For about a year, when I was a young bloke, a mate and I used to go to King George Square once a week on a Tuesday, walk up to people having their lunch break, and ask them, “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” This was seen in my circles at the time to be real evangelism. I’m still amazed at how politely people responded, but that was some time ago.
Generally, Uniting Church members feel that they don’t share the gospel as much as Christians from other traditions, and don’t feel confident in doing so. As they say, “Fools rush in”.
I reckon most times it’s best to let your life speak, then explain why you do what you do; what inspires and motivates you.
But it is important to be able to explain it, to give reasons for the hope that lies within. We must be a pathway for others to discover the grace that enlivens and enlightens our lives—otherwise, it’s all about us!
More and more, I believe evangelism starts with listening, being open to the other and their world. The God revealed in the scriptures is certainly an initiating God, but also one who listens, who sees, who is in solidarity—think Yahweh’s speech to Moses about the Israelites in Egypt—“I have seen, I have heard, I know”. Or think Yahweh’s noticing of Hagar, the rejected concubine of Abram, or of Jesus’ interactions, particularly with those who were marginalised, and of his compassion.
So if you want to grow your capability to speak the hope of the gospel, just start by listening more deeply and follow the other’s agenda with love. When the dialogical ball gets thrown back to you, you’ll have the words to say, simply because you have listened well. “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you” Matthew 10:19.
We worry about whether our words or actions will bring our intended result, but maybe it’s about—after listening—sharing the gospel of God’s solidarity with us and being open to let happen what will happen. Are we capable of being surprised? Are we willing to seek first the reign of God in our time and place, and let the Spirit do its work?
Rev David Baker
Moderator, Queensland Synod