Friday, 24 June 2011

“Get out of your comfort zone and go over to the other side of the room”

Have you ever been at a function with a 50/50 mix of Christians and those that don’t know Christ in attendance? I am sure that you have seen the situation before. The Christians will often congregate in one part of the room, while the other people tend to stay in their own area. Often there would seem to be an impassable gulf between the two groups that few attempt to venture over. 

The reason for that is as psychologists tell us - we like to be around people who are like us. We feel comfortable and even protected in some cases. Dare I say it….I will then, we are often like sheep. 

This was exactly what happened when my wife Desiree and I attended a birthday party of a very good Christian friend of ours. As people arrived, some of which were family, they naturally moved to their own area, and the Christians to another. After half an hour or so, a couple who were not church goers arrived who my wife knew from our children’s school. They looked around for somewhere to sit and sat right in the middle of the ‘no man’s land’ area on their own. I suppose it was because they felt that they didn’t belong to either group as they were not family members and were not Christians. People were involved in conversations, laughing and joking, so they didn’t seem to notice them. No one moved from the Christian side or the non Christian side of the room to talk with and sit down with them.  

Key Point: Get out of your comfort zone and take a step to witness for Jesus Christ

They looked a little awkward and were looking around to see if they recognised anyone. I then noticed that my wife Desiree went to their table and sat with them. She caught my eye and motioned for me to come over and join them. 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13: 34-35

This scripture has been changed many times over the years to something like, “They will know that you are Christians by our love”. I believe that this altered statement is actually true, people will realise that we are different by the way we act towards people that we don’t know. Desiree and I could have easily stayed in our own places like the rest of the people at the party, as we were enjoying ourselves talking to some old friends.
What were the benefits of joining them at their table? There are a few, some of which are fairly obvious: 

·   The awkwardness that the couple felt disappeared immediately
·   They were made to feel welcome and comfortable
·   We engaged in interesting conversation about all manner of things
·   We laughed, chatted and had quite a pleasant time.
Oh, and we mentioned the word “church”.

Get ready for this, because something really amazing happened after that. The lady looked right at me and asked me a question, one that many Christians would love to be asked by someone who didn’t know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. A question that was an open door for the Gospel of salvation: 

“Moray, tell me, why did you decide to become a Christian?” Wow, what a question to be asked. Praise God, what an opportunity!

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3: 15

As a result both of us were able to share our testimonies of finding Jesus, which led to making Him Lord of our lives. The couple sat and listened with interest and asked a number of questions. They even made some very positive statements on how they had seen a difference in people that knew Christ. 

They didn’t get onto their knees in the middle of the hall and we didn’t lead them in a sinner’s prayer, but we were able to sow seed into their hearts. We may have an opportunity again to witness to them at some time in the future. But, if not us, then somebody else will be able to ‘water the seed’ as it were. 

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour. For we are God's fellow-workers; you are God's field, God's building.” 1 Corinthians 3: 7-9

These people were not friends of ours. My wife knew them a little better than I did, and quite honestly, I did feel a little awkward joining them at their table.

What would have happened if we had stayed where we were sitting? Perhaps someone else would have eventually gone over to talk to them. I suppose that we will never know the answer to that. However, as a result of leaving our Christian friends to go over to the ‘no man’s land’ area of the room to chat to people who were away from God, it offered a tremendous opportunity to share the good news.

Firstly and very importantly we were able to let them see the love of Jesus in us. Whenever we witness or evangelise the person must see His love in us.  Secondly we were given the chance to share the wonderful message of salvation with them.

Sometimes to reach people we have to take the step of faith that I keep mentioning and believe that God will back you up. He always will! Next time you are at a party or an event when you see a person or a couple on their own, step out of your comfort zone and go over to the other side of the room. Often it can be an adventure, and yes, the Holy Spirit will go with you.

What could be better?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Your testimony is use it!

When you witness on a one to one basis, it is very likely that your testimony will come up at some point in the conversation. Being able to share it effectively is very important as it will help considerably as you explain the truth of the Gospel in your own experience. Why? Because you will be explaining how it has been outworked in your own life. Remember, people genuinely love stories, especially ones that are true.
Key Point: People love stories that are true

One description of the word testimony is: “A declaration of truth or fact”. It’s a great definition because it describes exactly what we do when we share what Jesus did for us in our own life story. When it comes to sharing your testimony, the reason it is powerful is because it is truth. No one can argue about what you experienced.

This scripture sums it up:
“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12: 11

Don’t forget that our stories of salvation are very potent. Sometimes people say, “I don’t have a very good testimony because I wasn’t a drug dealer, a bank robber or anything like that”. However, you have an incredible testimony to share, when you consider what Christ did for you by dying on the cross of Calvary. As a result of His sacrifice, you are now a child of the King, and you will have eternal life with Jesus! Your story will definitely speak into people’s hearts as there will always be those who are willing to listen. Fact!
Practice and repetition prevents a poor performance

You will need to carefully plan out your story, even to the point of having a one, five and ten minute version, perhaps even longer. Then practice going through it a number of times so that you can share it without thinking about what to say. It’s important to avoid the use of ‘Christian speak’, using words like saved, praise God, hallelujah and amen. 
Below you will find a few examples of ‘Christian speak’ or Christianese as it is sometimes known. Before you read them, please imagine that you had never heard the Gospel before. What would you think if you heard these phrases for the first time?

He imputed righteousness to us
Drink my blood and eat my flesh

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
There are many scriptures like this, and they are all totally true. However, think of your listener and keep it simple. It is essential that your story of meeting Jesus is easy to understand. You should share scripture though and when you do, explain what it means in an easy to understand way. Try to include two or three scriptures that relate to your journey to faith.

Remember that scripture clearly says:
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10: 17

Keep to the point: I have known Christians say when sharing their stories “Well it was on a Friday night………no it was a Saturday afternoon……… sorry it was an evening in July, or was it August”. When presented in this way your amazing story of finding new life in abundance through Jesus Christ becomes like a visit to the dentist for your listener. That is why practice is so very important. It’s also a good idea to share your story with a Christian friend who will be honest with you. You could even record yourself speaking, you may be surprised how you sound.
A couple of real events in my life sum this up. The first was when I was searching for Christ about 20 years ago, a Christian man witnessed to me by sharing his own story, but almost immediately he started talking about the children of Israel, the plagues, the desert and other things. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and he totally lost me after a minute or two.

My one abiding memory of our conversation was when he started shouting at the top of his voice “I just want to be with the Lord!” He did this about six or seven times, which was very off-putting and made me wonder, “Are all Christians like this guy”? The second occasion was when I was involved in a tent mission.

On a Saturday morning men from the surrounding area were invited to have a free bacon roll and a cup of tea with us while testimonies were shared to the group in a very informal way. One man attended whom we had not met before. I warmly shook his hand and passed him on to a couple of men who were organising the food. Within one minute they were talking to him about hell and damnation. The guy genuinely looked horrified to say the least. What they were saying was true of course, there is a hell to be shunned and a heaven to be gained, but it was probably a bit too early to be discussing that with a complete stranger. It was not surprising that we only saw him one more time.    

That is why we must have a basic plan that is easy to follow. A well proven way of preparing your testimony is to break into three parts:
Describe what your life was like before you came to Christ 35%,

Explain how you got saved 30%,
It is also important to share what God has done in your life since you accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour 35%.

How is your life different now? Do you have peace, joy and fulfillment? There will be very much that you can say.
Key Point: Make sure you have a plan and stay on track

Recently my wife attended an outreach event for women. The lady that spoke has an amazing story to tell and spoke for about an hour. Ninety percent of her testimony revolved around her past life which was traumatic. There was hardly any time left to explain her journey to faith and what God had done in her life since then.
We need to be mindful of that. I am going to list a few things that you shouldn’t do first of all:

Some Don’ts:
Make sure you speak at a steady pace and NOT at a million miles an hour.

Don’t bring glory to your past. It may have been colourful and even exciting. But you were lost and headed for a lost eternity.
Don’t get into minute detail. Keep it simple so that it is easy for your listener to understand.

Don’t look visibly disappointed if your listener says “ I am sorry, but its not for me”
Some Do’s:

Always be prayerful.
Always be ready to share your story when the opportunity arises.

Be enthusiastic and passionate about your story.
Make sure your story points people to Jesus.

Watch your listener to see if they are interested in what you are saying.
Keep an eye on the time.

If possible have your Bible ready to go through some scriptures if necessary.
Always carry tracts and church contact information so you can leave the person with something.

These short chapters are to encourage you to get out there talking to people about Jesus. You will be surprised what happens when you do. I say in my evangelism courses that sharing the Gospel is M.A.D.
In other words, it MAKES A DIFFERENCE. If you do nothing, it is very likely that nothing will happen. Whereas if you do something, there will always be an outcome of some kind.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Help....I want to explain the Gospel

Do you have a desire to share the Gospel of salvation with those people that don’t know Jesus as Lord? Perhaps you have held back because of a lack of confidence in your ability, or maybe it’s because you don’t feel that you know enough scripture. Whatever your reasons, I hope that this will be a help to you.

This scripture leaves us with no doubt about what Peter is saying. It is one that I quote a great deal, especially when I run classes on personal evangelism.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

Let’s consider how we can feel properly prepared, ready to speak at a moment’s notice when an opportunity to share Christ arises. Jesus said that we should have childlike faith, so with that in mind, pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and then expect the opportunities to come. Trusting in this way, you will discover that very soon God will bring people into your path whom He has prepared for the message. When you mean what you pray, asking the Lord for ‘God appointments’ like this, they will happen. It’s a fact!

Pastors, preachers and evangelists prepare messages to win the lost. Why don’t you do the same with the gospel message?
You can do this with your own testimony of salvation. I refer here to sharing when you have the opportunity, not necessarily from a pulpit, but rather sharing the Gospel on a one to one basis with your Bible. There is a well proven method known as the “Roman Road”. It is very simple and enables a person to explain the Gospel in an orderly way and it works extremely well. The reason for that is because it is the word of God!

Key Point: Prior preparation and planning prevents a poor performance

I suggest you write these scripture references on the inside cover of your Bible, so that you don’t have to memorise them, though the more you use them, you will find them easier to recall. You will be able to flick to and fro between the references and the scriptures. An onlooker will think you really know the way around the Bible.

It is very important to remember when you are with someone to always read scripture aloud and if possible let your listener see what you are reading by pointing your finger at the verses. Do this because scripture says:

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10: 17

Please do note that I am not going into great depth here as I could write pages on each scripture.

Scripture One: As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one”. Romans 3: 10

This is a fundamental part of God’s word. It’s a good response to use when a person states “I will go to heaven because I am a good person,” or “Because I am not a murderer, I haven’t done anything wrong.” This verse gives you the ability to show them that there is nothing we can do to merit going to heaven, for no-one is without sin.

Scripture Two:  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3: 23 

This second scripture gives further confirmation of everyone being guilty of sin. When it comes to righteousness we can only compare ourselves with Jesus and every time we do, we will always fall short. He lived a perfect and sinless life, which means we will never be able to measure up to Him in any way.

Scripture Three: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

This covers the fall of man with Adam and Eve. There will be occasions where you will have to explain who they are to someone who is unsaved. Quite often today younger people have never heard of them.

After the fall it was as if sin got into our DNA and as a result we were destined to a lost eternity in Hell - but the great news is that Jesus broke power of sin!

Scripture Four: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6: 23
Ask your listener why people get wages. You will get answers like, “We earn them” or “We deserve them for what we do.” Because sin is in our lives we earn a death and end up earning a lost eternity.

Scripture Five: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5: 8

If your listener has agreed with what you have said so far, the good news will become exactly what it say it is, GOOD NEWS. You can explain how Jesus took our sin upon Himself.

Scripture Six: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10: 9-13 

The last scripture is wonderful news, which will lead on to asking questions like “Do you want to accept Jesus today”. I will cover leading the person to Christ further on in this book.

Get these scriptures into your heart, read them over and over and meditate on them. They are powerful because God’s word is alive. The verse in John 3: 16 had a powerful effect on me and countless others. Don’t be afraid to use scripture, only make sure that they are relevant to your listener.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4: 12

I love that scripture because it fills me with confidence. Whenever you speak the word of God something happens. Sometimes it can annoy, anger and irritate - but that fact is, that it changes lives. I have seen it happen so many times, changing the hearts of even the hardest and the angriest, anyone who chooses to believe, in fact. God’s word speaks to everyone, regardless of age, gender, ability, knowledge or position; it is simple enough for a child to understand.

God wants to use you, and Jesus even commanded us to share His Good News. Let’s be obedient and believe God’s word will do what it says and ‘not return unto Him void’

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Does kindness have a power?

You may think that today’s blog title is a little unusual. Well, I hope that you will get what I mean in a moment. The whole point of these short blogs is to both challenge and motivate believers to obey the commands of Jesus. A fundamental scripture says: "If you love me, you will obey what I command” John 14: 15. My hope is that you will feel motivated to step out in faith, believing that God will back you up. You will be amazed at what will happen when you do.
Gospel One To One is built around a very important scripture. Our soon to be launched website makes it very clear. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” Mark 15: 16. The all important word being “Go”, or as I heard one preacher say many years ago using old fashioned language when He shouted from the pulpit “Go Ye”.
Something I have discovered over recent years is that acts of kindness very often open the doors to people’s hearts for the Gospel. My wife and I recently met a young pastor from Tennessee that had rapidly grown his church from 60 to 1600. The great thing was that the increased numbers attending was predominately new souls, and was not from transferred growth from other fellowships in the area. In my experience, growth like that doesn’t happen by accident. It is clear that something had taken place that was significant. I wondered what had in fact taken place. Had the Holy Spirit been poured out in power on the church? Or had a revival started in the town. Whatever had been going on, I certainly felt that I wanted to find out about it.

This young man had challenged his church to do exactly what the scripture says, to “go” into the community and in effect minister to people through the method of service or servant evangelism. The teams did many things including, mowing lawns, filling cars up with petrol as well as giving motorists $10 towards the cost of it. Packing and carrying shopping from supermarkets, cutting hair in old people’s homes.  Some even paid for groceries at the checkouts for single parent families. All of this had a dramatic effect on the area. People were asking questions like, “Why do you want to mow my lawn”. Many were astonished as teams knocked doors explaining that they were from the local church and were helping people locally. These acts of kindness meant that people asked questions about the church which in turn led to many conversations about the Lord. The important point is that 49 people came to Christ and were added to the work in one week. It was all done because they had simply obeyed Jesus command to “Go”.

Small things done with great love will impact both people and communities.

Showing the love of God in simple and practical ways is extremely effective. Servant evangelism does something that is very different, as it actually opens the heart before it confronts the mind. A small act of kindness pushes a person towards God, very often in a profound way because it breaks down a person’s normal self defence barriers.

When a Christ-follower is willing to hand a stranger a refreshing cold drink on a hot day, or gives a hot dog to someone on the street the typical reaction is. "Oh, thank you!" "You are very kind!" "I can't believe this is for free. Tell me why are you doing this?"

Kindness does something special because it very quickly builds a bridge for the person to receive a touch of love from God. It's very simple, extremely practical, proven in its effectiveness, and importantly in today’s economic climate, inexpensive.

Sometimes we need to stop trying to get our communities into our church, and take our churches into the community.

As we reach out to people in our areas we need to become ‘plate spinners’. You know, like the people who amaze us by spinning great numbers of plates on those wobbly sticks. They move quickly back and forth building up a massive display. If churches tried spinning more ‘evangelistic plates’ it is likely that more people will talk to us about the Lord as we change, add to and modify our approach. I know of some churches that use just a small number of methods to reach their communities, and there is nothing wrong with that. My point is, to keep on with those activities, but also try using different ideas if they are able to. One definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing expecting the results to improve.

My questions are; what do you think would happen if a team from your locality did service evangelism in your area for a week, or perhaps for a few Saturdays? Through acts of kindness how many people would consider coming to an Alpha type course, or come to a coffee morning? Or dare I say it, yes, come to church or an outreach event and hear the Gospel being preached.

Our motive must always be one thing, and that is love.I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” Mark 9:41.

Most Sunday morning sermons are usually forgotten by dinner time to be honest. But on the other hand, simple selfless acts of servanthood done with the love of Jesus will stay in people’s hearts and memories for years. The scripture that comes rapidly to mind is, If you want to be great in God's Kingdom, then you must learn to be a servant to all here on earth” 1 Peter 5: 5. It says it all really. Let’s “Go” together.