Wondering how to introduce people to Jesus? Some simple ideas to get you started.
You need a theory of change!
The mission of Jesus was about abundant life – restoring people to health, forming a community of life-giving relationships, and promising a new society (God’s kingdom) with wellbeing at its heart.
Jesus called his followers to make disciples so that this fuller life could spread across the entire planet (Matthew 28:19).
But often founders of new Christian communities don’t know how to do this. They lack a “theory of change”.
They do not understand how the Spirit can use their community to draw people into Jesus’s richer life.
A theory of change starts with a framework
The leaders of St. Laurence, Reading, knew lots of young people with limited church background, but few were becoming Christians as part of a fuller life.
A senior church leader invited them to draw what they were trying to do. The diagram ended up like this.
‘Making contact’ and ‘Nurture’ were working well, but the leaders weren’t ‘encouraging commitment to Jesus’. So they started ‘special weekends’.
Gradually from these emerged a worshipping community of nearly 50 young people, who grew in their commitment to Christ.
A framework enabled the leaders to see where they were going, filter out ideas that didn’t fit, and spot the gaps.
For example, it was a big leap from ‘clubs’ to the ‘special weekends’. Could they put in some smaller steps?
The loving-first cycle can offer this same sense of direction. You can use it to ask: “What stage have we reached? What stops us going to the next stage? What are the opportunities?”
Listening, love and community create trust, and people must trust each other if they are to explore following Jesus together.
Caution! Each of the first three circles has its own value. So don’t just see them as stepping stones to sharing Jesus. If the Spirit opens the door to the next circle, walk through it. If not, thoroughly enjoy where you are as a gift from God.
3. Make a bridge between ‘Community’ and ‘Share Jesus’
Choose one or more of the following:
- Start a distinct group for this purpose – perhaps a ‘spirituality group’.
You could explain, “We’ll discuss stories about Jesus, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers, and see what we think of them.”
You can prepare the ground by introducing “signposts to Jesus” that spark spiritual conversations – see 13. Sharing good news / Guide.
In a language cafe, women from Sri Lanka met for tea and discussed topics in English. They were invited to pin prayer requests on a board. They began talking about their requests! Later, an inquirers’ group was formed.
- Invite inquirers to the core team.
Three families in Gloucester hosted a monthly Sunday breakfast for up to 60 people from nearby streets, and other activities such as ice cream and chocolate parties.
If asked, they talked about their faith. Anyone showing an interest was invited to the core team, which met regularly over a meal to pray, plan and discuss the Bible. Visitors could come once or every time.
Within three years, the team had grown to 18 people and multiplied into two.
This is simple – just an invitation. No need to fear questions like, “Why did God allow that disaster?”
You could reply, “It’s a question I struggle with, too. We sometimes talk about it in the team. Would you like to join us next time? We eat together, have fun, do some planning, discuss stories about Jesus and pray in any way that makes us feel comfortable. No pressure! Join in as you like!”
- Involve everyone.
Eleven Alive met cafe-style in the morning and had a short act of worship at the end, geared for people who didn’t come to church.
Periodically, after a shared lunch the whole community broke into four teams. Each team, led by a church member, prepared short worship for two sessions.
Importantly, anyone in the community – including agnostics and atheists – could join a team! This was highly fruitful in making disciples.
- Do one-to-one Bible study with inquirers. Then gradually connect them to each other in an explorers’ group.
Caution! Is the jump from ‘Community’ to one of these options too big for your community? If so, can you put in some small steps to help people, if they wish, become more open to Jesus as part of your community’s fuller life? See 13. Sharing good news / Guide.
4. Share stories about Jesus
In these different settings, you can invite inquirers to explore spirituality by looking at stories about Jesus and ones he told.
Photocopy the story and read it through slowly, maybe two or three times.
- Then ask these Discovery Bible Studyquestions:
- If the story happened today, what would it look like?
- What is it showing or telling me?
- Could it make a difference to my life? How?
- In the next session: Did it make a difference? How?
See 2. Share faith / Guide for more about this.
- Or use these Deep talk questions:
- What do you like best about the story?
- Where are you in the story?
- What would you like to change in the story?
- Or ask these questions from lectio divina (a traditional Christian practice of scripture reading):
- What does the story say that everyone should understand?
- What does the story say to me, today, and to my life?
- If God exists, what would I want to say to him in response?
- How can I be a better gift to others as a result of pondering this story?
- Or ask these kingdomquestions:
- What’s the passage saying that would make life more God-like?
- Where can we see signs of this God-like living round us?
- What could we do individually or as a group to increase these examples?
- In the next session: What have we done and what were the results?
- Or mix-’n’-match the approaches. Or make up your own!
And remember: you don’t have to answer their questions! (Read 2. Share faith / Guide.) This is an important principle. You are introducing Jesus in a way that leaves room for the Spirit and empowers the explorer.
5. Above all, be a good friend
Katharine describes how her theory of change included starting a new group for people wanting to explore Jesus.
Nick describes how they have put in some small steps to enable people to explore worship when they want to.
Lucy describes her all-age version of Discovery Bible study, which even enables children to lead!
Read Luke 13.6–9 (the story of the fruitless fig tree).
- If Jesus was to tell this story in your context today, how might he tell it?
- What is the story saying to you?
- Either (if you are not yet involved in a new Christian community):
- a) What different types of fruit might Jesus want to see in a new Christian community?
- b) What would leaders have to do to “dig round the tree and fertilise it” (verse 8)?
- Or (if you are involved in one of these communities):
- a) What fruit might Jesus see in your initiative? And what more fruit might he be looking for?
- b) To encourage your community to bear this additional fruit, what would you have to do to “dig round the tree and fertilise it” (verse 8)?
Choose one or more of the following:
- Visit a new Christian community that has begun to draw people into faith. Report back to your team/core group and discuss what lessons you can learn.
- If you have begun a new Christian community, re-read the Guideand prayerfully describe your ‘theory of change’.
Is the loving-first cycle a helpful framework for this?
What path through the cycle (or some other framework) do you envisage:
- A separate inquirers’ group?
- Inviting inquirers to the core team?
- Encouraging the whole community to move toward Christ together?
- One-to-one exploratory Bible study with inquirers?
How will you explore Jesus within this path:
- Discovery Bible Study?
- Deep Talk Bible study?
- Lectio divina?
- Kingdom questions?
- A combination or some other way?
- Discuss how you can best encourage people to follow Jesus.
- What would be signs that someone is following Jesus in your context?
- What are you already doing to encourage people to follow Jesus?
- What pleases you about this?
- What more could you do? (Stuck for ideas? Consult 13. Sharing good news / Guide.)