul was doing in the early church.
- Of course we know the whole story is good news.
- Jesus can’t be our saviour unless He is Lord.
- He can’t be gracious to us unless He is our Judge.
- He can’t bring us into His kingdom unless He is the King.
- So, one challenge is to have a much bigger picture of evangelism.
And the other challenge for us is to be living lives that show none of the entitlement attitude I have discussed. If I have understood God’s grace, if I understand how much I have been forgiven and what it cost Christ, if I have understood that God owes me nothing except His wrath, it will show in the way I live, in my attitude towards others, in the way I deal with setbacks and with suffering.
The sad fact is, sometimes we don’t act any differently from our friends who aren’t Christians. Next time you are with your non-Christian friends and family listen to yourself speak about your life. Is it much different from the people around you? Are you in fact taken up with exactly the same idols as they are: wealth, popularity, status, success and relationships? As Christians, we do not live for this world. When people listen to us speaking about our families, money, our ambitions for our children and about our illnesses, they should hear the difference that Christ makes for us now and for eternity. If we dare to be different - that doesn’t mean weird! - people will notice and will ask us about our hope.
Let’s look again at 1 Thessalonians 1 v 8–10.
This leads us to a couple of old chestnuts: two temptations in our evangelism:
We will be tempted not to speak about Jesus.
We know that although we may not all be evangelists, every woman is called to witness whatever their personality type. Hillary Mackay tells a story about a student friend of hers. Her friend decided that the best way to evangelise at college was to just get on and live a Christian life without actually saying anything about her faith in Christ. Well, it was all going swimmingly until one day a fellow student turned to her and said: “You are such a lovely person…you’re kind, hospitable, generous. Are you a vegetarian?” It’s great if our life models joy and peace but unless we speak about Jesus they’ll just think we are nice people or perhaps Buddhists! As Christians, we have big answers to the big questions. In Christ, we have answers to questions about suffering, death, the purpose of life, eternity…We have a wonderful Lord, let’s have His name on our lips.
We will be tempted not to pray.
Prayer is, without question, the most important part of our evangelism. How much we pray reveals how much we truly believe this is God’s work in which He allows us to cooperate. How many times have you heard that? Yet, if you are anything like me, prayer is the first casualty in my busyness for the Lord! How stupid! I have learnt the hard way that manic activity without prayer is futile. It’s like revving the car engine while not being in gear: lots of noise and smoke without any movement. I may get the praise of men for my worthy evangelistic programme, but the eternal fruits will be hard to spot. Someone once said: ‘A Christian who doesn’t pray is an atheist.’ Scary but true. I am no different to a non-believer if I am not totally reliant on God for everything I do in His name.
So, if you remember nothing else from this article, please remember this point. Write it boldly in your Bible, tattoo it on your knees:
‘Do not take on more ministry or evangelism than you can effectively pray for.’
To conclude, us women have got a real advantage in our evangelism. Generally speaking, women ‘do’ friendship. Most of us love talking, we find it easy to get together with other women and it doesn’t take us long to get beyond the shallow phases of ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ in our acquaintances. Many Christian men would love to have the extensive friendship networks that women seem to pick up so naturally along the path of life. So let’s make the most of those God-given networks. Real friendship oils the wheels of evangelism. But let’s not leave it there.
- We need to pray persistently.
- We need to speak naturally about Jesus our Lord, at every opportunity.
- We need to be prepared to suffer for His sake.
Outreach event ideas
These events are meant to encourage creative evangelism and give non–Christians a chance to hear the gospel and respond to the Lord Jesus. Some events will be appropriate for use during March 2014, others will better serve the weeks and months leading up to A Passion for Life. We have the best news in the world to convey, so let’s look for relevant ways to do it!
- Pampering events – A local beautician, image consultant or Colour Me Beautfiul rep can outline professional tips on style. An evangelistic talk could then be given on, say, “True splendour” (without spot or wrinkle, Ephesians 5 v 27)
- Makeover night – A make up artist can do makeovers on individuals and give tips/pointers for others. Then a speaker can give a short talk on inner beauty and Christ’s attitude to women.
- Body and Soul evening – A variety of upfront speakers, medics/health consultants, on looking after your body, followed by a talk on “Caring for your soul.”
- Fashion events – Contact the Fair Trade website to understand what a fashion event would entail… A more random idea was where loads of ladies from the church lent their wedding dresses and the young people did a catwalk thing and modelled them with a compere, then we had a talk on love. Sounds ghastly, but actually went really well!
- Coffee morning – An obvious way to communicate the gospel that works every time. Women love coffee and cake and a good excuse to chat. A guest speaker could speak formally or informally on a certain subject or issue that one of the guests may have raised in the past (e.g. Christianity and science). The talk shouldn’t be too long and should definitely have a Q&A slot.
- Coffee at someone’s house – Immediately after school drop–off, pop over to a friend’s for a one–hour session to go through a short evangelistic course (three sessions before half term, two after). My absolute favourite is Simply Christianity by John Dickson: The leader’s manual has everything you need to say to run it, it contains good apologetics material, and you read through Luke’s Gospel.
Tip: Always make sure that the next meeting is fixed before leaving. (No excuse for not continuing, and allows loads of flexibility).
- Christianity Explored – This could work either on a one–to–one basis or in a small group of 2 or 3. Childcare, if needed, must be provided. You could also run a course alongside women’s bible study groups in the morning. One group could offer to babysit for any children of mums who might go.
- Children’s morning – Invite mothers and their children (probably works better for the pre–school age) for a morning of playtime including arts and crafts etc. for the kids, coffee and cake for the mums. Finish the session with a Bible story for the children.
- Dinner parties – Similar format to the coffee mornings but with a smaller number of guests, plus husbands. If we are trying to reach the ladies we must talk to their husbands, too! Max. number of guests (including hosts) should be 8 as this ensures good discussion around the table and everyone gets a chance to ask their questions in an informal environment.
- Smart lunch in someone’s home, with after lunch speaker – a “treat” event. Titles such as “Does being a Christian make any difference to anxiety?” or, “Does being a Christian make any difference to bringing up children?”
- Cookery demonstration – A chef or gifted cook shares a recipe by actually preparing it and taking people through step by step, whilst nibbles are served. Rather than having a “Here’s one I prepared earlier” moment, simply have a talk given while food is in the oven.
- Sweet Friday – Everyone brings a dessert and sits at tables with music playing and then a speaker will give a gospel talk.
- Pub outing – An event that is perceived as non–threatening by non–Christians because it is in a familiar, neutral environment rather than a church. One such event involved a meal for women followed by a talk. The talk was called ‘When the roof caves in’ and was about sad things that have happened to various people and what difference knowing Jesus makes.
- Demonstration – A local horticulturalist will give a demonstration on flower arranging during which time people can be served anything from nibbles to a meal. After, another speaker will present the gospel.
- Craft evening – For example, card–making. Have various tables with demonstrations you can move around, then a talk. Getting from the event to the gospel can be tricky, but when we think of God, do we think “divine creative genius” and stand in awe? If not, God has a problem with us.
- Topical issues – Picking up on an issue that has been in the news, discussing suffering and natural disasters, can be an effective way to answer questions people are asking in a relevent way. This session can have a single speaker or a panel of speakers to answer questions.
- “Christmas is Coming” – The first Monday in December. MEN serving mulled wine and canapes, dimmed lights, music – a “social”. Stalls and craft tables, followed by women seated around tables, listening to an interview on a Christian theme.
Tip: It is easier to get women to discuss the Christian content of the evening, if they have listened to an interview, rather than a talk.
- Christmas Pudding event – Run it in late November and get everyone together to make their own Christmas puds (provide all ingredients ready weighed on tables of say 8). £5 a ticket, mulled wine and mince pies as refreshments. In the middle of the evening (just before putting the finishing touches like ribbons/lids/name on the pudding) you can have a short talk on the meaning of Christmas. They’ll go home with a home made (not pre–cooked) pudding, which saves a job for later. A very popular event here! Also, print out the instructions for cooking the pudding onto a card which has Christmas service times on the reverse side!
- Reading groups – This is not a specific evangelistic event but rather a way to invite local friends or mums from the playground gate to a home. Discussion focuses on books that have been read, provides a natural way to discuss the gospel and is a great way to build deeper relationships.