How do I tell my friends about Jesus?
Sam Chan is a theologian and public evangelist with City Bible Forum and according to him many of the older principles and methods of evangelism in the twentieth century no longer work effectively today. His latest book, Evangelism in a Skeptical World is a textbook that equips Christians with new methods to communicate the timeless message of the gospel in culturally relevant ways in a post-Christian, post-churched, post-reached world. Why I really like his book and find it very helpful is that Sam combines his sharp thinking on the theology of evangelism with practical strategies for evangelism as a practising evangelist, drawing from his own personal experience of fifteen years of evangelistic ministry.
There are two evangelistic strategies in his chapter Everyday Evangelism, which I found really insightful and helpful to share Jesus with our friends.
Strategy 1: Get our Friends to Become Their Friends
In our postmodern age of authenticity, Sam says that the first question that our postmodern friends ask about Christianity is not ‘is it true?’ but ‘is it real in our lives?’. In today’s culture it is more and more important ‘to share not only in the gospel of God but our lives as well’ (1 Thessalonians 2:8-10). The starting point for evangelism is getting our unbelieving friends to become friends with more of our Christian friends. When that happens our unbelieving friends will find Christianity more believable and plausible if more of their trusted friends and in their social networks believe in Christianity.
The way that we are trying to foster this at Chapel Hill is through Connection Events, which are social events to simply bring our friends outside of church into connection with others from our church over common interests and activities. Connection Events are starting points to hopefully spur on further contact in the forming of new friendships. As Sam Chan points out making friends takes time and requires a lifestyle change of intentionally and to organically bring our circle of friends to together.
There is one caution with ‘friendship evangelism’ that CS. Tang, the Senior Minister at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, pointed out in his talk at this year’s Nexus Conference. He cautioned that with friendship evangelism we may fall in the danger of converting our friends to our community rather than to Jesus. CS gave the example of the international student ministry at his church, where his church community befriended many international students from China. But when those student returned to China many didn’t end up being committed to a local church because they didn’t experience the same kind of Christian community that they did at Cornerstone in Sydney. That’s why it’s important to help and lead our unbelieving friends to take the next step from friendship with Christians to exploring the gospel of Jesus for themselves and understanding what it means to follow Jesus.
Also, sometimes certain friendships can be so deep that it can be hard to talk about Jesus. But by introducing our unbelieving friends to other Christians, the other Christian friend can be one to more easily initiate conversations about Jesus or invite them to the next church event or Explore Course where they can hear the gospel proclaimed.
Strategy 2: Coffee, Dinner, Gospel
To lead our friends from being good friends to getting to the bit where you talk about Jesus, Sam Chan offers a strategy which he calls the coffee-dinner-gospel sequence. It begins by having conversations with your friend over coffee. You usually have coffee in a public space and usually take 30 minutes. Your friend doesn’t feel trapped in a coffee setting and you can build rapport by talking about safe and comfortable topics around interests - “what did you do on the weekend?”
After you’ve had coffee with you friend a few times and built some rapport, invite your friend to dinner. Dinner takes one or two hours, usually in private space, so conversations will usually move from topics around interests to values - “who will you vote for?”
After a couple of dinners your friend may begin to feel safe to talk about their personal issues and views and the conversation moves to topics around worldview - “How do you view humanity and God?” This is the chance to talk about Jesus.
Sam Chan suggests that this sequence of building rapport and trust is required because in our Western culture we treat religion and faith as a private matter, not something to be discussed in the public square.
So food and hospitality can play a big part in creating intimate, friendly and safe spaces for our friends to share their views, ask questions and have conversations about Jesus.
If you would like to learn more about other strategies for evangelism, then I highly recommend you get a copy of Sam Chan’s Evangelism in a Skeptical World.
Brunch in the Markets: Carriageworks Farmers Market
Are you looking for a church community or have a friend that that you would like introduce to a church community in the Inner West of Sydney? Then we would love to meet you and your friend at our next Connection Event, which is Brunch at Carriageworks Farmer Market on Saturday 6 April at 9:30am.