Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Gospel Story within a Church Community: Sharing the Good News of Jesus with Each Other

"How cool! I thought I would come to a Christian meeting and be told what to believe. Instead, I was affirmed for my doubts and questions and lack of belief. I loved it!" + Cindy

Previous Gospel Story posts:

A Gospel Story in a McDonald's  
A Gospel Story with a Refugee Family  
+ A Gospel Story among a City Group

In Federick Buechner's Secrets in the Dark, he says, 

Jesus calls us to see that no matter how ordinary it may seem to us as we live it, life is extraordinary. 'The Kingdom of God is at hand' is the way He put it, and the way He tells us to put it to others. Life even at its most monotonous and backbreaking and heart-numbing has the Kingdom buried in it the way a field has treasure buried in it, Jesus said.

Below is an excerpt from Rick Richardson's Reimagining Evangelism that provides an example of how the Good News of Jesus can infiltrate our conversations with others as we discover His Kingdom in each of our lives revealed like a hidden treasure:

Cindy was a skeptic who attended her first meeting to learn about Christianity only because she was dragged there. The first of ten meetings for those who are skeptical or seeking began with a meal and a theme entitled "Christianity_ Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?" Her friend Paula had participated in a similar ten-week course of meetings and had become a follower of Jesus. She would be telling her story that first night, and she begged and pleaded for Cindy to come to provide moral support. Cindy couldn't think of a good way to say no, and so she went. 
Later, in discussion around a table, Cindy admitted she wasn't sure why she was there. She had a lot of doubts about faith and couldn't see herself "doing the Christian thing." Brock spoke up. He agreed with her. He wasn't sure why he was there, and had planned on not saying a word. But he so identified with Cindy's feelings. You could feel the intense energy between Cindy and Brock. Cindy later remarked, "How cool! I thought I would come to a Christian meeting and be told what to believe. Instead, I was affirmed for my doubts and questions and lack of belief. I loved it!" 
Brock and Cindy both continued to attend every week. Each week, they shared doubts and questions, and over the weeks, ironically, each was the other's most crucial influence in keeping them coming to learn more about Jesus! As they voiced honest questions to one another and to others, and as they experienced being in a safe place where they could belong without believing, the Holy Spirit was free to work very powerfully in their lives. 
Halfway through, the group with some from the church took some time away together. Brock almost dropped out at the last minute, but Cindy got him to come. They were both intrigued by the teaching about the Holy Spirit. When it came time for a ministry session Saturday night on the retreat, Cindy, who had been struggling with thoughts of suicide, received prayer for depression and experienced a gift of joy. That experience influenced Cindy to become more positive and intentional in her spiritual search. And Cindy's change influenced Brock. Cindy can't point to a moment, but she knows that somewhere during those months of attending the meetings, she came to faith and trust in God. 
Cindy told her story at the next kickoff meal, just as Paula had at the previous one when Cindy had started. And she made sure Brock was there to listen. As Brock listened to her story, in which he played such a central role, his heart began to melt, and from then on he became a much more intentional seeker. He too later discovered that he had come to believe something along the way. 
Who led Brock and Cindy into becoming Christ-followers? Besides the Holy Spirit, and each other as skeptical seekers, there was a whole church community at work. 
There was Peter. He was a good administrator, and he and his wife were gifted in hospitality. They just set the right tone of welcome for each time together. 
There was Lou. He could tell a great joke and didn't seem like your typical "holy roller" Christian. Any moment, you expected him to pop the top on a six-pack or light up a smoke. He was that guy. 
There was Hope. She loved creating beautiful spaces, and she loved providing good food. She was a gifted connector, often working behind the scenes to bring people together over a good meal or a fun event. 
There was Neel. She was a good storyteller and teacher, able to make biblical truths practical and concrete. You just liked her and enjoyed listening to her. She made every week's teaching session personal and helpful. 
And there were Chris and Molly. They were married and loved people. They knew how to ask good questions, affirm people for whatever they said and speak truth out of their own life experiences. When they got particularly off-the-wall comments from those seeking or skeptical in the group, they would say, "That's very interesting," and then would ask, "What do others think?" 
Finally, there was Wes. He prayed for Cindy on Saturday night when the group got away together. He sensed the Spirit nudging him to pray for a past traumatic relationship with a boyfriend, and God ministered to Cindy in a very deep way. Her depression lifted, and she left looking radiant. 
The only person in the whole group who thought he might have the gift of evangelism was Wes. And even he felt he wasn't very good at it. God used this church community of people as the channel of the Holy Spirit to lead Cindy and Brock to faith in Jesus. 

Praying for and Enjoying Spiritual Conversations with Friends in Your Life

When we realize all of who Jesus is and all that He's done for us, much like other exciting events and people we experience in life, we want to share about Him with our friends, but don't know where to begin.

| 1 | Prayer: Taking one minute to pray and ask God who are two friends that He wants you to be open to talking to and how you might continue to pray for them and grow your friendship.

Consideration: Ask Jesus to help you pray each day for these two friends.

For an example of how to step into the spiritual conversations God gives you with friends, Intervarsity provides helpful considerations and questions as you walk with others and consider where God may be leading them next:

| 2 | Curiosity: When a friend has some questions about faith, but it's not personal for them.

Consideration: Ask introductory questions about views of God and spirituality. No defenses or debates, just thoughtful inquiry.

| 3 | Open: When a friend becomes aware of their emotional and spiritual needs and wonders if there is a God who can meet their spiritual needs.

Consideration: Ask how they might want to grow spiritually and how God might help their growth. Offer to pray with them for this growth.

| 4 | Seeking: When a friend is open to exploring Jesus but are not sure how to seek Jesus for answers.

Consideration: Help them focus in their journey and ask something like: "If you could ask Jesus one honest question that would help you trust Him, what would you ask?"

| 5 | Follower: When a friend has been looking into Jesus, who He is, what He promised, etc., and is considering becoming a follower of Him.

Consideration: Ask: "Can I share with you how someone becomes a follower of Jesus?" Share the Good News that God, through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, is restoring everything sin ruined, and invite your friend to put their trust in Jesus to begin following Him.

If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don't know its name or realize that it's what we're starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it. + Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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