How to spread the good news 

We who know Jesus have been given so much. Unlike cults like the Jehovah Witnesses or Later Day Saints, our salvation is not dependent on getting others to join. God has saved us without requiring us to work for it.

Therefore our wish to tell others about this wonderful gift, is because we want others to benefit. We are like homeless people who have found somewhere warm to stay, telling other homeless people.

Why the good news needs to taste good

I want my children to grow up healthy, and able to eat a wide range of foods. I could cook unappetising food; that smells funny, is difficult to eat and tastes rubbish and make them eat it. Tell them it’s good for them and they should eat it regardless of its taste.

It would be far better (if I am able) to cook nice tasting food, food that is easy to eat, looks good and smells good, so that they eat the healthy meal more willingly.

The good news is even better for people than good food, so we should make it as palatable as possible without weakening it. Paul was a great fan of this:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. –

1 Corinthians 9 v 19-23

That is why there are so many ways to spread the good news. God wants to use our creative abilities.

In fact I would go further and say that by making the good news dull or hard, we are as bad as the cook who over boils the cabbage, or overcooks the steak (at least for me). We are putting a stumbling block in the way of people.

A strategy

So borrowing from Laurence Singlehurst this is a way to share the good news in a way that will help people along the journey to faith, rather than take them too fast along it, or put them off.

At each stage most people will not be ready or willing to move on to the next stage, and that’s fine because we don’t make new Christians, the Holy Spirit does.

Sowing 1

Objective: Leave people thinking you are OK and God is good

How: Let people know you are a Christian and that you believe in God, and do things that people consider good.

Examples: Messy Church, Street by Street, Offer practical help, throw a party

Sowing 2

Objective: Explain the good news including the ups and downs

How: By either inviting people to a low key event that will have it explained, or by more in-depth one to one conversations.

Examples: An music event with a testimony , chats with friends/colleagues/neighbours, Alpha, Start Course

Reaping

Objective: Give people an opportunity to make a response to the good news

How: When someone is ready to take the next step, then help them to accept Jesus’ gift.

Examples: Evangelistic event, one to one, Alpha, Start Course

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6 v 9

Keeping

Objective: Help people to grow in their faith, and to become mature Christians

How: This is a lifetime’s work, as they grow as a disciple. Healthy small groups and involvement in the mission of the Church help to make people feel involved and motivate them to take often difficult steps.

Examples: Moving On Course, Small groups, Sunday sermons

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Street By Street

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The Church that I lead is the Woodbank Community Church on Woodhouse Road in Whitehaven. This week we are praying for Greenbank Avenue and Gameriggs Road, part of our ongoing plan to pray for every road in Woodhouse and Greenbank.

What we do

Every couple of months we choose one and drop flyers into every house, telling them that we are going to pray for them.

Then we go to each home and ask those in, what they want us to pray about. A full list of these prayers is given to each of our members, to pray about in the week. To protect people’s identities, we only put the first letter of their Christian names in front of their prayer need. My name being John would be written ‘J’. I’m sure God knows who we are talking about.

It is a real privilege to take people’s requests to the God who answers prayer. Now we are a Church that is used to knocking on doors. For the last three Christmases we have delivered boxes of chocolates to local streets as early Christmas presents. But going to ask people what we can pray for them has been a real pleasure.

The response has been a mixture of bewilderment and thanks with very few refusals. The fact that we also put it on our Facebook page means some are ready for us when we arrive.
But I think it is going to take years to cover the whole area, if we ever do. New homes are being built around us as we look.

So why are we praying for our streets?

Because we believe that God is interested in all of us and the lives we live. He is not some benevolent grandpa in the sky, but the creator God who cares about us, is listening and wants to get involved with everyone. A lot of people ask me to pray for them because they think that as a ‘religious leader’, God will listen to me.

The truth is that God listens to us all; we are all special to him.

So as we are praying for Greenbank Avenue and Gameriggs Road this week, why not talk to God yourself about the needs you have. You could add those of your family, friends and neighbours as well. Let’s get West Cumbrians well known in heaven as those who talk to God about things that are important to us. You never know, the angels may get used to the accent. 

Turning the world around.

At the beginning of the year I started a sermon series called Attractive Christianity. What got me going was reading Acts 5 vs 12-14. It talks about all the believers meeting together, but ‘none of the rest dared join them.’ That’s fine until you look at verse 14,

And more that ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.

What’s going on here?  Something is turning these people around. They want to walk away but find themselves joining in.

The words between these two phrases help us understand what’s going on. We know that God is involved in all this but He has decided to have agents on the ground. Luke tells us that

the people ( the ones that wanted to walk away) held them (the believers) in high esteem

That seems to have had an amazing effect on the population of Jerusalem. In front of their eyes God’s promises were being worked out in ordinary, very visible people. My goodness, how our community needs to see that today. This is not a time for us to hide behind our Church walls but get out and live it with all our might.

 

Fruit among the Pashtun

I was lucky enough this week to hear about the work that the Holy Spirit is doing among the Pashtun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Those who convert from Islam to Christianity do so in the face of severe persecution.  Labelled apostates by the Taliban their lives are forfeit, and they often have to leave behind family, communities and possessions. Martyrdom is a daily reality, and yet God is moving powerfully among them.

There are 49 million Pashtuns in the world (30 million are in Pakistan), yet they are one of the most unreached people groups for the gospel. In their culture to be Pashtun is to be Muslim, so choosing to accept Jesus means breaking this connection. However over the last decade thousands have been called out of Islam into the truth. Even among the Taliban God has been bringing some into the light.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Rev 12 v 11

For the moment this all has to be done secretly, becoming a Christian means you are no longer safe where you are. They have to be moved to other parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or into Iran. Any property they have has to be left, taking what they can carry  they become refugees overnight.

Mountain Spring Ministries is a Pashtun led organisation that is supporting, training and encouraging Christians and seekers among the Pashtun.

Prayer

They have asked for the following to be prayed for

  • Team safety and wisdom
  • Protection for the coordinator as he travels in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran
  • Strength and comfort for the believers
  • What to do about the believer’s children, who will miss out on schooling as they flee.
  • The wives and children of those who have been martyred, and are left destitute.
  • Protection for those Muslims who are seeking the truth, our speaker said they had 700 contacts who are on this journey.

Practical Needs

  •  Mountain Springs run 2 safe houses for Christians and their families who are on the run for their lives
  • They also provide training and communications equipment (mobile phones) for leaders in the area.
  • As illiteracy is high among the Pashtun, one to one and audio materials need to be used to disciple Christians.