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Preaching the School of Mission Strap-line on Hanham Mount…

Every Christian… Too often in our Church we say words like “us” but really we mean the leaders, the professionals or the privileged few, “us” often doesn’t really mean “all of us” and “everyone!” Yet this is what I read in scripture, we are all called by God to be his ambassadors, to be salt and light. The great American Church Planter and founder of the Vineyard movement, John Wimber, used to say “everyone gets to play!”.

I remember someone telling me once that they didn’t feel called to mission (how can anyone not feel called to seeing the Kingdom of God come on earth as in heaven?) and I said “if you love Jesus and have a pulse then you are called!”

Yet taking this to it next step, if everyone is called, then everyone of us is also responsible, a country where fewer and fewer people know anything about Jesus is not someone else’s problem, it’s our problem, and our responsibility.

Feeling confident and comfortable. I think most Christians would love to share their faith and talk about Jesus to their mates, but don’t feel like they could bring it up in conversation, or if someone asks them a question wouldn’t know what to say! I often joke that evangelism sends some of us back to the school disco where you really want to ask out this girl/boy but you just don’t know what to say or how to say it!

How do we make talking about Jesus/life/purpose normal and natural?

How do we give people the tools to feel like they can engage well in conversations about faith?

I think we have bought the lie that people aren’t interested in Jesus and the big questions. I think people are cautious about getting a heavy duty sales pitch. Peter says in his epistle “always give an account for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect”.

Interestingly I think the answer to feeling comfortable and confident in conversations about faith lies in good listening skills, listening (really listening) to the person talking and also listening to the spirit, and as part of this learning to ask good questions, discover where people are coming from and why they are asking the question.

This is why the school of mission is important, I wonder how many of us have ever had any help, training or seen modelled for us how to listen well, or how to ask good/helpful questions? Yet we have all heard many sermons on how we should be sharing our faith and probably feeling more and more guilty and I’ll equipped!

Sharing their faith in Jesus… I remember my first ever sermon which was “we proclaim him admonishing and teaching with all wisdom so we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” and asking what were the two most important words in that verse? Which I said “we” (which we have already coveted!) and “him” it’s all about Jesus!

When my dad left the Church he led in Eastbourne he said something like “whatever we’ve done my prayer has been it has all been about Jesus, what matters is Jesus, whatever the future holds for you (and us) it needs to be all about Jesus!” I want my whole life, actions and words, to continually and constantly point to one thing and one thing only, the person of Jesus Christ.

The reason why we put ‘actions and words’ that way around is too often we have made mission (particularly about evangelism) all about words but if we don’t sort out our lives people say “I can’t hear anything over the noise of your behaviour”.

Yet does this mean we have to reach a state of sinless perfection before we open our mouths and tell our stories of how Jesus met with us? Of course not, yet I fear the charge of hypocrite stops us talking about our faith. Recently I went on a climate change protest and I wrestled with whether I should go as I am not as green as I’d like to be, yet as I met others there I realised that no one is sorted but just being honest, saying what you think, being honest with your struggles and doing what you can was good advice not just for the environmental movement but also for mission as well!

Which ties neatly into our next section “with wisdom, sensitivity and open to and led by the Holy Spirit”.

We probably have all cringed with toe curling embarrassment at someone going off on one completely insensitively which has put people off whatever it is they are trying to get you to do, the adage of a bull in a China shop often feels an apt metaphor!

I think there are two problems with the Church and mission, many within the Church need to learn to “speak up” but some need to “shut up” too, we need the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent, how to leave people after a conversation feeling blessed rather than “rail-roaded”.

Yet before we feel intimidated let’s remember whose mission we are involved with, God promises to help us and even to “give us the words”, a God who chooses to partner with us and is “making his appeal through us!”. I remember in the early days of Street Pastors in Kingswood i was out and a woman saw my clerical collar and said (in quite an aggressive way): “I’ve had three kids from three different blokes, what does your God think about that!” I gulped and prayed silently asking God to help me and not make anything worse. On her arm she had a tattoo with the name “Gracie” written in a heart, “is that your daughter?” I asked, it was, and I was able to say that the word “grace” meant God’s undeserved love and goodness towards us, able to say that God loved her and her family, and she changed and warmed towards us as she realised that God loved her and her family. A moment later the moment was lost as 5 girls painted blue and dressed as smurfs got out of a stretch limo (evidently on a hen party) and everyone moved inside. It was a brief moment where a little bit of heaven touched earth that I had the privilege of being a tiny part of.

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