After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 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.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Luke 10:1-3

Sometimes being part of a church can discourage people who want to share their faith.

Not long after I became a Christian I was so excited about Jesus and the changes that were taking place in my life.  I remember enthusiastically sharing with people in the church that ‘I want to tell everybody about Jesus’.  The response I received from most of the people I told was, ‘It is often like that when you first become a Christian but, don’t worry, it will wear off’.

The people that said this to me were not seeking to be unhelpful, they were simply speaking out of what they had experienced, that often, the longer a person has been a Christian, the less passion they have about sharing their faith and the less people they are connected with who don’t know Jesus.

What can so easily happen in church is that we become accustomed to meeting in the place where we come together and run all kinds of activities and programmes.  As we busy ourselves with ‘church life’ we can slowly forget the people who are outside, we can forget that we are ‘sent to go’!

Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two and I am utterly convinced that encouraging one another in faith sharing must become woven into what we mean when we say the word ‘church’.  This encouragement will only take place when each of us in church has at least one other person that I am encouraging and who is encouraging me.

I urge you, this week, to identify a Christian that you know, go out for a coffee together, and talk with each other about how you can be an encouragement to one another as you seek to share Jesus with people.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 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.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Luke 10:1-3

Over the past few weeks we have been thinking about how we can more effectively join Jesus in His mission if we are supported rather than left to ‘do it alone’.

It is interesting that when Jesus sent out the 72, he sent them out two-by-two – not alone! There are many ways that ‘not being left alone’ can help as we seek to share our faith in Jesus.

One of these is motivation, helping each other to carry on and do things that we think we can’t do.

A few days ago I was at the gym and there were two reasonably elderly men who were working out together.  I heard one of the men say, ‘There is no way I can lift that’, his friend said ‘Yes you can, just forget about the weight and focus on lifting’.  He then stood behind the man and said ‘any problems, don’t worry I’m right behind you’.

The man then proceeded to lift the weight and he completed one ‘rep’.  The friend then said, ‘Come on let’s do four more’.  Slowly, but with determination, the man completed three more and said ‘I can’t do any more’.  His friend said, ‘Come on, last one, you can do this’.  HE DID!

After he had finished the two men ‘high-fived’ each other.  The friend said ‘Excellent, you did it, it was all you’.  The man said ‘Thanks, I could never have done it without you’.

Clearly the man could lift the weight, he just didn’t believe that he could and needed the motivation and support to see it through.

I meet so many Christians who don’t believe that they can share their faith.  They have convinced themselves that it is too difficult for them.  The truth is that they can do it!

How about we make it a priority to find ways of motivating each other when we meet?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24,25

I remember, a couple of years ago, hearing a speaker at a large church in the United States making a huge statement.  He said that the church is unlikely to be successful in reaching people beyond the walls that we have built because:

‘Christians worship together but when they are on the frontline they are isolated and unsupported – ‘nobody has their back’ so they just try to survive not make an impact’.

I believe that he hit the nail on the head and that his words are too important for us to ignore.

After I heard this statement I began to introduce some very simple ideas to the churches and Christians that I visit and meet with.  Here are just a couple that may be helpful to you.

  • When the church gathers together on Sunday or in small groups, make time regularly, for people to share the stories of how they are seeking to tell people about Jesus.  This is encouraging to others and will mean that those who are attempting to reach others can be prayed for!
  • Each Christian should identify at least one other Christian in the church and become their ‘I’ve got your back’ person.  A simple way this can be expressed was shared with me by a lady who said to me:

‘Dennis, I did what you suggested and now a lady from the church and I are helping each other. We use texting most of the time. When I know that she will be talking to somebody about Jesus I always text her and let her know I will be praying for her. Later, she always calls me and tells me how it went. She does the same for me and it has changed everything!’

As long as we feel isolated on the frontline most Christians will never share their faith.  It is time this changed, please be part of the change!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24,25

One of the things that I enjoy most about the ‘itinerant’ life that I live is that I have the opportunity to speak in so many different parts of God’s church in many parts of the world.  Almost every week I am speaking to a different group of Christians.  One thing that so many of these groups have in common is that, following the time of worship and teaching, they conclude with coffee and biscuits.

I have made it a habit through the years to eavesdrop the conversations that people are having over coffee. What I frequently hear are conversations about football, family, the weather, social occasions that are taking place….

I have not once heard a conversation about intentionally sharing the gospel with a person who doesn’t know Jesus.

I share this because I think it says something about our need to refocus on why we are meeting.  It is so easy to see Sunday Worship as something ‘in and of itself’ and not to connect this experience with the reality of our daily lives.  I think that the conversations that take place after the gathering reveal something of the intentionality of those that have gathered to worship.  Sadly this intentionality seems to have little to do with ‘Joining Jesus in His Mission’.

So here’s a suggestion –  Next Sunday, over coffee, why not talk with the people you are mixing with and ask them to pray for you as you are seeking to make Jesus known to somebody outside of church?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24,25

So how can we be effective in faith sharing ‘as we go’ through our daily lives?

Something that occurred to me not long after I became a Christian is that as followers of Jesus we tend to worship God together but are left to evangelise alone.   We are part of a community when we worship but often completely isolated when it comes to sharing our faith.  The result of this is that many of us lack the confidence and passion to share our faith with people that we meet and spend time with.  Consequently, we say nothing even though we feel that we should.

The writer to the Hebrews says ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on..’  A key point of meeting together is that we will use the time we are together to help, encourage and empower each other to be able to grasp opportunities for service when we are not together.  A challenge to this is that the way we ‘meet’ often as a large congregation (or small) means that there is seldom any opportunity for us to talk about our struggles/feelings as we seek to share our faith.

Here’s something for you to pray about over the coming week:

‘How could I, and the church that I am a part of, meet in ways that will spur us on to be effective when we are scattered?

Over the past few weeks we have been thinking about ‘faith conversations’.  Many of us feel really isolated and ‘on our own’ when we think about sharing faith and therefore don’t do it! So, for the next few weeks, I want to think about ‘How we as Christians can gather together in such ways that we can be effective when we are scattered and ‘on our own’.

The writer to the Hebrews wrote:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24, 25

These words were written to Christians who were being persecuted for following Jesus and were feeling tempted to revert to Judaism because the Jewish faith was not the subject of persecution.

To people who were afraid and not brimming with confidence, the writer underlines the need for them to get together so that they will be able to encourage one another.  Being gathered together was not seen as ‘going to church’ it was understood as ‘being the church’ The primary purpose was so that they could help each other to keep following Jesus and making him known in a world that was hostile to the gospel.

My guess is that, as you read this, you are like those early Christians who first read this letter.  You are not brimming with confidence either!  Maybe you have prayed many times and asked God to make you bold and confident but it just doesn’t happen and now you think it never will.

You may not feel ready to start a faith conversation immediately so, rather than be discouraged, let me encourage you to do something you can do.

This week, why not connect with a Christian friend and ask them how you could be an encouragement to them as they share their faith.  It’s a start!

PS – my new book ‘The Rooftop – A Crisis of Opportunity’ is now available in the UK cost £5 + P&P  – If you would like a copy please email me.

I had a most unexpected conversation this week so, for the last time I am again staying with this passage in Matthew.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

It is so easy for us to look at people and, without even realising we have done it, conclude that they would not be interested in talking about Jesus.  We can be so wrong!  And when we are it is a great surprise.

Last week I mentioned my on going conversations with my barber, Jim.  This week I went get my haircut but there was a queue of people waiting for Jim and I was in a hurry so I had my hair cut by somebody else.  As we began our conversation the young barber asked me the usual ‘not working today?’ question and I began to explain a little about the ‘unusual’ job that I do, how I am like a ‘traveling minister’.  He responded by telling me that he occasionally attends a local church and that he had just finished a second Alpha course.  I then asked him ‘where he was at’ in terms of faith and his answer was not quite what I expected, he said:

‘Did you see on the news recently about the man who went into a church in America pointing a gun and asked ‘who believes in Jesus?’, I said that I hadn’t seen it and he continued, ‘He was going to shoot anybody that said they believe in Jesus’.  He then said, ‘If that man came in here right now and did the same thing I would have to say I believe in Jesus, after all Jesus did for us we couldn’t deny him could we?’.

I was so challenged by the simple and straightforward way that he just said it.  And, to be honest, when he asked me to sit in hit in his barber chair I didn’t think he would want to know about Jesus, dare I day he didn’t really look the type?

Are you prepared to let God surprise you this week?

This week I am again staying with this passage in Matthew.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

When Jesus asked his disciples the question’ who do people say the Son of Man is?’ they had been following him for a long time.  Jesus was discipling his followers towards a real understanding of who He is and He knew that would be a long process.

Many of the people that we meet in our daily lives have no idea who Jesus is and will never find out unless we ‘disciple them towards faith’.  Again, asking and answering questions is a key part of this process.

I still have some hair and, on a regular basis, it needs to be cut so I visit the barbers and have my hair cut by Jim.  Over a few years I have been able to help Jim to have a very different view of Jesus than he had when we first met.  As a result of more conversations than I can remember Jim no longer thinks that all Christians are religious bigots or that the church is an institution that is disconnected from the ‘real world’.  He has become increasingly interested in the difference that a personal faith makes in a life and may even be interested in attending a church if he thought that the people there would welcome him bearing in mind ‘his life’.

He has not yet ‘become a Christian’ but when I sit down to have my hair cut his first question is not ‘where are you going for your holiday this year?’ or ‘No work today?’  it is usually a question that continues from where we left off.

Sharing Jesus is an on going conversation.  Who can you begin or continue a conversation with this week?

This week and next I am staying with this passage in Matthew.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

In the question that Jesus asked His disciples He was clearly interested in knowing who His followers thought He was.  Finding out what people already believe is a key part of the conversation that will enable us to begin to share ‘who Jesus is’!

Another favourite place for me to have conversations about Jesus is in a restaurant.  Most places where I eat the person serving will ask ‘how are you today?’.  My ‘answer’ always includes a question: ‘I am fine, how about you, how are you doing?’  On some occasions I receive the anticipated ‘fine thanks’ but I never cease to be amazed by the number of servers who immediately begin to talk about things that are going on in their lives.  Things like:  Family problems, often including serious illness affecting a family member or challenges with their children, struggles with study and work being too much for them, financial concerns, concerns about how the world seems to be getting so dangerous etc etc.  As the conversation continues I ask a  ‘question’ that includes a statement that goes something like ‘I am a Christian and I believe that God can be with you in the midst of these things – do you believe in God and would you be ok if I included you in my prayers?’.   I receive varied responses to the ‘believe in God’ question but I have never had a ‘no’ to the ‘can I include you in my prayers’.  Frequently this leads to more conversation, often interrupted because there are other people who need to be served, where the server talks openly about what they believe and I am able to answer their question when they ask what I believe’, I can talk openly about Jesus.

Are you planning to eat out this week?

 

Matthew records in his gospel:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

Jesus continually asked questions and, as I wrote last week, questions are a great way to engage in a conversation with a person to establish a connection and begin to build a bridge for a conversation about Jesus.

One of my favourite places to ask questions is at the gym I go to.  I think I am about the only person there that doesn’t have a tattoo.  So, frequently, as I am working out I am surrounded by people with the most fascinating body art and in so many cases what they have had ‘inked on’ clearly represents something or someone that is very significant in their lives.  My simple ‘question’ is always something like ‘that’s a fascinating tattoo – I am fascinated to know what it means’.

Over the past few months this has led to my having on going discussions with a number of people and I have been told about such things as ‘a deep longing for truth but not knowing where to find it’, ‘a real concern for my two daughters as they grow older and I don’t know how to keep them safe from harm in a messed up world’, ‘I love God but I am not good enough to go to church’, ‘I am an atheist but I don’t mind you praying for my wife who is suffering from cancer’.

These are just brief excerpts from a handful of so many conversations I have had about deep things in people’s lives and, on each occasion, the person has eventually asked me about what is important in my life – all this began with a simple question.

Tattoo evangelism may not be your thing but who could you begin a conversation with this week by asking a question that expresses an interest in their life?