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Evangelism that really works

Imagine 12 people sitting in a pub chatting about John’s Gospel.

Jeremy Marshall

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Nobody checks their phone, nobody needs to leave. This is despite the fact none of them has been in church for years (some never).

Imagine sitting in an office meeting room where a Christian there has invited ten of his 20-something colleagues to listen to one of his Christian friends share his faith, give a brief introduction to John’s Gospel and then allow all to discuss what they’ve heard over a pizza lunch. The vast majority, having never considered Jesus or the church before, are listening intently and opening up to discuss the claims of Jesus in the most wonderfully open way for the very first time.

In the last few months I have seen all of this take place and much more. I have been involved in helping various evangelical churches in London share our faith with friends through ‘dialogue’-type events using John’s Gospel. I have been so encouraged by the willingness of our non-Christian friends to come along and chat with us. It’s simply not true, as some claim, that people are not interested in Christianity. Some are not willing, of course, but many are.

We need the courage and the faith to ask and the means to share.

What works?

With some variations, this is what I have seen work well: Firstly, train everybody in your church who is willing in how to share their faith, using The Word One to One (www.theword121.com). Secondly, focus the church’s attention on an intensive ‘mission’ week or month. Make this priority Number One. Evangelism gets bounced down the order of priorities in many churches, lost in the vast number of things going on.

Go to them

The key is to go to our friends rather than expect them to come to church (yet). Where’s the biblical mandate for that? Jesus and the apostles mainly went to where people were and just started talking to them.

We should find a time and place that suits our friends (not one that just suits us) and where they feel relaxed. For example, their home, their office, a room in a pub. Sharing food is very good, and very biblical!

Of course each person will ‘bake their own recipe’ but I have found this to be ideal: small groups (around ten people is perfect), two ‘speakers’, one or two hosts who have invited their friends, five to seven guests is ideal. Even smaller is good, but not too large. Ideally all/most of the guests know each other already. It can be really good to have one speaker who explains a few verses/goes through a few pages of The Word One to One, to make sure the Word is clearly unleashed. This is our basis. Then one speaker gives more personal examples from his or her life.

Take on questions

So, for example, start by explaining who John was, then go quickly through the first few verses of John using the One to One notes. Allow maximum time for questions; encourage as many as possible, e.g. break people up into pairs to come up with questions. Try and refer these questions back to John’s Gospel, but without actually looking it up: playing ‘find a page in the Bible’ is off-putting. In fact, I suggest you don’t bring out a Bible as it just intimidates the guests. Just make sure everyone is using the same One to One notes. Tell ‘people stories’ to answer their questions. For example: ‘What about other religions?’ – The Samaritan Woman / ‘Christianity is about rules and doing good’ – Nicodemus / ‘What about death and suffering?’ – Lazarus / ‘Science has disproved God’ – John 1. Have a clear follow up at the end – ‘if you’ve enjoyed this we can offer a further The Word One to One chat.’ Ideally that should be with the person who invited them.

Why does this work?

It’s simply not true that people are unwilling to consider the gospel. Many are, as long as it is offered in an easy-to-access format. My personal experience indicates that perhaps 30–50% of people in London are willing to come to an event like that – if the person inviting them is someone they know and trust and the format is something they feel comfortable with. One large evangelical church I know had more than 50 of these types of event over a month.

There is intrinsic supernatural power in God’s Word. The question is how to unleash that power in a culturally acceptable form. The answer I find is The Word One to One, which is easy to refer to and attractively presented. A good maxim is ‘Small is beautiful’. Jesus had 12 disciples. Small groups for evangelism are more effective than large ones.

Evangelism requires patience. We are far too impatient and think we must download everything at once. In business it may take many years of slow and patient relationship building to ‘convert’ prospects into clients. If the world knows that, why don’t we?

What do we need to change?

We need to love our friends and really care for them as people. We need to listen to their questions and try and give honest answers. We need to have more faith, more willingness to take risks, greater trust in the power of the Word. We need to mobilise everyone, not just the professionals. We need to pray more. A friend of mine says: ‘I think the big shift needed amongst us is persuading all Christians and church leaders that every Christian can, in different ways, take responsibility for their own ‘mission field’/ personal contacts and be fishers of men / disciple-makers.’