Evangelistic First Aid
When I recently attended a Senior First Aid certificate refresher course I noticed something had changed in the training material from the time I last attended.
What had changed was that it had become far simpler.
More than ever before it seemed the message was that first aid was about helping the casualty stay alive so that the ambulance could take over. Nothing more.
This meant that some of the complicated rules had been abolished in order to make the job of the first aider simpler.
So, in the past we had to carefully measure a person’s chest to find the ideal spot to do CPR compressions. Now, you just started pressing down somewhere up on the upper chest. In the past you had to do different numbers of breaths for children and adults. Now it’s the same for everyone. And finally, I learnt that they no longer teach complicated knots to tie up slings for broken limbs. Now we are told to just help the patient keep their broken arm or leg still and comfortable.
Funnily enough, because I need to know less it means I feel more equipped for first aid than before.
This got me thinking about the way we do our evangelistic training.
We’ve got some terrific courses in how to understand the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, as good as courses like this are, they can sometimes be a little daunting to a Christian called to do evangelistic first aid.
Perhaps we need to be providing the everyday evangelists in our congregation with a few super-simple things to say that will help keep the enquiry ‘alive’ until they can get ‘professional’ help.
This is kind of the approach I’ve taken in youth ministry in the past.
I’d tell the kids in my bible study that if a mate asked them a question about Christian things then they shouldn’t freak out, but instead should tell them to come to the lunchtime group or their youth group or their bible study so that their youth group leader could answer the question for them, and in turn indirectly teach the Christian kid how to respond themselves next time.
My experience was that this didn’t undersell the abilities of the youth to be evangelists. In fact, they felt more relaxed when those ‘evangelistic first aid’ opportunities arose. They were happy to engage with conversations about God, Jesus and the Bible, and ready to call in a spiritual 'ambulance' when they were out of their depth.
The danger of this approach is that it has the potential to say that only ‘experts’ can speak meaningfully about Jesus, which is the last thing we want to have happen.
But, the alternative is to leave ‘lay’ Christians feeling paralysed at the ‘evangelistic first aid’ scene, simply because they’ve got too many things in their head to remember to say in response to a relatively simple enquiry about the Christian faith.
None of what I’ve suggested is particularly novel. For years we’ve been helping people have simple answers for the hope they have in Christ.
But for me, at least, this Senior First Aid refresher course was a helpful reminder that providing our children, youth and adults with a simple and punchy response to enquiries about their faith is something we shouldn’t neglect whilst we continue to clearly teach the full counsel of God.
What ‘evangelistic first aid’ skills have you taught or been taught?
Jodie McNeill is the Executive Director of Youthworks Outdoors.