Christ’s Church…Reaches Out

Jesus told his disciples that as they went out they should make disciples of all nations. How are we sharing the gospel with those around us?

Bible Readings
Isaiah 52:7-10; Ps. 51:10-17; Matt. 28:16-20; Rom. 10:1-15

On Wednesday the 10th of June, at around 8:40am, just a few hours after Isaac was born, I started sending out text messages to tell people the good news. Of course we’d phoned family and a few close friends before that. Yet somehow, some people had already heard the news! We love sharing good news like this don’t we? Passing it on to others, letting them hear what’s happened. We can’t wait to tell people about new babies, new jobs, new homes, or whatever other good news you might have to share.

Which is fortunate, because as a church we have a mission to share the gospel with the world. You might know that the word gospel is the translation of a Greek word, euangelion, which literally means ‘good news’. So, whenever you read in the New Testament gospel, you can substitute ‘good news’. Our mission is to be a church that speaks the gospel, that tells people the good news. But of course it’s not any old good news, but the good news we’re to proclaim. We’re to share the greatest news there is, that God has redeemed us through Jesus. God has rescued us through the cross. God has restored us to new life in his Son.

William Tyndale, put it well when he defined ‘gospel’ as, ‘good, merry, glad and joyful tidings that makes a person’s heart glad and makes them sing, dance and leap with joy!’ As we read in Isaiah, it’s news that should make us break out in song! The gospel’s good news that should make us overflowing with joy. So it’s strange isn’t it that the idea of sharing the gospel makes many of us tremble in fear! We can be convinced that the gospel is good news, that our faith is the most important part of our lives, but so unwilling to talk about it with others. We know that as Paul put it in the reading from Romans, that the only way people can have faith in God is if they hear about him. But we’re happy to think there are other people who are evangelists, that they should be the ones to speak the gospel.

While I was studying science at Melbourne Uni, I was involved in a campus group called Christian Union. Part of what we did was something called Monday night training, short courses on things like reading the Bible, praying, leading Bible studies. The course I avoided for as long as I could was the one called Two Ways to Live. It was the course on evangelism. In fact, it wasn’t until the campus director told me that I was doing the course one-on-one with him, that I finally did it.

The first part of the course I didn’t have a problem with. It was focused on knowing the gospel, about getting the foundation right. In Two Ways to Live this is done through six cartoons, six bible passages, six short explanations. It was about getting the essence of the gospel right. It was a tool for being able to share the gospel it simply, and clearly with others. I was OK with that. I loved memorising things, getting the pictures and passages lined up right.

What I dreaded was the bit that came next. If the first part of the course was about knowing, the second part was about sharing the gospel. You see, having learnt this sequence of pictures and statements, we were expected to go out, to wander around the campus and ask people, ‘Have you got two minutes for me to share about Jesus?’ Nothing terrified me more. My heart would start racing, my palms went sweaty, I’d drag my feet as much as possible. It might be clear by now that I’m not an evangelist!

You might be the same. Secretly relieved that in Ephesians, Paul talks about some being evangelists, because that means that we don’t all have to be [Eph. 4:11]. But while we might not all be evangelists, we’re all to promote the gospel with our whole lives. And we’re to be ready to speak about our faith, whenever God gives us an opportunity. It’s something we’re all to be ready to do. We’re to make the most of every opportunity, ensuring our conversations are seasoned with the grace of the gospel.

So how can we do that? Should we all go home and learn the 2 Ways To live cartoons and passages? Well, that might not be such a bad thing to do! You might never go out and try cold-turkey conversations, might never walk up to a stranger and say, ‘Hey can I take two minutes to share the gospel with you?’ But that doesn’t mean you’ll never use it. It’s good to get the basics of the gospel clear. It’s vital that we have a firm grasp on the foundations of what we believe. How else can we explain to others what the gospel is?

You never know when God might give you an opportunity to share the gospel with someone else. In his letters, Paul writes we should always be ready to give an account for the hope that is within us. On Friday night, as I was putting some rubbish out, our next door neighbour was watering her garden. We struck up a conversation, in which she asked me what an Anglican was. From there we got into the differences between Catholics and Anglicans and I was able to share the gospel with her. I said that we approach God not on the basis of what we do, but on the grounds of what God has done for us in Jesus. I was just putting the rubbish out! But it was an opportunity God gave me. I didn’t pull out a whiteboard and go through the six cartoons. I shared what I could, how I could, praying allt he while that God would give me the right words to speak. It was a small conversation, one we’ll return to. Pray for more opportunities like this for Sarah and I, as we pray for them for you!

If the thought of sharing the gospel still sounds scary, that’s OK it is! But the joy that comes from it is so good. And if you’re still not convinced, that’s OK. Because actually reaching out with the gospel is not something we do alone.

John Stott says that while personal evangelism and ‘celebrity’ evangelists like Billy Graham have their place, the most normal, most natural, most productive method of spreading the gospel is, local church evangelism. When Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,’ he wasn’t envisaging that they’d all split up, that it would be a bunch of Lone Rangers, going at it solo. The command is to them as a group, as is the reminder that we go not even alone as a church. Jesus final words are, ‘And rememeber, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matt. 28:20).

So how do we reach out together as a church? It might be through special events that we put on. It could be through running Alpha, or a series of services aimed at answering big questions or objections people might have to Christianity. I know these have been done in the past here, and it’s something we’ll keep on doing.

But it’s also much deeper than that. We need to be clear on who we are as a church. We are God’s people, called out of the world, but sent back into the world. That means we need to be engaging with the people we live amongst, and constantly asking ourselves, ‘how can we most reach out to the people around us with the gospel?’ We’ve made the final line of our Mission Statement ‘To learn what it means to be God’s people in this place.’ You’ve got a head start on us, you’ve lived here longer that we have, what ideas do you have for how we can reach out with the good news about Jesus to those around us?

I heard a great reminder of this mindset here at Christ Church when I was listening to the recording of the opening service of the Narthex. In his sermon Bishop xRef provided a theological commentary on the design of the Narthex. He observed that the walls of the Narthex are made of glass and that this should serve a double purpose. On the one hand it means we, when we gather can always see out. We should be constantly thinking about the needs of those around us and how we can reach out to them. But the Narthex being made of glass means that others can see in too! So as we gather, we’re on show. What we do is on display. And as people walk by and see what a great time we’re having, they should be coming in and asking, ‘Why are you so joyful?’ and then we can tell them the good news!

Reaching out is an attitude we cultivate in all that we do. It’s about looking at all that we have, all that we are in a certain way. As the Wardens, Parish Council and I evaulute proposals for the celebration project, we want what we do to be something that aids us in reaching out to our community. Which is why we haven’t proposed a spire. As nice as it might be, a spire wouldn’t do much to further our mission of spreading the gospel. Community Courtyard somewhere to invite others in, enjoy the space that God has blessed us with in a safe way that allows kids and families together. Updating the PA and projector here good for us, but doing it in the hall allows us to invite others in more. Even updating the kitchen, if we do, in a way that allows us to engage in hospitality in an easier way. But these are just some of our ideas. Others have been building a men’s shed, or extending the Op Shop and adding a café and meeting rooms. We want you to join with us in dreaming, in praying, in listening to God and looking out at the community so that we can best work out what to do, and what will most enable us to reach out to others with the gospel.

Not just the buildings, but all that we do. Mainly Music, is not strictly speaking about sharing the gospel, but it is about building bridges into the lives of others, so that we might share the gospel with them as we do.

But we should be looking at even the most intimate of things that we do in the same way. Inviting, and expecting others to join us, even here at our Sunday services. Look to what we do, and how we can most engage with others. As part of that Parish Council and I have decided to move ahead with plans to start a second service in February next year. We’ll be spending the next four months working out exactly what it will look like, but I can say that as we think about this new service, at the front of our minds will be reaching out to others. That will shape what we do and what the service looks like. Please pray, that this might be a move that honours Christ and that sees many more come to know him. That this new service will be a way of reaching out and sharing the good news about Jesus with others.

Jesus told his disciples that as they went out they should make disciples of all nations. How are we sharing the gospel with those around us?

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