‘How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?’
A few years ago, Marks and Spencer advertised their chocolate pudding and custard. It was sensational! The imagery was stunning, with a close up of a sumptuous, steaming, hot sponge, oozing out chocolate sauce and creamy, yellow custard cascading down its sides. The soft voice declared, ‘This is no ordinary chocolate sponge…’ you know the rest! But what if the voice never mentioned M&S? The advert certainly created desire, but many of us would have been shouting at the screen, ‘Whose is it?’, ‘Where can I buy it?’, ‘How much does it cost?’ The information on this product – and a delicious one at that – was vital so that customers’ desires could be met. It’s a classic illustration of how we, who ‘advertise’ Jesus in the way we live, must also communicate the vital information needed for people to discover Him.
The highly appealing images of the TV commercial certainly created desire. Living out a Christian lifestyle is, by its nature, attractive. In Micah 6:8, we have these words: ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Do we not all follow these instructions to a greater or lesser degree? In doing so, we can make Jesus attractive to those around us. Of course, many will not be attracted at all, but we must remain faithful. When the advertisement tells us whose sponge it is, we know where to buy it and that’s the difference. We need opportunities to explain our attractive lifestyle.
In Matthew 28, Jesus commands his disciples to ‘go and make disciples’. If we consider ourselves to be modern-day disciples, then this is a command for us too and it would be hard to carry this out if we said nothing! Therefore, there has to be an intentionality about sharing Jesus that goes beyond simply being a nice person.
Ephesians 4 suggests there are some who are especially called to help others to live out this commission. Those who enjoy sharing their faith, who love to spend time outside of the church, who aren’t as excited by church activities as they are by spending time in their community with those who don’t yet know Jesus. We need those people to inspire and challenge any inward-looking tendencies. We need their stories and examples without committing them to spending all of their time with church folk. Rather than becoming frustrated by other church members who don’t seem to see that the great commission applies to them, they might encourage others to take steps towards their communities. Their confidence in speaking by Jesus might help others to be more bold in speaking about their faith.
An evangelist can be a preacher, but also a storyteller, a Facebook writer, a networker, or any believer! Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ So, we may not be vocational evangelists, but each one of us, in our own way can ‘be prepared’. Such preparation may mean the creation of opportunities for faith-sharing, which can be done corporately, or to be ready to share personal stories of what God has done in our lives, be it an answer to prayer, a time when God felt close, or perhaps a sermon that really spoke to us.
To do any of this means creating meaningful conversations. One tool that is proving popular is the practice of ‘Acorn’, whereby a daily, personal prayer that asks for faith-sharing opportunities, often leads to them and then to report those stories (without betraying confidences) with others doing the same thing. Details are below, and those who’ve tried it, say it works. There is no training manual, no need for Kirk Session permission and no financial outlay – just Christians coming together. A member of an Acorn group in Edinburgh claims her group, ’is a self-help group for those who struggle to share faith!’
Tommy MacNeil, minister of Martin’s Memorial, reflects more deeply on the role here…
To explore this further, the following resources might be of help.
Acorn is an ideal method of sharing faith for those not confident at doing it.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/933478613810194/
YouTube channel tells lots of personal stories, as well as describing the process. The theory is one thing; hearing from those involved in the practice is quite another. The channel: https://www.youtube.com/@acornfaith
5Q 5Q Central
A hub of resources for Activating Potential, Pursuing Maturity and Sparking Collaboration. In their suite of APEST resources, you’ll find these thoughts on How To Disciple An Immature Evangelist
The Message https://www.message.org.uk
The Message Trust has been equipping and releasing people for mission across the Manchester area and far beyond for many years. Their website carries a number of helpful resources, podcasts and inspirational stories
The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics
OCCA offer a rich variety of training opportunities and materials to equip people to give relevant, gentle and respectful explanations for their faith
Reboot is there particular focus on youth ministry, equipping young people to really think about what they believe and help them live out their faith among their peers
Missional Communities are a great way of releasing an evangelist with a small group of friends to serve, love and share a community. Read some more here
Chris is an evangelist whose stories and example are incredibly inspiring. Read an interview here https://www.eden.co.uk/blog/innovation/big-hearted-evangelism-with-chris-duffett-p1244
The following books may be helpful.
The Sleeping Giant by Tommy MacNeil reminds us of our calling to win people for Christ by modelling our lives on His words and deeds (underscored by prayer) and in so doing, help to revive the church.
The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon is a classic, despite its age. Spurgeon outlines what it takes to back up our lifestyle in helping people come to the Christian faith.
Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan encourages us to understand the culture of any people-groups before attempting to evangelise them. He recounts his own experiences with the Masai people in Kenya and debunks western perceptions.
Creating a Culture of Invitation in Your Church by Michael Harvey analyses why we shy away from sharing faith, or even to invite friends to our own church events. He then offers a biblically-based set of attitudes to help us to become invitational and more confident at being that way!
Ordinary Miracles – Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places by Chris Lane is an account of planting a Church in a busy city. When Chris and his friends planted a church on an inner-city estate notorious for crime and deprivation, they could not imagine the rollercoaster ride that awaited. Committed to loving and living in one place – the Langworthy estate in Salford – they have spent 18 years seeing Jesus’ hope and healing transforming even the darkest and most desperate situations