Friday, 15 July 2011

Overcoming the fear of witnessing

Are you someone that becomes fearful at the thought of sharing your faith? Well, you are not alone! It is a natural thing to be a little afraid sometimes when you have opportunity to talk about the Lord. Added to that, we need to be aware that the enemy of God can use it as a weapon against us. However, as believers in Christ we have something infinitely more powerful than the enemy - the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the heart of the believer. As a result of this, we can truly stand on the scripture which assures us:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” 1 John 4: 4

There are four common reasons that cause people to procrastinate about witnessing for Christ. However, I find that although most people genuinely want to obey the commandments of Jesus to the gospel some don’t do so due to feelings of fear. As a result they end up holding back and then feel guilty knowing that they should have spoken out. The main reasons that I have come across are:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of losing a relationship with someone
  • A perceived lack of knowledge

The Bible clearly states that we have a most wonderful promise from God, that He doesn’t give us fear or timidity, but instead He gives us power, love and a sound mind. It is incredible when you think about it! You will have no doubt seen yourself how people’s lives are completely changed when they let God come into their hearts.  

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1: 7

It is at times like this that we need to stand on the word of God and apply it to our lives. I remember a story about a woman who was going through a really difficult situation in her life. She needed an answer from God urgently. While she was praying a particular scripture came to her mind that applied to her circumstances. She took her Bible, placed it on the floor and stood on it, quoting that particular scripture aloud, declaring “Lord I am standing on the word that I believe in my heart that you have given me”. That day she had a massive breakthrough in the situation.

I am not saying that we should do the same, but come to think of it I have done this myself, too. We need to stand on God’s word, believing it in our hearts. Matthew Henry described what the scripture above means like this:  

“The spirit of love to God, which will carry us through the opposition we may meet.” 

That is a really great way of describing it. We need not fear man or what they will say because the Holy Spirit will always be with us when we take a step of faith and witness.

There are a number of things that we can do which will also help with overcoming fear. Being prepared is absolutely vital when it comes to witnessing, because  it gives confidence which will help considerably as we share the good news of the Gospel.

Be prayed up: Pray, trusting that God will lead you to people who not only need to hear the message of the Gospel, but those who are ready for it. God will do it. You will find yourself in all kinds of situations where the door will be supernaturally opened for you to share scripture, your testimony or both.  Believe it, it’s a Fact! The evangelist J. John makes an excellent point when he speaks about prayer when he says “When you pray coincidences happen, when you don’t pray, they don’t happen.” 

Key Point: Pray trusting that God will lead you to people who are ready for the message

Learn how to present scripture: ‘The Roman Road’ is a very simple way of doing this and it will help to keep you on track. Sharing a few relevant scriptures and explaining them simply will have a massive impact on people. Spending some time learning the scriptures and explanations will build your confidence in your ability. Your confidence will be demonstrated to your listener as you share.

Plan out your testimony: Very often when witnessing your own story of salvation will come up. A simple explanation of what your life was like before you found Jesus, followed by how you found Him and made Him Lord of your life, will always have a great impact. Following up with what Jesus has done in your life since that time (once again) is very powerful, too. Make sure to include scripture in your testimony as it is the word of God, because it is what makes the difference. Remember His word is both living and active.

Expect the Holy Spirit to move: This is very important. The Gospel has a power unlike anything else in the universe. It can soften the hardest of hearts, defeat any kind of logic or worldly belief system and bring a person to a point where they realise they have a huge problem. They come to the realisation that they are lost without Jesus and then understand they need to accept Him as their Saviour. Have a positive attitude and be praying in your mind as you share, asking the Holy Sprit to break down any barriers, open hearts and make blind eyes see. He can do it!

Do what you fear and the fear will disappear: This is a great saying that I learned from a wise old sales manager when I was a young man. When we do what we fear, the fear really will start to disappear. What is more, we have the Holy Spirit with us, who will always back us up!

When we witness for Christ we are never alone. The same Spirit of God that hovered over the earth when it was created will be with you as you tell people about the love of Jesus. Just think of that!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Simple bridge building

This is about a slightly longer term form of witnessing that is effective. Sometimes we have to be inventive when it comes to being a witness for Jesus, coming up with new ways of approaching people so we are able to present the Gospel or share our testimony with them. I am talking about starting in Jerusalem, or in other words, your own immediate locality, by reaching out to the people that live in your street or neighbourhood. Jesus said:

“And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Acts 1: 8
Key Point: There are many ways that you can use to introduce Jesus Christ

As the saying goes, “There is more than one way to skin a cat”. In other words, there are many ways to introduce Christ to people that we know or are acquainted with. This method is known as bridge building.

One of the best ways that I have heard this type of evangelism described is like this:

 “In order to introduce Jesus to someone sometimes you will need to build a relationship bridge so that Jesus can walk across towards them”.
That is it in a nutshell and it is simple and effective. There two ways you can approach this, the first which can be effective, but it is very often a much harder way of bridge building.

Sometimes people can be confrontational:

One of my old pastors used to tell a story of when he was a boy, regarding his father who was an evangelist. As a child he can remember his dad going to the end of the streets where he lived in the Welsh Valleys in the 1940s and 50s. He would shout at the top of his voice and it would echo around the houses:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1: 15

After which he would go on to preach a Gospel message before he was ready to move on to the next group of houses or street.

Now I believe that there is still a place for that type of witness, even in today’s politically correct culture. I have done  this before and will happily do so again. Amazingly, people still come to Christ through what would appear to some onlookers to be complete foolishness.

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”
1 Corinthians 1: 21

We must be willing to witness in what ever way Christ calls us to. It can be hard sometimes, but very rewarding when people come to Jesus.

Sometimes it can be relational

Bridge building with neighbours is a great way of reaching the lost. I don’t mean inviting a neighbour to a barbeque in your garden, only for them to discover a huge sea of smiling Christian faces from your local fellowship greeting them and with so many Christians present, inevitably talking about church  the poor neighbor will feel  like a fish out of water! Then just to cap it all, someone begins some cringe Factor” evangelism, pulls out an acoustic guitar and invites all who are present to join in with him and sing “Kum by ya my Lord, kum by ya”, accompanied by a load of actions. The neighbor will be completely alienated
What I am describing is an effective way to build a bridge simply by asking a family or people that you know to a barbeque that is just with your family or perhaps a couple of Christian friends, a small affair; or inviting them to dinner, or going bowling, for a picnic, for a walk in the country - anything that a family or group of friends would like to do together just to have fun.
The people you invite could be your neighbours or perhaps someone from your local school, a co-worker or person that belongs to a club or association that you are also a member of.

The list of possibilities is endless. The point is, you will already have some type of relationship with them. The aim of the invitation is for them to see Jesus in you.

Be disciplined and don’t talk about the Lord until the right time.

This type of witness requires you to be subtle. You may have to do this type of thing a few times, before you are able to speak about church  or Jesus. You have to be disciplined in your approach with this method. A time will come when you will be asked about your faith, church or something similar. You may be asked a question like “Why do you go to church?” or, “Why are you a Christian?” Your patience and discipline will have given you a wide open door to present the Gospel. You will be able to go through it because you have built a bridge of friendship and trust. Your listener will be more receptive as a result of this.

Sometimes you will get positive answers and interest, while on other occasions you may get answers like “Each to their own” or “No thanks it’s not for me”. Some Christians panic at this point and go into overdrive and start talking about death and hell, trying to frighten the people into the kingdom.

We are not collecting points here but rather getting to know people better and then letting them see the love of Jesus in us. This will give you opportunities to invite people to church.

It is a slower process, but many come to Jesus in that way. You will still need to witness to people in other ways as well, including this as one of your approaches. Here are a few dos and don’ts that may help - some may appear to be obvious, but I will say them anyway. I have seen some odd things happen over the years with this type of stuff. Ask any pastor!

Some dos:

  • Be prayed up and ready
  • Let them see the love of Jesus first
  • Be positive welcoming and friendly
  • Be disciplined and wait for the right opportunity

Some don’ts:

  • Don’t have Bibles, tracts and Christian literature lying around everywhere in your house
  • Don’t ask the people you have invited to sing the “Grace song” before you eat
  • Keep grace short and sweet
  • Don’t speak in Christianese. In other words try to remove Christian language from your conversation.
  • Don’t try to create openings for your testimony or scripture. Be patient because the opportunity will come along.

Pray about who you can start to build bridges with. God will direct you to the right people.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Are you bothered about the lost?

I know an outstanding preacher of the Gospel who often starts his messages with the phrase, “I hope you still love me when I have finished this message”. I am sure you have heard similar statements yourself.  You probably know the feeling, you sit there knowing that the word of God is going to challenge your heart in some way or other. That is also God’s way when we read or listen to His word.

I hope to challenge you through scripture as you read this. Jesus knows what we are like when we are on our own and no one sees us. He has full knowledge of what we think, what we say and what we do; there is simply no hiding place. He knows the very thoughts of our hearts, even to the point of what were going to pray before we start to pray it.

Sadly, there are many Christians that don’t share their faith on a regular basis. For some people it is difficult and books like this can help find ways to learn how to ‘spread the word’. That is one issue, but my concern is that there are many Christians that don’t pray for the lost. As believers we need to pray for them and we should be asking God to provide us with opportunities to witness about Christ’s life-changing gospel.

Praying for our unsaved loved ones, friends and colleagues genuinely is the best way to start reaching them for Christ. We need to remember that it is a spiritual battle that we, as soldiers of Christ, must get involved in out of obedience to Christ.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Our prayers really do make a difference. If you ask God to give you opportunities to share Jesus, He will always answer and send people into your path who are ready and ripe for the message. Prayer is not an easy thing for many and it requires us to be disciplined.

We sometimes know what the right thing to do, but instead we decide to go our own way. It is the same for some regarding prayer. I will go as far as to say we must have a burden for the lost and part of that should be calling on God to save them. The preacher Charles Spurgeon would actually question the salvation of a Christian attending his church if they didn’t have a burden for lost souls. Wow!

I have some really good news for you if you have been lacking in this area, and that is that we have a loving, merciful and forgiving God who will forgive us when we fail in certain areas of our walk with Him. I work in evangelism and that have been times when I have struggled in the area of prayer. There have been occasions when I have not been as compassionate as I know I should have been.

A very good example of this when happened was some time ago when I was studying as a student at the School of World Evangelism in Newport, South Wales. The first lecture of the day was about the price of a soul. I was impacted by this, especially when the leader spoke about his son who was away from the Lord. As he talked about him he began to weep for a minute or so in front of us all. None of us felt awkward because we could see the heart of the man. I was both convicted and challenged by what happened. It made me question myself as I sat there.

Before I tell you what the question was, I want to get things into context. Consider the fact that God has called me to do the work of an evangelist. I have laboured in this area over the years and seen souls saved by the power of the Gospel and loved every second of it. The day this happened I was actually attending a course on evangelism training, which surely means that I have a heart for the lost doesn’t it?

The question I asked myself was. “How much am I really bothered about the lost?” This was followed by a second question: “Do I have the same passion for souls as this man does?” Those few minutes in that lecture made me think seriously about my real desires and motives as a Christian and it was truly a pivotal point in my life.   

God doesn’t say to us “Why couldn’t you be more like so and so?”

The Lord doesn’t challenge us by comparing us to other people we know. He does it by showing us the role model of Jesus or other great examples in scripture. We all need to have some of His passion for souls and see people in the way that He sees them. If we were able to view things His way, there would be no reason, because we would be out there witnessing for Christ with boldness.

My challenge to you today:   

  1. On a scale from one to ten, one being completely cold, and ten being hot.
  2. How bothered are you about the lost?
  3. How does this affect your prayer life regarding the lost and actually attempting the share the Gospel?

COLD                         WARM                           HOT

How did you do? If you are not where you believe that you should be, simply give it to the Lord in prayer. Sincerely ask Him to give you some of the passion that His Son Jesus Christ possesses. If you mean what you say, He will do it.

Key Point: Ask Jesus to give you His passion for the lost. Just a small portion would change your outlook.

He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts and where we really are: 

“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart"
1 Samuel 16: 7

Here are a few reminders that that I use in my prayer life which may help you:

  1. Write down the names of the people you want to pray for.
  2. Use the list in your prayer time and start sowing life into the Kingdom of God. We need to get back to praying for the lost if we are to see souls saved.
  3. Our attitude is a key. Plead with God to save the people on your list. 
  4. Ask God to send workers into the harvest fields. Jesus said that we should do it.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct people on your prayer list to people who will share Jesus with them
 “He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” Luke 10: 2

Let’s get praying and believe that God will move in this important area.