Not sure how to share Jesus? Practical ideas for keeping your integrity while respecting and being kind to others.
Ever discovered a really good deal?
You have to share it with your friends! Following Jesus is a bit like that. “Evangelism” (from a Greek word meaning “good news”) is about joining in God’s generosity.
It’s about passing on God’s fuller life to those who want it. So, as part of the richness of your community’s life, if people want to explore faith, of course you will help them to do so.
But do this considerately
Just as a new skill is taught step by step at the learner’s pace, be sensitive to where people are in their journeys to faith.
Ask whether people have moved:
- From distrust to indifference – “the community is OK, but I’m not interested in Jesus”
- From indifference to curiosity – “Jesus seems interesting”
- From curiosity to openness – “maybe Jesus is for me”
- From openness to active seeking – “I want to explore following Jesus”
- From seeking to joining – “I want to follow Jesus”
- From joining to growing – “how can I live more like Jesus?”
- You can’t expect someone to jump from “distrusting” to “joining” in one leap! So to help people who are interested, put in small steps from one milestone to the next.
Caution! Remember that it is up to the person and the Holy Spirit whether they journey toward Jesus. So relax, love the person for who they are, hold them in prayer, invite them to take another step if they wish, but above all keep valuing them if they choose to stay at a particular stage. No pressure!
For people at the distrust milestone
Keep loving them. Be a faithful friend. Give them space. Let them learn to trust you.
And listen to them. They know things you don’t.
For people at the indifferent milestone
What would spark their curiosity? Use this KISS acronym to explore some possibilities:
Suggest your community engages in acts of kindness – for example:
- Support an agreed charity
- Re-decorate a hostel for homeless people
- Invite members to declutter their homes and give away what they don’t need
- Help people celebrate. For example, throw parties for friends who pass an exam or driving test. One person introduced “wrap presents at Christmas” for fathers and sons, with mince pies and mulled wine or juice. She included a five-minute talk about what Christmas meant to her.
Let simple generosity provoke the response, “Why are you doing this?”
Discuss issues from personal life.
- One community gathered round the theme of “fit lives”. Christians with compelling stories shared how Jesus was helping them to live a fit life.
- Another discussed Nooma DVDs about issues of life, treated from a light-touch Christian angle (go to YouTube or buy Nooma DVDs online).
- A third asked, “What significant event has happened for you since we last met?”
Or discuss stories or themes from popular culture – e.g.:
- Films/TV programmes
- Song lyrics
- A book or article
- Celebrities in the news
- Computer games
- Sporting stories
- A significant political event
Questions might include:
- How did you react?
- What values were involved?
- Has anything like that happened to you?
- How would you have behaved in that situation?
- If God exists, what would he think about this?
Or interview someone from the community in your main event.
- Ask about a significant event in their life.
- Or ask what they thought about a recent news story, or a new film, or the latest episode in a TV series.
- Use some of the questions in the paragraph above, including the God question.
- Then invite others in the community to discuss what they think.
Or include in your main activity a short thought-for-the-day on ‘How to live a fuller life’. Get loads of ideas by reading Richard Rohr’s (free) ‘Daily Meditations – Centre for Action and Contemplation’ (easily googled).
c) Start-up worship
This can be a step toward Christian worship for people who only half believe, are confused, or have only a faint awareness of God.
Choose symbols that:
- Resonate with people’s concerns;
- Connect these concerns to God (‘as we each understand God’) or to ‘something bigger than us’;
- Create a hunger for more.
SPACE, a monthly “cafe with a bit more”, offered:
- A quiet space to think, meditate or pray;
- A children’s space with Bible-based activities;
- A common space for everyone to enjoy a coffee, bacon roll, and chat.
- A mindfulness group. Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation that encourages people to observe their thoughts and feelings without criticism – to be compassionate with themselves. It can lead naturally to reflection on spiritual themes.
- Baby massage and prayer.
- Prayer requests. Invite people to share these with one another or the core team, and to report answers to prayers.
- One group invited people to download a walking route, discover small boxes of meditations en route, and use these to “see beyond the view” and perhaps become curious about God. See: https://www.seebeyondtheview.org
A next step might be: “Jesus is known as one of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers. Shall we look at some of the stories he told and see if we agree with them?”
For people at the curiosity milestone
a) Introduce an opportunity to explore Jesus, as described in 12. Explore faith/Guide:
- A separate explorers group
- An invitation to the core team
- The whole community explores together
- One-to-ones “looking at stories about Jesus and seeing what we think of them.”
b) Connect the opportunity to what interests people.
- A group of men sought to improve the physical environment where they lived. In the pub afterwards, they discussed how they could improve other aspects of their lives, e.g. as fathers and at work.
- Adam is gathering a community of classic car enthusiasts. He is exploring whether the theme of restoration might be a bridge to something with more explicit Christian content.
- For parents, invite them to explore answers to difficult questions their children might ask, drawing on stories of the spiritual teacher Jesus.
- For people looking for hope, explore the following gospel stories:
Hope amid the storms of life: Matthew 14.22–33
Hope in a broken world: Luke 5.17–26
Hope for social outcasts: Luke 7.36–50
Hope instead of worry: Luke 12.22–34
Hope for those who feel lost: Luke 15.11–32
Hope for unpopular people: Luke 19.1–10
Hope at the point of death: Luke 23.32–43
Hope for those who are despised: John 4.4–18, 25–42
Hope for those who feel judged: John 8.3–11
Hope when you’ve been wronged: Matthew 18.21–35
d) Turn faith sharing into a simple invitation.
Say someone asks, “Where is God in that natural disaster?”
Reply honestly: “I’m not good at explaining this stuff. But if you want to know why some of us still believe in God despite all this suffering, why don’t you try the spirituality group that meets on Tuesdays?” Or “Come along to our core group.”
For people at the openness milestone
Discuss stories about Jesus using one of the approaches described in 12. Explore faith/Guide:
Discovery Bible study
- Deep talk
- Lectio divina
- Kingdom questions
These are brilliant approaches because:
- Scripture does the evangelizing
- Christians can talk about their faith naturally
- The studies are easy to lead – hardly any preparation!
For people at the seeking milestone
a) Keep going with the Bible study!
b) Remember: you do not have to answer difficult questions.
Invite people to Google answers to factual questions.
For question of opinion, reply: “From what you know about Jesus so far, what do you think he would say?”
Keep encouraging different views to be expressed and affirming people’s right to disagree. Do not let Christians “shout down” someone who knows less about Jesus than they do.
Let encouragement be your motto (1 Thessalonians 5.14).
c) Don’t let people become dependent on you.
Empower them and leave room for the Spirit! Encourage them to:
- Trust the Bible
- Find out more about it
- Learn from one another
- Develop a Christ-centred way of thinking
d) (Re-)read Stage 3. Share faith/Guide.
Above all, be a patient friend!
Stay loyal to the person whether they choose Jesus or not.
Remember: some people inch to faith. Others make a sudden decision. Each journey differs.
So respect people’s uniqueness, pray, trust the Spirit, and keep asking not ‘What would have worked for me?’ but ‘What would work for them?’
Emily describes exploring faith as part of the community’s fuller life. More at poolemc.org.uk/breathing-spaces.
Kathryn Lord describes an example of start-up worship. See more at storiesforthesoul.org.
Lucy describes how an “advent angels” project helped local people move to curiosity.
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) A separate inquirers’ group?
b) Inviting inquirers to the core team?
c) Encouraging the whole community to move toward Christ together?
d) One-to-one exploratory Bible study with inquirers?
- How will you explore Jesus within this path:
a) Discovery Bible Study?
b) Deep Talk Bible study?
c) Lectio divina?
d) Kingdom questions?
e) A combination or some other way?
3. 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.)