Thought for the Month (February 2011)
You may have forgotten but we committed to the Vision4Life process in 2008 and since then we have tackled the Bible and Prayer and now we come to the final year where the subject is Evangelism. Each year has been about change or transformation. 2009 was 'Transformed by the Bible', 2010 was 'Transformed through Prayer' and this year is 'Transformed for Evangelism'.
In short the first two years is about how we are changed by the Bible and through prayer and this year is about how we can use that change to serve the Lord.
The first two years have been about reading the Bible with more enthusiasm and purpose, developing a relationship with Our Heavenly Father and praying with more faith. I believe as churches we have seen progress in all these areas and it is encouraging to us as church leaders to see this.
But Evangelism sets the heart a fluttering. "I couldn't do that," I can hear many of you saying and yet God has given us the task to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So what is the problem?
First we need to deal with the word 'Evangelism'. Our churches do need to be involved with evangelism because it is a key part of what it means to be a Christian, but few of us will be evangelists. This is a special gift which a few will have and will use to encourage the rest of us.
But most of us will not be evangelists, so you can relax. Most of us are not called to preach the Gospel and challenge people to make a decision for Jesus, but we are called to tell others what God has done in our lives. In the terms of Vision4Life we are called to tell others how we have been changed by reading the Bible and how we have been changed through prayer.
If we are Christians God will have worked changes in our lives. It may have been overcoming sin or breaking addictions or managing fear or finding answers to difficult problems or forgiving people who have badly hurt us or finding peace in turmoil. We need to understand that our Christian experience is relevant to others, that telling people what God has done in our lives will help others move along the journey of faith.
And of course evangelism is not just about speaking or writing, it also involves action. Very often people need practical help before they will listen to the Gospel but people need to know in whose name we do these things. They may well believe their case to be hopeless and we need to tell them that Jesus is in the business of bringing hope to the hopeless.
In short, the world is full of opportunities to tell people of the hope we have and this can be in word or action or both. Start praying now for opportunities to speak to friends and family and then look out for those opportunities. If we keep missing the opportunities He gives us, in the end He will stop giving them to us.
Please also remember that God's timescales are not ours. Our testimony may result in an immediate response but it may take many years. When I worked for Shell I once made a casual remark to a boss of mine about my priorities changing since I had become a Christian. He became a Christian about fifteen years after that and has since told me that my remark had helped him on his journey to faith in Jesus. We do our bit and we leave the Lord to do His.
On 13th February Tunbridge Wells URC and Rusthall URC will be giving out a booklet, which is part of the Vision4Life process, called 'Exploring Evangelism' and this will encourage us to seriously grapple with a subject which is at the heart of the Christian Faith.
And there is a remarkable bonus that comes from telling people about the hope we have – our own faith is strengthened and we become more confident in our own Christian journey. We will discover that telling our story to others really is part of the natural rhythm of the Christian life.
We will be working with you to make this year the most successful of all the Vision4Life years. Learning to tell our story of faith will be the focus of this exciting year.
May Our Lord bless you and keep you as you serve Him.
Bob and Karen Street
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