Posted 1/2/09

I write this having just learned that the two friends I’d managed to convince into coming along to church this evening (we are running a Christianity Explored course during the next few services) have pulled out. Such is the way of things – I’m disappointed, but I’m determined not to fall into the trap of worrying what others in church will think of my apparent lack of evangelistic endeavour. Oh OK, I’m already in that trap! I worry about it because they know, and I know, that I should be able to rustle up someone at events such as these – given the large number of non-Christians with whom I socialise and converse. There are, after all, some at church who claim not to know a single non-Christian to invite! I suppose it’s possible… some move into the area, make the church their social network, and perhaps work for Christian organisations too.  I however, strange as it may seem, went to a school full of non-Christians, moving on to a university where I lived in halls again full of non-Christians, prior to taking a job in a company, yes you guessed it, full of non-Christians. Therefore I know loads of them… its Christians I’ve traditionally had a harder time getting in with (prior to CCB of course)! So then, returning to the purpose of my post, where ARE they on evenings like these??

Well, being honest, I tend to see them in various categories: the Opportunities, the Toughies, the Impossibles and, in a category of their own, the Self-Confirmed Atheists. I’ll also allow for a few floating Who Knows?

‘Opportunities’: These are the ones who often grew up in churched families. They may purport to believe in God or, even if they don’t, the concept still exerts an emotional hold over them. They are more likely to say yes to events like the one tonight, and seem, in human eyes, eminently ‘convertible’. In reality, of course, no-one is convertible until the Spirit does His thing, thus meaning that these individuals, proving just as unlikely as anyone else to see Jesus as their actual living saviour, often prove to be the biggest source of frustration.

‘Toughies’: these are the biggest group in my life. They are generally middle class, university educated, comfortably placed in society… basically think they have life figured out. They are usually agnostic and happy to keep it that way; in fact they are uncomfortable talking about the messy matters of faith. They are liberal enough to cheerfully accept my faith, just as long as it’s not forced upon them, and as long as I don’t start acting ‘weird’ (ie let it affect my decision-making and priorities).  Being honest, I haven’t invited these guys tonight. They don’t want to sit around talking about Jesus per se, but they can generally be enticed by the more acceptable mechanisms of pub quizzes and Carol Services. Outside of this, the tactic is to engineer those rare one-on-one discussions in which you can actually start asking some deeper questions. MSN Messenger conversations are a handy tool, as are car journeys. Some would be shocked were they to discover how intricate my plans are for engineering such situations!

‘Impossibles’: this is where God has to change my heart – the guys who I don’t invite to anything because I’m scared. There aren’t many, but I know they would think me an absolute weirdo or would be too embarrassed for words. That said, there is some sense in there too. Often the reason it would be so awkward is simply that we don’t know each other that well. There is something to be said therefore for genuinely getting to know someone before you start gospel-bombing them. Why should someone open up to you if you have no relational foundation to base it on??

‘Self-Confirmed Atheists’: Funnily enough, these guys are the easiest of the lot to deal with when it comes to inviting. OK, they’re not likely to come along to church, but I can assure you of the following… If someone is interested enough to call themselves an atheist on Facebook, then they almost certainly want to argue the fact with others. In fact, they probably want to carry out a little evangelism of their own. So start arguing!! Before you know it, you will have laid down the gospel a dozen times – all whilst correcting the 500 misconceptions he/she holds about your beliefs and activities. At least the battle is being waged in the open! For so long, apathy has been the bain of British evangelism I’m sure.

‘Who Knows?’: It was one of these scheduled to come along this evening. Sometimes you just have to take opportunities when they emerge. A mate, more a mate of mate, whom I haven’t seen for a while, posted a note on Facebook this week randomly listing 25 things we might not know about him. One of them was that he believed in God but ‘didn’t have to go to church to prove it’. Seeing the way in, I ended up emailing him with 25 responses to his 25 points, all so I could invite him to church in Point Number 7. Almost worked as well…

Above all, don’t forget, we’re not expected to convert all our mates – that’s in God’s hands. However, the one thing we should never leave ourselves open to is the possibility that, before the throne of judgement, they can turn to us and ask “Why did you never tell me? Why did you never let me know??” Once they’ve heard the truth, the decision must be theirs… although we can always have another shot. But, whether by hearing Perks at an event, whether by having us challenge them to read Tim Keller for balance having seen them read Dawkins, or perhaps, one day, by actually just telling them the gospel ourselves… we need to let them hear.


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