Over the last 13 years I’ve had a few opportunities to talk about Jesus with those who don’t know him yet. Some of these have been structured or organised, like Alpha or pastoral visits with seekers, and others have been more random; like friends who suddenly have a burning question about my faith, or a fellow dog walker asking me why I bother going to church. But whether planned or unplanned, they all have one thing in common; anything can happen!
Yes, I regularly have the ‘If God is so good why does he allow suffering?’ question, it seems to be the headline question in most conversations about faith, so don’t let it distract you or put you off. I’ve found that if we can get past it, a real conversation can often follow. Not necessarily one in which I suddenly remember the finer details of the gospel or eloquently put forward a fool proof case for Christ. But a conversation during which we get to the heart of the matter.
Some questions amuse me:
- What happens if I miss church?
- Do I have to be on all the rotas like Janet?
- Will I have to talk about Jesus with every waiter or waitress that serves me?
- Will I have to wear a rainbow jumper?
These questions and conversations remind me that whatever it is we’re putting out there, people still associate faith with rules and expectations. A conversation is an opportunity to dispel the myths and share Jesus.
Some conversations are serious:
- Will God want me to return to my abusive husband?
- I’d rather go to hell and be with my husband and children when I die, than be a Christian and be without them.
- Can I still have sex with my boyfriend?
- Do I have to pretend to be happy all the time?
- If following Jesus means forgiving ‘them’, I will never be a Christian.
When real conversations happen, real questions get asked and we just have to navigate these as best as we can. On some days that’s easier than on others, but God is always with us and his Spirit spurs us on.
Probably the worst conversation (by text) I had lately, was when I offered to pray for my friend in a crisis. This is what her text reply said:
‘Please don’t – the last time you prayed for me someone died. X’
As the saying goes ‘you could have knocked me over with a feather’! I wanted to explain something about how prayer works, I wanted to tell her stories of how I’ve seen God answer prayer and I wanted to tell her that God isn’t Father Christmas! But I knew from experience that going into defence mode wouldn’t help things, God doesn’t need me to defend him. A week later I saw my friend, we talked about the crisis and ‘out of nowhere’ she started asking questions about the church and about denominations, and our conversation continued….has anybody got a feather?
Sometimes I’ve had the joy of sitting with people as they commit their life to Christ. The first lady I ever sat with in this way, had heard me preach a short sermon a few moments earlier, in it I had included an invitation to follow Jesus today. When I asked her why she wanted to commit her life to Christ, her answer wasn’t that mine was the most earth-shaking sermon she’d ever heard or that she considered me an amazing example of Godly living. No, her answer was so so simple: ‘I’ve wanted to for a while, but nobody ever invited me to until tonight’. Sometimes we just need to do the simple things; the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
I’m always surprised when people ask me ‘so how do I become a Christian? What do I have to do?’. I think we think we make this clear, but it seems we don’t. Nobody is going to put their hand up in church on a Sunday morning and ask these questions, and so we have to make room for them to happen in other ways.
Conversations like these don’t always end with tears and salvation, but it’s important that we as Christians have them, so that people know they can ask questions and so that we can grow in understanding about what it means to journey with those who don’t yet know Jesus. So go on, ask the Holy Spirit to give you courage in the conversations he leads you to be a part of today; anything can happen!
‘Are we talking Jesus?’
Our theme for the coming year in WEBA is all about helping people to continue or begin to have these life-changing conversations, in whatever circumstance God has placed them.
You can find out more here.
If you have a story to share, or you know someone who came to know Jesus in a WEBA church in the last 18 months or so, we’d love to hear from you or from the individual concerned.