Monday, May 2, 2016

Get Real

Get Real, John S. Leonard

This great offering from New Growth Press has been sitting unread as an eBook on my iPad for way too long.   I wish I’d read it sooner.

Leonard has written an excellent book which looks at the pitfalls of so called ‘traditional’ evangelism, and he presents a better way forward.   Many Christians are uncomfortable and awkward with evangelism.  They think they have to follow a set way, explain the gospel completely as soon as given the chance, and then often feel ill-equipped to do so.  Rather than a challenge to learn tracts or evangelistic presentations, Leonard challenges us to think about our whole life as evangelism, a life lived under the grace of God and one which is appealing to unbelievers.  I know that much of what he has to say is not actually new thinking, but it definitely was a helpful reminder of the things that matter when you seek to share your faith. 

He starts by reminding the reader again of the gospel we share, how it is grounded in grace, all of it and how that defines all of our lives:
We must realize it is all Jesus and nothing of use and give him all the praise and glory.  The Christian life is lived – from beginning to end – by grace.  If we are going to share this message with others, we must first know it for ourselves (p22).
Then the bulk of the book: A Real Approach to Sharing the Gospel, deals with many different areas of how we share our faith.  Some of the highlights along the way were:
  • Be normal but a bit crazy.   That is, be a normal person, don’t be weird: be honest about your struggles and weaknesses, don’t present a false front of faith.  But at the same time, be a bit crazy in your life of faith – because how you live and what matters to you (time priorities, money priorities, etc) will seem a little crazy to others.
  • Be more than a friend – be a support to people.  Get to know people well, ask questions and care about them.   Become the person they will seek out in times of crisis, and the one to whom they will ask when they need answers.   Obviously this takes time and care.  
  • Keep evangelising Christians – for they keep needing to remember they are saved by grace not works – and disciple non-Christians – that is, show how we live, what matters, what we prioritise.   You don’t just keep repeating the gospel to unbelievers, you show them how you live it out and how all of the bible can apply to life.  That means the moment of conversion is just one step along the path of becoming disciple of Christ.
  • Sow widely.  Be available to a wide number of people who come across your path.  Go through the same checkout to get to know the same person.  Talk to your hairdresser.  Smile at people on the bus and on the plane.  Ask shopkeepers from other countries where they are from and about their families, and then remember the details for next time you go in.   Stop seeking to be efficient in the self-check and the do-it-yourself section – but allow time to talk to people.   If you are clearly available to talk, people will talk to you.
  • Change your testimony to include all the ways God has worked in your life since you came to faith.  How he has changed you as an employee, a parent, a spouse, a child.  Don’t stop your account when you became a Christian – for many of us, that story is now very old and God has proven his faithfulness and grace countless times since then in ways which are much more relevant to people you talk to.   Talk of what he has done and is now continuously doing in your life.
  • Raise curiosity – challenge people’s views with an idea, but stop talking when you can tell they aren’t interested.   Much better to leave them wanting more and thinking about what you said.
  • Pray with your eyes open ­– People can be uncomfortable if you pray with your eyes closed, especially when you meet in public.  They feel self-conscious and awkward (let’s be honest, lots of Christians do too in public places!)  Why not just say you are going to pray but tell them it will look like a normal conversation, so no-one is embarrassed by it?

That is really only a taste of all the very helpful things Leonard had to offer here.   If you want to think about how to share your faith, but living a life of faith by grace this is the book for you.  Leonard will challenge you to be open and real with all people, to listen well, to speak less, to gently challenge where appropriate and to be available.   Highly recommended.  

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