I’ve identified three things which I think are key to effective evangelism: loving Jesus, loving people and living life. In previous posts I looked at loving Jesus and loving people. Nothing terribly surprising there. But loving life? what does that mean? And why does it matter?
Stuart hates sport. He despises it. I know he does because he never misses an opportunity to tell me. We’ll be in the pub watching a game and he’ll go on about how ridiculous it is for grown men to chase a ball over a patch of grass. He spoils the occasion for everyone. Pleasure is infectious. Joy is one of those strange things that grows the more it is shared. Not surprising Stuart has problems making connections with people.
In contrast to Stuart, Pete loves sport. Pete loves nothing but sport. Sooner of later his conversation turns to sport. Other topics don’t really interest him. Pete has no problem making connections, but only with a certain group of people – other blokes who like sport. To be fair, in England that’s a lot of people. But it’s not everyone.
Karen has always felt under huge pressure to evangelise people. She feels every relationship ought to be an opportunity to share the gospel. She feels she ought to be looking for a chance to get deep and meaningful in every conversation. She, too, struggles to make connections. She can’t be herself with people because she’s always trying to be an ‘evangelist’. There’s much that’s good about this gospel intentionality. But it’s led to a negative view of creation ( a mere conduit for evangelism) that ironically is getting in the way of effective evangelism.
We don’t commend our Creator when we’re bored by his creation
Christians should be the world’s natural enthusiasts. We see the world as a theatre for God’s glory. We know it is marred by sin and scarred by suffering. But we also see in many good things from God. We know that, ‘since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks’ (1 Timothy 4:4). Sport, gardening, technology, literature, DIY, work, cars, fashion – all these things are good. All of them (albeit often also corrupted by sin) are gifts by God given for our enjoyment. Our job is to have fun to the glory of God! Gardening may never become a major leisure activity for you, but when you meet a keen gardener you should be interested, enthusiastic, excited by this persons joy in God’s good world.
A great book on a godly approach to creation a full view of life and is Maximum Life by a friend of mine, Julian Hardyman. It’s out from IVP in March. I was asked t commend the book. Here’s what I wrote:
This is a great book for anyone who wants to glorify God on Monday morning as well as Sunday morning. Although written with a lightness of touch, Maximum Life shows how the glory of God gives real substance and significance to our lives. It’ll show you how you can live under the lordship of Christ in the ordinary stuff of life, but also make you want to.
Curiosity and evangelism
Consider what this means for Stuart. Sport may never be a big deal for him. But he let other people’s enthusiasm be infectious. He doesn’t have to buy a season ticket (he can’t pretend to enjoy something he doesn’t enjoy), but he can take an interest. The same is true of Pete. When he talks with people he’ll ask about the things they’re interested in. He’ll show curiosity – the curiosity of a child, the curiosity of worshipper finding fresh delight in the work of his Creator.
Consider what this means for Karen. She needs to love life. She needs to be encouraged to be herself, enjoy what she enjoys, get excited about what excites her. And then her passion for Jesus bubble out. Then people will want to connect with Karen. Then people will want to connect with her Creator and her Saviour.
Bill (who’s a real person) is an American friend of mine. He doesn’t really get football, rugby or cricket. I don’t think he enjoys them very much. But when he watches a game with us he’s enthusiastic. He gets pleasure from our pleasure. It’s the same with a hundred and one other topics. If Bill finds out your interest in something then the next time he sees you you’ll find he’s done some research. It’s not a technique. It’s not faked. He has a godly curiosity and delight in everything. And funnily enough, everyone loves having Bill around.
It’s hard to get enthusiastic about …
Well this is all well and good, but what are those things you find it really hard to get enthusiastic about?