By Matt Hebditch, Co-leader, Welton Baptist Church
Three years ago I asked a group of 30 leaders in my new church a question: Who here has led some to the Lord in the last five years? The response was sobering: Nobody raised a hand. Every person in the room had experienced the transforming power of Jesus and were convinced about his goodness and the need to share this with others. So what was going on? Oversimplification can lead to frustration! But let me run the risk and boil it down to one word: Confidence, or rather a lack of confidence. I’m certainly not being critical, as I think this scenario may be indicative of many believers in our nation. There are numerous reasons why confidence may wain, but here are a handful of ways I’ve seen my own confidence bounce back!
I was invited to meet a Mormon who ‘had questions about faith’. So I studied as hard as I could, everything I could find about Mormonism and how to answer every possible question he may have! I pretty much wasted a day of my life! He was interested in me, not my theories. He wanted to know if I had seen my faith actually work. Turns out, I had the same interests about his life. Nobody won or lost the argument, but I know he saw something of God as I talked about Jesus – he told me so! I was the worst expert ever on Mormonism, and it didn’t matter. My conviction grew, and continues to – that God has asked me to be a witness, not an expert! I remember leaving energised, thinking I want to have these conversations more… a ‘confidence bounce’.
Across the playground we watched a school mum shout at a member of our local church, “Call yourself a Christian? You’re a *****ing liar”. Ouch! A week later, the same shouty mum came round for coffee, which she did every week pretty much for the next three years. She became, and still is one of our closest friends. Here’s a couple of things we learned along the way. We thought rejection was more likely than it actually was! We expected Laura to say ‘I don’t want to hear it’ when we talked about Jesus, yet what she actually said was ‘Ok’ or ‘That’s good – it makes sense…’. We experienced what we often know only as theory – people are far more ready to hear about Jesus, than we are to talk about Him. The next ‘bounce’ took us by surprise. As a respected medic, Laura was talking openly about Jesus to her patients, months before she accepted Jesus into her life! She even offered to pray for them in Jesus’ name! She was becoming a disciple before she had any idea how to do church! Liz had made a wise choice: Not to invite Laura to church! Counter-intuitive? Yes, but we knew she had issues with the church, but was starting to really like the sound of Jesus. So we decided we’d wait until she explicitly asked ‘Please can I come?’! But we did not hold back talking about Jesus. Two years later, over a cup of coffee in our kitchen, she prayed what she describes as the most natural and logical prayer a person can pray, “Jesus come into my life’. Bounce!
Back to the group of leaders I mentioned when no hands went up. I’m grateful to God that in the last three years we’re starting to experience a confidence bounce, and a growing bunch have had the joy of leading people to become followers of Jesus. Now every time we meet as leaders we start with the question ‘What has God done through you since we last met?’ A little bit of pressure? Some accountability? Yes, but more than this, we’re raising our expectation, and yes, our confidence!