What happens when people hear their church is holding an outreach event? I suspect that at one end the delighted say, “Yes! I can ask my friend to something outside church where someone else can tell them the gospel!” At the other end, the downer says, “Oh, no. My friend will never come to that!”
Getting it right for everyone is pretty hard but, if you go to an event as a believer, what should your attitude be?
Be convinced that God will work. Christ came to save sinners and God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). He will work through the gospel message with power through the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:5; 2:13) and in you, so “he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thess 1:11).
Be assured that the message is relevant. The gospel is the means of salvation for all people, who need to know that judgement is coming (Acts 17:30-31).
You have a role to play. The relationship between the people who are listening is significant. The New Testament exhorts Christians to live in a manner worthy of the gospel (1 Thess 2:11-12; Titus 2:11-14; Eph 4:1), speaking and walking in love (Eph 4:15, 5:2), being wise (Eph 5:15), pleasing God and bearing fruit (Col 1:10). Our friends and family see how we live and will have questions. It’s up to us to be ready to answer them.
It’s not just about attitude - we can’t forget about our actions
Prayer: We need to pray before, during and after an event. It is a spiritual act to be reconciled to God, to no longer be alienated and hostile to him (Col 1:21-22) and to be brought out from the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19-20). The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin (John 16:8), so God will open hearts for people to pay attention and believe (Acts 16:14-15). We need to pray for this.
“The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin, so God will open hearts for people to pay attention and believe. We need to pray for this.”
Prepare to have gospel conversations: The speaker at an event is going to assume that believers will continue talking about gospel issues. But, often, church people are not ready or keen to do that! A bit of forethought and training does not go astray. A church that has learnt to love and speak gospel truths to one another will find it a lot easier to include the outsider in these conversations. Peter tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), so we need to practice.
Pay attention: Pay attention at the event. A lot of us can tune out, or tune in to the illustration and then miss the point. Put yourself in the shoes of the outsider. Listen, so that you are internally asking questions of what was said. Afterwards, politely engage in conversation. We are not there to verbally pound people into submission. We want to be respectful and loving, with conversation full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we can discern how to answer people (Col 4: 5-6).
“Put yourself in the shoes of the outsider.”
Please ask questions: Ask good questions! If you look at how Jesus engaged with people, he spent a lot of time asking them questions. Questions show you are interested in others. They also allow people to gather their thoughts, providing space to deal with spiritual things. After all, invited guests know they’ve come to a Christian event.
Prove the truth: Lastly, prove that what was said out the front is true in your experience. Your own story is powerful. You are living proof that what the speaker said is true. Find ways to declare God’s excellencies to those around you (1 Peter 2:9-12).
Sarah Seabrook is an evangelist, speaker and trainer with Evangelism and New Churches. She will run a seminar on conversational outreach at ENC’s Gospel Outreach Conference on June 3 at St Anne’s, Ryde.