“Hi, we’re from the local Anglican church, and we’re…”
“No thanks, we’re Orthodox. [Or Catholic.]”
[Door closes. Evangelists exit stage right.]
So went the bulk of conversations on my first day of door-knocking during a mission in Sydney’s south a few years ago.
The following day, I went door-knocking with a different partner. We started getting similar responses, but by some conversational brilliance I never quite picked up he was able to turn most encounters around from an almost-closed door to talking about personal assurance of salvation within 45 seconds, and the grace of Jesus another minute or two later. I stood off to the side, watching a master evangelist at work. Even more surprising was how he seemed to gain energy from each conversation; if he hadn’t needed to pick up his children after school I think we might still be there, pounding the streets of Rockdale, my partner getting more and more energized with each gospel conversation.
I am not much of an evangelist. You may have gathered that much. (A magazine editor and tech nerd an introvert? Who would have guessed?) One of the things I have learned about myself during my years of Christian ministry is that some activities take a large emotional toll on me. Personal evangelism is one. Leading Bible studies, or one-to-one meetings to read the Bible and pray, or running a seminar—those things I could do all day. But give me 30 minutes of walking through a shopping centre and trying to strike up conversations about Jesus and I’m fuzzy-headed and weak-kneed for the rest of the day.
As a result, I find stories and examples of others speaking about Jesus extraordinarily encouraging.
This issue of The Briefing is largely devoted to reflecting on evangelistic endeavour. At one end of the spectrum there’s Nathan Lovell’s article on engaging with Islam at a clash-of-world-views level, as he investigates differing rationalities at play and how we can both understand and speak across that cultural divide. It’s an astute and engaging analysis of how Western cultures and Muslim cultures often pass each other by like ships in the night without engaging in a mutually intelligible way. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Jo Edmond’s thoroughly down-to-earth recap of how she and some friends put on a Christianity Explored course, describing the fears, trials, prayers and successes along the way.
At various points between these two lie many of the other articles. Tony Payne picks up from where he left off last time (speaking God’s words to others at whatever point they may be in their relationship with God), and shows us how we can think intentionally about not only speaking life-giving words to others but also equipping other Christians to do so more and more. Andrew Shead continues to lead us through Jeremiah, pointing out aspects of what we must proclaim as we speak of the God of the Bible and what he has done in Jesus. Last time the words of Jeremiah were of judgement; this time we see how God’s forgiveness is powerful and life-changing. And finally, David Ould exhorts us to be preachers not of moralism, but of the grace and forgiveness that bring about changed lives.
I am grateful to God for bringing me into his church and the encouragement of surrounding me with evangelists, servants, administrators, teachers and many others. I trust this issue will spur you on in your own efforts to speak the word of truth, just as it has encouraged me in mine.