SHARING IN THE GOODNEWS:
Rev Christopher Harrison
Aim: To empower people to touch other’s lives with the Good News of Jesus.
Scriptures: Acts 2: 42-47 and Matthew 28: 19-20
Joke: With a view to buying a pleasant country cottage, a young married couple went to see a Vicar of a small rural parish in Somerset, and asked him if such a cottage was available. The Vicar showed them one, and asked them if they could let him know their decision.
Later, however, they remembered that they had not noticed a W.C. in the cottage, so the young man writes to the Vicar and enquired where this might be. The Vicar, however, was not familiar with the term W.C. and writes the following letter, taking it they were meaning the Wesleyan Church:
"Dear Sir, I was pleased to receive your letter, but regret to inform you that the nearest W.C. is your area is 50 miles away, which is most unfortunate if you are in the habit of going regularly. This one is a lovely little place, situated in a beautiful valley amongst pine trees, and it may interest you to know that many people make a day of it, setting off early in the morning and taking meals with them. Some travel by car or bus, others walk and arrive just in time. A bell rings 20 minutes before the W.C. opens and there is plenty of standing room for those who arrive late. Inside, everything is most appropriate with 80 plush seats and beautiful carvings on the walls. The children sit and sing during the procedure. Hymn sheets are found hanging behind the door, and there is an organ accompaniment. I hope this information has been useful to you and that you will make it your business to attend often. I myself have not been for five months and you can this pains me very much. Yours faithfully, The Vicar."
Maybe this is not the best way to include people into a parish! Today we come back to remind ourselves of something very fundamental to our faith. It is the sharing of our faith with others who are different from us.
From these passages I found the following things about faith sharing. Faith sharing involves:
- KNOWING GOD AS ‘THE GREAT INCLUDER’ :
Luke 15 gives us three pictures of God The Evangelist: The Prodigal God as Father, The Good Shepherd Jesus, and the woman seeking the coin, illustrating the Holy Spirit. God is always seeking to include people! John says twice of Jesus: “Look, the Lamb of God” (John 5:35 and 29) and he adds in vs 29, “Who takes away the sin of the world”. John is saying that Jesus died for all people, no matter who they are. He is saying that all people matter to God. John is saying that all people CAN BE SAVED. God created the universe because he wanted to include this into his realm. He also created people to be in relationship with Him, because he loves people and wanted to include them into his sphere.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV): ‘ They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’
All people matter to God and so also matter to each of us. We all know people who are far from God right now. These are people that we love and who God loves. He is passionate about them and wants them in the family. So should we be. The late academic and missiologist, Dawid Bosch, defines our mission as “crossing barriers in the Name of Jesus in the form of a servant.” We are to do as He did and cross barriers as we speak to, build relationships with and minister to people who are far from Him.
Some people say: “God is not interested in numbers.” Well, do you see in the bulletin the offertory each Sunday? If you do, but do not see who is not here on a Sunday, then you are more interested in money than in people.
Others say: “We are into quality and not into quality.” Imagine your 5 kids get lost in the forest, and you find the two quality kinds so pack up your bags thanking God that you found the two quality kids. Boy, am I glad that when my parents had my older sister they did not stop with quality!
Others say: “Women are always to be subject to men and cannot lead” God has always appointed people despite their backgrounds, gender or qualifications. He uses people who are humble, willing and available to God. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are always in the neuter gender, and can equally be given to men and women. Paul’s writing to the Ephesian and Corinthian Churches were particular context and should not be seen to override the vast amounts of times God used women in leadership, from Judges in the Old Testament to elders in New Testament communities. God, my nature, is inclusive. See all the Gospel stories and see the time He invites, includes and breaks down traditional barriers and stereotypes. Evangelism is always about all people getting to really know God, and enjoy Him forever.
- PARTICIPATING IN GOD’S GREAT COMMISSION:
This is about cultivating a heart for the lost, those far from God. Note that this whole passage is about sharing our faith. Jesus calls the disciples to Himself. Jesus says that we are to offer Him to the world, to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) and ell the world of His great love. This includes works of service, as well as our actions and our words. How are people to now unless they hear? Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:16). How will my wife know that I love her unless I asked her out, talked to her, shared with her my inner life and love? Tom Forrest, the Roman Catholic Priest who first suggested to the Pope that the 1990's should be called the decade of evangelism, pointed out that the word “go" appears 1,514 times in the Bible, 233 times in the NT and 54 times in Matthew's Gospel So our imperative is to share the Good News with all people we can.
Can you write a list of people that you know, rub shoulders with and influence who are far from God right now? You know these people and need to just take notice of them as important to God as well. We find Jesus at the Party rubbing shoulders with the good, the bad and the religious! We are to mix with people in three levels:
2.1 The People we know: The friends, the colleagues, the relations.
2.2 The People we used to know: The old neighbours, old friends, the previous colleagues.
2.3 The People we would like to know: The person in the health club, the neighbour, the PTA parent with you, the person at the shop.
Jesus calls us to be fishers of people. Fishing means the following:
- knowing the kind of fish we want to catch; - Choosing the right bait; - When there’s a bite, strike; - Keep the line tight; - The fish is only caught, then its in the boat.
So, when fishing for people for the Kingdom:
- Know the people you want to reach; - Know the appropriate way to make relationships with them happen
- Keep the close relationships; - Know when to offer the gospel; - Invite them to cross the line of faith and enter the Church
You and I are asked to participate in this great adventure of faith sharing. How is your heart for the lost?
- ADOPTING A STYLE THAT WORKS IN EACH CONTEXT:
In this page is a rich select ion of styles we can use in faith sharing. We note a few styles from Willow Creek materials, 'Contagious Christian':
- Preaching: This is easy to use because we often have a captive audience, and preachers are trained professionals so we leave it to them!
- Q & A: Asking and answering questions relating tour faith. When we allow Gen X to ask real questions and we honour them with the real answers we enter into a real faith for them. This style appeals to the people who are open to the Intellectual Spiritual pathway.
- Invitation: Jesus says: ”Come and see” (John 5: 39). People invite others to a service or a Home Group who then enter a journey with Jesus themselves. These appeals to the friendship style of pathway.
- Testimony: Andrew says to Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (John 5: 41). Tell the story of what Jesus means to you. No one can disregard that because they regard you.
- Experience: Nathaniel experienced Jesus and followed. Letting people experience your love and faith first had in a real winner.
In all these and more we see how we can share our faith.
- ASSISTING PEOPLE TO CROSS THE LINE OF FAITH:
At every opportunity, including in this passage, Jesus asks people to step across the line of faith and they do by following Him. He asks that we assist people to make that step as well. We can do this in a variety of ways, again using the 'Contagious Christian' materials:
4.1 The DIRECT approach:
The Confrontational style would be like this: Mark says to Muslim Taxi Driver: “Why do you follow the teachings of a dead guy? I can show you Mohammed’s grave I follow the life and teachings of a guy who was dead and is alive again! I can show you the empty tomb where Jesus was, but is no more!”
The Intellectual style would be like Bill who says: “If you want to know more about the difference between religion and the Christian faith, then let me know. I will be happy to tell you.”
4.2 The INDIRECT approach:
The Interpersonal Style would use conversations to start talking about their faith. When talking about a hobby, or sport, or nature, you can speak of God, or what you Home group means to you.
4.3 The INVITATIONAL approach: This is most suited to the Invitational style, where people can simply invite people to come to Church, or to Home group, or a Christian event.
When people are ready, you can use ‘The Bridge’ to bring them to faith.
Illustration: Leigh and I shared this with our children at times along the way. The first time was on the flight back to Johannesburg when they were very young and they have both made the step across the line of faith. The Bridge illustration picture assisted us in helping them to know where they are in their relationship with God.
You need God completely to enable you to share your faith. We need to trust God completely. Every time we realize and receive our belovedness we enter more fully into the heart of God, the ‘Great Includer’.