A lot of Christians do, in my limited experience, tend to find that their closest friends are other Christians. This is only natural, as they are connected by the close bond of unity and fellowship which comes from being in the body of Christ, the global church. It is also actively encouraged much of the time, as it is rightly pointed out that the negative influence non-Christians tend to have on a Christian is greater than the positive influence of the Christian. In the words of JC Ryle,
The good go down to the bad, and the bad do not come up to the good.
Is this why so many Christians struggle to be living out the experience which the apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, sharing not only the gospel with the people around them, but also inviting them into their lives? I realise this is a broad brush stroke, but do Christians struggle to share the gospel in a personal and meaningful way because they are afraid of making close friendships with unbelievers? I would suggest some do.
I can testify that at university I have found it far easier to make Christian friends, even when I have naturally got on better with a non-Christian. It is a source of constant pain to me that I have so few close friendships outside of my various holy huddles. Having said this, God is gracious, and He is pleased to bless me with a number of friends who do not know the gospel, and He is strengthening my friendships with them. It is my prayer that I will grow in my love for God so that I may be able to love them more, sharing not only the gospel but my life.
This outline of a recent Bible study at my home church may be helpful for some readers. It was entitled Principles of Personal Witness and delivered by one of the church deacons, Martin Sellens.
Biblical examples of personal witness
- Philip (John 1:43-51)
Philip was called by Jesus (v43) and had a desire for others to meet Jesus (v46), so he found Nathaniel, told him he had found the Messiah, and invited him to come and see. Christ promises great things for believers.
So, you found the secret message?
- Samaritan woman (John 4:29-30)
Again, the invitation is to come and meet Jesus. The question is asked “Could this be the Christ?” and investigation is encouraged.
It’s just because I want a blank line in the formatting, that’s all!
- Demoniac (Luke 8:38-39)
In v38 the healed demoniac begs to stay with Jesus, naturally enough, but is told to go and share with others what Jesus has done in his life.
Four principles for personal witness
- Let your light shine (Matthew 5:13-16)
The Lord commands us to let our light shine so much that God is glorified. The light will be attractive to some, because it is godly, but others will prefer darkness because the light reveals their sin. We live in dark times, and if our witness is weak, what will show the world their need for the Saviour? We need a living relationship with God for our light to shine, just as a torch needs batteries for it to work. We need to ensure our spiritual batteries do not go flat.
This will really muck things up if the background colour of this blog is changed!
- Be ready to give an account
We not only need to believe in our hearts, but also confess Christ to the world (Romans 10:9). A readiness to speak about Christ is part of our preparation for life (Ephesians 6:15). It is a vital part of who we are, and it is as foolish not to prepare as it would be to go for a long walk without shoes. We need to be ready for this with reverent meekness and fear of God (1 Peter 3:15).
To be honest, I’m running out of things to write in these gaps
- Recognise the need of people to be saved
We will only reach people if we see their plight. Jesus was moved with compassion, seeing people like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34) and weeping for a whole city (Luke 19:41) because He saw the urgency of the situation. The reason Christ came to earth because He saw our lost and helpless state. We need a Biblical sense of urgency (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) and must make the best possible use of our time (Colossians 4:5).
If you found these messages, please post a comment so I know about it!
We need to pray for ourselves and others (Colossians 4:3), making use of practical planning such as prayer partners. We must be watchful to pray continually (Ephesians 6:18-20). Paul knew his responsibility as an ambassador of Christ, and knew he was to “go and make disciples”. This responsibility requires prayer for the Lord’s strength, opportunities and boldness.
I hope you find that interesting and, more importantly, helpful.
We are not prepared if God is not precious.
Margaret Williams, 2009
Margaret is the wife of my pastor in Leeds, and this quote was in the context of preparing ourselves for evangelism. We can only be prepared for evangelism if God is precious to us, because making much of God is the driving force behind it.
At the moment I have a bit of a dilemma regarding the best use of a Wednesday evening. On the one hand is the Leeds juggling club, Hullabaloo. On the other hand, my home church has moved the Bible study and prayer meeting to a Wednesday. I don’t know a great number of people at Hullabaloo, but that’s a situation I want to rectify. There is a great mix of people, some of whom are very friendly, and some of whom are surly to say the least.
The Bible study has been a regular commitment for the last several years of my life for good reason. It gives me a focus on the spiritual while Sunday is still days away. It provides an opportunity to learn from the Bible and enjoy the fellowship and wisdom of older believers. It is the only time the whole church can come together for regular prayer. It helps form the habit of prioritising God (and the local church) above other aspects of life.
My dilemma arises because I rarely see my non-Christian friends. I’m notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people at the best of times when I don’t see them on a regular basis, and changing school before A-levels made it much harder. My friends at the school I studied GCSEs at changed a huge amount over the next two years, and became completely different people. I daresay the same happened to me. The friendships which had been built were never destroyed, but simply disappeared. The friends I made at the school where I did my A-levels were great guys, but only knew me for two years before we parted, and given they had known all their other friends for seven years I was never as close to them. I’m on good terms with my neighbours, but don’t see them too frequently.
Combine this with a full time job and chances to chat become much scarcer. This results in a distinct scarcity of opportunities to share Jesus with others. The Bible study benefits me; evangelism benefits both me and others. Having said that, evangelism will surely be most glorifying to God coming from a life of dedication to sanctification. My dilemma is not between studying the Bible and evangelising. My dilemma is between a church meeting and building friendships from which evangelism can arise. I don’t want to be a hit and run evangelist, but a genuine friend speaking from love for the Lord and concern for the souls of my fellow jugglers.
I’ve had varied advice from people I respect, so it wouldn’t hurt me to have more if people have opinions they want to share. The comment box is waiting.
Further reading on evangelism: http://joshsendlessthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-hast-thou-done.html
One of the missionaries in contact with Whitley Wood Reformed Baptist Church, a man called Sergey, recently sent a lengthy email of his news, containing this paragraph. He is a Siberian evangelist.
Today in Russia the wave of resistance to the Gospel of the Christ accrues. The orthodox church completely cooperates with the governments and now actively counteracts distribution of Biblical Christianity. Even in comprehensive schools, now children train in orthodoxy. For us there have come hard times. On all mass news media, dominate orthodox and they oppose Biblical christianity. Alas… Now the majority of people, yes do not wish to listen to us when we preach the Bible. But… We do not despond, we believe the Lord and we wait Him for returning for us. But how long we on the ground, we zealously continue to preach Jesus Christ’s Grace for glory of the Lord! We understand, that rescue, there is a Great gift Sovereign the Masters of the God, and will come to the Christ only Selected by the God from eternity for glory of the Christ! Praise to the God!!!
The English may be interesting at best, but Sergey’s love for the Lord shines through it. This man suffers a lot by our rich western standards, and I feel sure his love for the Lord is only increased by the difficulties he faces. Let us take both an encouragement and a challenge from the determination he has to proclaim Christ to the thousands of lost souls in Siberia.
At the moment in my quiet times I’m looking through the book of Acts. Earlier this week I read Acts 2:40 which says
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
It’s the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has come upon the gathered believers in Jerusalem, and Peter has just preached a sermon to the Jews who were around him. Luke has recorded for us the sermon he preached, then at the end he writes this verse.
This is gospel preaching. This is what I aspire to. Not as a pulpit preacher, invaluable as they obviously are, but in my day-to-day life. I hope I will learn to follow the pattern Peter used when he was preaching to a group of people. He both testified to and exhorted the people.
If I’m not misunderstanding the passage, the words are not meant to say the same thing. They are complementary. Peter testified by his life, showing the people Christ by the way he lived. Every day Christ was visible in Peter. Peter also exhorted, urging and pleading with the people to be saved. It may not be as catchy as UCCF’s “living for Jesus, speaking for Jesus” tagline, but isn’t this exactly the same approach?
We cannot share the gospel by simply living it. We must preach it, whether while stood in a church or in a casual conversation, so people can understand their sin and their need to call out to Jesus for salvation. But neither can we share the gospel by preaching alone. The gospel’s power is to transform lives, and if our own lives are not transformed then what is the gospel we are presenting in our preaching? Neither will do alone; we must have both.
Michael Ots has posted a talk he recently gave at Sheffield CU on his blog. It’s well worth a read if you’re a Christian whose friends aren’t particularly interested in hearing about the gospel.