Archive for the ‘friendship’ Tag

WHO TO INVITE?

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.

FRIENDSHIP AND A SERIOUS SUNDAY

Posted 12/2/07

Yesterday began with a sore head and ended with tears. So tidily packaged were its themes and lessons that, were I writing a diary, the historian within me would question the credibility of that day’s entry. By way of example, I spent most of the day noisily informing anyone who’d listen how blessed Nina and I were in our group of friends, before unexpectedly spending the evening discovering the true cost of that friendship – surrounded by people preparing for the death of a young man they very much cared for.

Let me backtrack – to my 28th birthday celebration on Saturday night– the source of my aforementioned sore head. Now this isn’t one of my angst-riddled confessions. I actually did quite well. This was always going to be a challenge; my first birthday outing since unofficially recommitting to the Christian faith. It involved 6 straight hours in a bar, at least 25 non-Christian friends, all of whom vowed to buy me a drink, and a precedent for considerable merriness. With this in mind, I took along Tom Stanbury – known by most who may read this. He was there as a tentative first bridge between my fledgling Christian community and the outside world, as well as because he’s starting to feel like a proper mate. However, unbeknown to him, he was also there to induce in me a sense of accountability – I wanted to be able to look him in the eye the next day during the sermon. And so the evening rolled by, everyone was late but got there in the end. Fun and profound conversation was had by all and I drank more than a model churchman probably should – but considerably less than the Bishop of Southwark. Above all, I kept to beer, drank it relatively slowly, kept control of my tongue (Cursing, bitching, stupidity and flirtation being among the common drunkards’ worst vices) and, some dodgy dancing aside, steered clear of utter foolishness. Stanbury, on the other hand, was definitely slurring his words…

So I awoke Sunday feeling blessed. I still do. It is great to have people who care for you and wish you well – people who will think nothing of travelling to central London (despite the Tube all but packing up) and spending lots of money for the sake of little old me. But I am aware I owe them more than that in return. If my friendship is true and sincere, then I will endeavour at least to get them to an evening service and to speak to them honestly about the gospel. It’s easier to write than do, but the events of Sunday night were a chilling reminder that time is not unending, and neither are the opportunities to save my friends from a death far worse and more permanent than that awaiting James Meagher.

James is a guy I met a few times, had dinner with once as part of a group, and turned down an invitation from to spend New Years’ Eve at his party. Those memories will never be added to, as cancer is claiming him (perhaps by the time I write, perhaps a little later in the week) before the age of 30. He is married, like me, to his childhood sweetheart, who will never have children by him, nor grow old alongside him. These facts, more than any other, did sting my eyes when Perks shared the news of his demise and dedicated the evening service to him. All around me, however, were people who could truly call him a friend. Some of the congregation weren’t present – his wife and best friend Sarah was by his bedside, whilst her friend Audrey was alongside her, offering support. That’s the real deal and the real blessing of friendship. The difference between it happening to James, and it happening to someone among my Saturday night crowd, is that among the sadness in Sunday’s congregation – and it was a real choking sadness – was the assurance that James was going somewhere amazing, and that they would meet him again. That’s when you realise, as Perks stated, that church is so much more than hobby – it is indeed a matter of life and death. By the time James crosses over, his faith in Jesus better be well-placed, everything depends on it. Much to my relief, forced to consider the grim reality of death, I find myself genuinely believing that it’s very well-placed indeed.