Thursday, 26 May 2011

Can't keep a secret?

We have all met someone who just cannot keep a secret. Whether good news or bad, they simply can’t help themselves and  in no time, everyone seems to have heard the information you wished to be kept private.

How wonderful it would be if all Christians were as eager to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The message would soon get around!   A long time ago I heard someone term this as “Gossiping the Gospel”. The phrase is a good description and has stuck in my mind ever since.

This well known Old Testament scripture is thought-provoking; why are we as Christians reluctant to share the good news of the Gospel? As believers who love Christ we should be spreading the word!

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves  2nd Kings 7: 1

As Christians, we should be extremely grateful for the cross of Calvary; for we know it was there that Jesus paid the ultimate price for us. His redemptive act of taking our sin upon Himself saves us from a lost eternity when we decide to make Him Lord of our lives. This truly is a miracle.

When a person truly accepts Jesus they begin to desire to read the Bible regularly, to pray - and their lives change. Things which seemed unthinkable previously become possible – such as forgiving people who have hurt them in the past amongst many other things. The changes inside soon show outwardly,  the evidence of the fruits of the spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are displayed in the new believer’s life become obvious to others.

Recently my wife and I had the great pleasure of leading a lovely married lady to Christ, followed by her husband a few weeks later. She was wonderfully saved and I will never forget her smile after we prayed together, she beamed radiantly.

She is employed in a local hospital and was so joyful at work the day after receiving Christ that one of her colleagues asked her  “Why are you so happy today, you look as though you are in love, are you having an affair?!” Her answer surprised them as she replied, “Yes, I have fallen in love with someone”. “Well who is it?”  Her colleague asked, intrigued to know more. She responded simply -  “His name is Jesus”.

The lady had received no training on how to effectively communicate the Gospel in a real and relevant way. She just told the truth. The fantastic news is that she still can’t keep it to herself! We truly love it when she tells us her stories of “gossiping the gospel” to people she knows. The point is, that it really should be no different for us. Just like the lepers in 2nd Kings, we should not withhold the good news.

As Christians we should keep the faith, but we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves!
We all need to be active, ready and sharp witnesses, ready to take the initiative to witness for Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit.

People with an outgoing personality may feel quite comfortable talking to people about Jesus. Others of a more reserved disposition however, could be more likely to come over in a cold sweat at even the thought of it, nervously worrying whether their listener will think they are a Jesus freak or a Bible basher.

Key Point: When we step out in faith to witness, the Holy Spirit will always go with us

Be encouraged – we have a helper in the Holy Spirit who will help us to witness. When we step out in faith for Him, He always steps out with us. Scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God. He is always there for us and He will bring scriptures back to our memory. He is brilliant!

“But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14: 26

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11: 6

In order to witness, we must be willing to take that step of faith. Make a point of praying, asking the Lord to empower and strengthen you. Sincerely request that He gives you words in season that will speak into your listener’s heart. (It is an amazing experience at moments like that). Believe that as you trust Him,  He will do it. Amazingly He has chosen to entrust the Gospel of salvation to the likes of you and me. From experience I can say that when we do what we fear, the fear will start to disappear. It will become easier each time we take the step.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that witnessing is just for evangelists. Everyone who loves Jesus has a responsibility to witness. If we truly love Jesus, part of the outworking of that is demonstrated by obeying His commands. In the Bible, Jesus was speaking to the disciples but also to every believer when He said, “Go” and “Compel them to come in.”

If witnessing is a weak area for you, then pray, knowing that He will answer if you ask Him to help you. God is pleased when you believe and trust Him as you step out in faith to serve Him.

Friday, 20 May 2011

When does the Good News actually become Good News?

A while ago I was on a street mission in the city of Newport, South Wales. It was a busy Saturday afternoon in a very poor part of the area, where there is a high level of unemployment. On that particular day, I was carrying out what some would term as ‘cringe factor evangelism’ – stopping with multiple choice answers; was He:- A good man, a prophet, the Son of God, or perhaps something else.

As often happens with this type of outreach, some people avoided me like the plague, others walked straight past, while some had brief conversations with me. It was a day of wonderful opportunities. I was delighted to have interesting and varied discussions with people of many different nationalities, as it is a very cosmopolitan place.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5: 13.

I spent about an hour with someone whose faith teaches that only a few people go to heaven, while the remaining ‘believers’ wait on the earth for their return. After much discussion I asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus?.” “Yes” she replied.

Throughout our discussion, this lady referred to her own faith’s version of the Bible in order to justify her beliefs; but it was very evident to me that the words were changed in the verses and not those from my Bible. She continued to explain that she knew that would not go to heaven and would wait for the “Chosen ones” to return.

As we spoke the following scriptures came to my mind:

 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7: 13.
"Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Luke 6:39

I felt great sadness as our discussion progressed, because it was obvious that this pleasant lady didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Instead she chose to believe a doctrine that was not true, one which was leading her to a lost eternity.

Like many people today, she had a serious problem but didn’t know it. She based her opinion on something she had read and studied.  Over the years I have met many people who explain how to get (to heaven based on their own reasoning, such as: “There are many roads to heaven”, “I am not a bad person”, “I haven’t murdered anyone” and “I come from a Christian family and I go to church at Christmas”. There are - thousands of reasons that people come up with regarding why they think they will go to heaven.

I continued “I am very sad to hear what you are saying. Would you like to know that there is a way that you can be certain that when you die, that you will have eternal life and go to heaven?” “Yes,” she replied.  I answered “I don’t know what your version of the Bible will say, but could you please take a look at 1 John 5-13 and read it aloud?”

I felt under considerable pressure at that point, wondering if the fundamental scripture had been altered like the many others in her book, even more so because my mentor, an international evangelist with great experience, was alongside me! The lady eagerly read the section to us which thankfully was the same as the scripture I know. Gently I asked “What do you think of that?” In stunned silence, she just didn’t know how to reply. The good news was right in front of her yet she struggled to accept it. We chatted some more then she went on her way. I pray that the Lord reveals the truth to her heart before it’s too late.

The good news of the Gospel

When does the “good news” actually become good news? The answer being that it is at the point when a person acknowledges they have a very serious problem that they cannot solve themselves; understanding that they are destined for a lost eternity in a place that wasn’t meant for them - at THAT moment the Gospel becomes exactly what it means: GOOD NEWS! 

To realise that Jesus died a substitutionary death for them, then becomes the most wonderful news a person has ever heard. As an evangelist once said, “You must first get a person lost, before they realise they need a saviour”. True indeed.

As witnesses for Christ and evangelists we find that people come to Christ in many ways. Some just seem to know they need Jesus, others see the light. In most cases though, people have to realise they are lost before they can get saved. The church should be like a lifeboat seeking and saving the lost from death.

Key Point: Being a witness for Christ will mean getting stuck in sometimes

There will be times we have to get our hands dirty, pulling people out of the muck and mire, being involved in their lives in order to witness to them. The fantastic news is that the Holy Spirit, our Helper, will always be with us, all the way. After all, He is the one that gives the increase. There is nothing we can do in our own strength to save anybody.

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of leading my 8 year old daughter to Jesus. What a precious moment! Plus, in the evening my wife and I led a man to Christ in a small Alpha course we have been running locally. On our way home we noticed that our car was very low on fuel. I believe that our joy and excitement provided the energy to get us home! During the drive though, we were diverted because of a car accident. Two young men had been killed instantly just a mile or so from our home.  The sad news made me realise that time is short and we have a responsibility to fulfill.

Jesus didn’t give us “the great suggestion” He gave us “the great commission” which commands us to: 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20

Let’s get busy for Jesus asking Him to guide and empower us as we share the good news!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Is there anyone that wants to talk to you about Jesus?

When you think about the lost, do you believe that it seems to be increasingly difficult to reach them? Do you wish that people were more receptive and willing to discuss their eternal destiny? Or have you ever prayed something like, “Oh Lord, please direct me to people who are ready for the message of salvation?”

I have prayed like that in the past and still do; but over time I have come to realise something very important - that the Lord is saying that there are many people eagerly waiting to talk about issues such as where they will spend eternity.  Many of them are ready not only to hear the Gospel but are also prepared to respond!

One of my favourite scriptures is this:

Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matthew 9: 37-38

When I had been a Christian for just a few months, at a house group meeting, my group leader Phylip had asked me to prepare a five minute message on a piece of scripture. I got it all together and read the verse and made my comments finishing with the statement, “I am not sure whether I agree with that”. He swiftly stated that I needed to decide whether I believed the Bible was true in its entirety or not. It was basically all or nothing. That evening I was challenged and concluded that I believed it, all of it, even the parts like Jonah and the whale. My reasoning was, “If God said it, then it’s good enough for me!”

Is the harvest plentiful?

Why explain this here - what connection does it have with the verse of scripture that you have just read about the harvest and lack of workers? I read some research recently which caught my attention. The Lifeway Organisation in America stated that approximately 60 million Americans are more than willing to meet with a Christian to talk about Jesus Christ. Wow! That equates to around 20% of the entire population. My immediate thoughts were that it will probably be a similar figure in the UK, where I live and many other countries. That is great news isn’t it?

Now, some people might say, “That’s only two out of ten”. My response to that is, “The shepherd left the ninety nine to go after the one that was lost, didn’t He?”

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?”  Matthew 18: 12

Let’s be positive about this. “Your attitude determines your altitude”, speaker and author Zig Ziglar says. Well, a person’s attitude to the Gospel certainly does determine their eternal altitude when you think about it, doesn’t it?

When I read about the survey I said to myself, “Let’s get searching for them”. Thinking of adults, in the first instance – if we lead a married man or woman to Christ, the effect that it has on their family can have an enormous impact, with others in the household accepting Christ. It can literally be like throwing a stone into a pond with the ripples going outwards.

This happened in our family; during the first year or so after I was saved, first of all my wife, then my mother, my daughter, my parents-in-law, two brothers-in-law and my father-in-law’s friend, who was an atheist, all accepted Jesus as Lord too.  Most of them did not appear to be ready in the least for the message. It was seeing a dramatic change in me that opened the door for the Holy Spirit to move. In fact, just think of the man that led Billy Graham to the Lord, literally millions of people have come to Christ through his ministry.

God is so good. Apparently in the case of a married man who commits his life to Christ, between 80 - 90% of the immediate family turn the Lord, with the figure being around 40% for married women. The numbers are much lower for children.

Now, if we truly believe what the scriptures say, that means every word Jesus said becomes factual in our minds. It is a truth, because after all, He’s God in the flesh. Or as a friend of mine says, “Jesus is God with skin on”. His word is always true and He never, ever lies.

As a salesman many years ago I was taught to ask a question as part of our sales process. The answer a prospective client or customer gave was always the same. Here is the question: “Tell me Mr. Client, are you the sort of person that makes decisions based on facts?” The answer was always an emphatic “Yes”

Faced with the same question, your answer would be the same too. So, if you truly believe Jesus is who He says He is, and you believe what He said, it means you can certain of it. It’s totally reliable, there is no doubt about it as it’s steadfast, unfailing, always dependable.

Key Point: Be happy to sow the seed of the Gospel, even if you don’t reap the harvest.

The Lord went further when He explained in the book of John that sometimes we will sow and we may well end up feeling that we have got nowhere other than just planting a seed. That’s good; we all need to be planting seed. But sometimes we will reap and see souls saved where we have done very little work. Brilliant! I will happily sow so that others may reap from my small efforts. The important point is that people come to a decision for Christ.

Jesus was very clear about what would happen if we would just look up, when He said:

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.” John 4:35-38

I believe that the Lifeway research undoubtedly proves that what Jesus said is true.  It is a truly wonderful experience when you lead someone to Christ, and who knows what they will do with Jesus? They could be another Smith Wigglesworth or Charles Finney. There will be times when we will have to step out of our comfort zones, but there are people who are waiting and ready to talk and this is a crucial opportunity.

Let’s get searching for those who are waiting for someone to speak to them. We know they are out there and God desires to use US to reach them!

Friday, 6 May 2011

How do I open a conversation so I can talk about Jesus?

This article contains some practical suggestions which will help to open the door for you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ easily with family, friends and co-workers. Anyone, in fact. 

Paul spoke in psychological terms regarding winning people to Christ when he said in Corinthians: 

“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings”
1 Corinthians 9-22

Recently the above scripture has been on my mind. I have been asked many times over the years, “How can I speak to a family member, friend or co-worker about Jesus in a way that is natural and isn’t confrontational?” With that in mind, I am going to talk about methodology, a way of doing something that is extremely effective, but isn’t like a sales training session with opening and closing techniques.

Key Point: The Holy Sprit will bring scriptures to memory when you witness

Here is a simple way of opening a conversation that should lead the person to ask you a question – then you will be able to answer introducing the Gospel of salvation naturally. What you will be doing is creating an opportunity to share Christ; the great point is that when you do this, the Holy Spirit will be with you and He will bring scriptures to memory that you have both read and heard before. 

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” John 14-26

For many years I have taught effective communication skills mainly in sales and management training situations. Now I train others for something much more worthwhile and important - sharing the Gospel.

Let’s get back to how we can open the conversation. “How can do I this?” you may be wondering. Put simply, it involves three key elements. They are:

  • Asking an initial question
  • Active listening and rapport building
  • Breaking rapport and shutting up

An Initial Question: For this example, imagine that you have returned to work on a Monday morning after a weekend off. You are with a co-worker and when the time is right, you ask the all-important initial question.

Are you ready? The extreme psychological power of this simple tactic may surprise you.
So brace yourself, here it comes. 

“What did you do over the weekend?” 

This can hardly be considered a high pressure confrontational question that is going to make a person squirm in agony as you ask it! However – it is all that you need to do. The next step though is crucially important.

Active Listening and Rapport Building:

At this point you must actively listen. This means to listen and ask questions, showing you have understood what is being said. In communication lessons I hold, I explain that making listening noises like “Yes”, “Right” and “Oh, I see” while nodding as well as asking questions reveal to the speaker that the listener is paying close attention, with genuine interest.   

We will imagine that the co-worker went to a dinner dance on Saturday evening and then watched a movie on Sunday. The questions I would ask would be perhaps. Oh that sounds great, what was the food like?”, “Were many people there?”, “What was the music like?”, “Did you do much dancing?” 

Questions that you could ask about the movie could be “Was it a good film?” “Was the cinema full?” “What did you do after that?”, “Were any good films shown on the trailers?”

Why ask those questions? The reason is people like to talk about themselves and by engaging in this way, high levels of rapport are quickly achieved. Once this happens, people enjoy the sense of rapport and subconsciously want to maintain it. This leads on to the final part.

Breaking rapport and shutting up: 

Once you have asked the questions which could have taken five or ten minutes, you need to break the rapport and stop talking! Just keep quiet and resist the temptation to speak. In 95% of cases, the co-worker will have a strong desire to maintain the rapport and they will attempt to do this by responding with a question for you - which is quite likely to be: “What did you do over the weekend?”

My answer would be something like: 

“I had a fantastic weekend at church because………..”

You can tell them about the speaker, singing, testimonies – anything that may have happened. Very often the co-worker will ask you more questions, allowing you to elaborate. Whilst you have this precious window of opportunity, you could ask more questions.

Here are a few examples: 

  • “I was wondering, do you believe that church is still relevant today?”
  • “Can I ask, do you believe in God?”
  • “What do you think happens to people when they die?

Or, if you have the confidence, a great question is:-

“Are you 100% sure that if you died today, that you would go to heaven?”

You can use an opening question in any way you want. A few suggestions are:

"What are your plans for the weekend"? or "Do you plan to have a busy or relaxing weekend"?

In an attempt to open a conversation about the Gospel, I have met people who are very direct and like to start with first questions like “Do you know that you need to repent of your sins?”

In many cases the conversation begins and ends with that.  There are many ways to get started and the simple that one I have gone through does work, with proven results. 

If you have never done anything like this, have a go. The results will pleasantly surprise you!