One of life’s most enjoyable experiences and one that spans the globe in its cultural relevance is the joy of sharing a meal amongst family, friends or even on occasions with complete strangers.
In the journey of life, I’ve known the simplicity of an apple given at great sacrifice in a poverty-stricken African village, the elaborate feasts of civil gatherings, the splendour of wedding celebrations, the countless choices of restaurant menus and, my favourite, the gathering round the family table for home-cooked fayre where the main ingredient is love.
Created for community
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to followers of Jesus, for we believe that we are created for community. The loneliness and isolation of the recent pandemic has served to illustrate that we’re not made to be alone, but made for relationships. The practice of hospitality, which does take time, energy and money, is everywhere in the Bible and I love the way Jesus was often in the company of people in a context where food was involved. A key ingredient in the resources being served up under the banner of A Passion for Life, a nationwide initiative to unite churches in mission in the run-up to Easter 2022, is their creative bespoke menu of personal evangelism training sessions designed to give local churches the flexibility to equip their people in the areas they most need it. This fascinating menu for mission training is freely available for local churches and like every good menu, as with every good book, it seeks to tell an amazing story that people will find engaging, satisfying and that leaves them longing for future visits where they can deepen their experience of what’s on offer.
In keeping with its menu-driven design, the offering consists of 21 stand-alone training sessions for personal evangelism, with each one providing:
• A high-quality 15–20-minute video with core teaching from a variety of experienced trainers
• A variety of brief testimonies from everyday believers from across the UK and Ireland sharing in encouraging and honest ways their experience of making Jesus known and how the principles outlined have been applied in their lives
• Session guides for all local church participants allowing them to explore the subject further, deepen their knowledge and sharpen their ability in the chosen area including questions, further Bible reflection, practical exercises, and prayer points
• An outline and full transcript of the training content to allow it to be adapted for the local context where required
This is not a one-size-fits-all course, but it does come with set menu options for those who are struggling to decide. These mini-series offerings start by asking a good question about what the local church is like:
• Is your church theologically confident but struggling to connect with its community? Then we would recommend the series titled ‘Connecting and Journeying’.
• Is your church active in the community but struggling to communicate the gospel? Then we recommend the series titled ‘Communicating the Good News’.
• Does your church need help to welcome and involve people in the life of the church? Then we recommend the series titled ‘Welcoming and Discipling’.
So whether you prefer a set menu or à la carte, the strength of this menu is that all the resources are accessible and can be adapted by the local church to train their people in the areas that would best serve the local church context.
The training sessions are divided into four categories with each category offering a variety of options for consideration. The categories are titled:
• Loving Connection
This part of the menu is designed to help local churches equip their members to take the first steps in journeying with others towards life in Jesus. It seeks to provide people with the practical skills of connecting, listening, and getting to know people as we gently share our hope in Christ. Sessions in this section are:
• Making meaningful connections – Lizzy Smallwood helpfully explores the intentionality of good conversation, welcoming hospitality, friendships, and kindness.
• Loving our neighbours – Nay Dawson helps us to identify the communities we inhabit and how our engagement with these communities presents us with the opportunity to love dearly and speak clearly.
• Loving through listening and asking questions – Lee McMunn demonstrates how a genuine interest in people joined to the art of good listening and the ability to ask well-crafted questions can lead to all manner of gospel opportunities.
• Sharing hope in today’s world – Jeremy Marshall, an author living with terminal cancer, poignantly shares from his own experience of suffering how our humility and vulnerability in everyday life allow us to sensitively share in a natural way the reason for our hope in Jesus.
• Answering tough questions with Jesus – Jeremy Marshall, no stranger to many tough questions, cites many examples of the way in which the stories of the Bible are the best answers that we have and how this approach, modelled by Jesus, is so liberating.
• Intentionally Bible-driven
In this category we are given the opportunity to get clear on what the gospel is, the theological foundation for journeying with others towards life in Jesus, including our role, God’s role, and how to depend on God in evangelism.
• Why the journey is needed – seasoned evangelist Rico Tice rejoices in the sovereign God’s strategic plan to put every individual believer right where they are in order that they might be used by Him to help others encounter Jesus.
• God’s heart for the lost – Ray Brown opens our eyes to see everyone as made in God’s image, under His wrath but not beyond His grace.
• God’s role and ours – Rico Tice presents the foundational truth of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. Understanding this leads to confidence and creativity in making Jesus known.
• What is the gospel – to make Jesus known we need to be clear about what is the gospel and Ray Brown provides the explanation of God the creator, our rebellion, Christ the redeemer, and what genuine repentance looks like. in • Prayer evangelism – John MacKinnon offers us insight into the importance of prayer in our evangelism and some creative and helpful ways in which we can be faithful.
• Depending on the Holy Spirit – it is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be a witness to Jesus and, in this session, John MacKinnon exhorts us to keep in step with the Spirit who will magnify Jesus through us.
• God’s word in evangelism – Ray Brown rounds off these sessions with the priority of making Jesus known by using God’s word and how, in doing so, people hear His voice for themselves.
• Faithful Witness
Every follower of the Lord Jesus Christ wants to be an effective and faithful witness for Him, and this category helps us with the practicalities of doing just that. It considers some of the challenges and provides applicable tools to aid faithfulness in sharing the gospel and in helping people encounter God’s word and respond.
• Right expectations and crossing the pain line – Jesus told His followers that they would face hostility when they took a stand for Him, and in this session Rico Tice encourages us from Scripture with the motivation to cross the pain line – and to keep crossing it.
• Sharing God’s word one-to-one – Carl Porter firmly believes that more people are open to finding out about Jesus than we might think. He demonstrates how any Christian can be a Bible sharer by using resources like The Word: One to One.
• Making the most of courses and events – Lee McMunn shares ways in which we can maximise the effectiveness of events we organise and courses we run by doing them well and trusting Jesus with the results.
• Seasoning conversation with the gospel – Marcus Nodder illustrates practically and powerfully how using a gospel outline or being clear about our own testimony can have a significant impact upon others.
• Being a witness at work – sometimes viewed as the daily grind, Marcus Nodder shows Biblically how our work is a wonderful gift from God and potentially a gospel opportunity.
• Helping people become Christians – Lizzy Smallwood delights in practically preparing us for the opportunity to help someone as they move from darkness to light in Jesus Christ.
• Engaging with different cultures – Felix Aremo equips us to connect with different cultures and how to display the humility, patience, and courage it requires.
• Encouraging Discipleship
As God moves in people’s lives drawing them to Himself, they come to faith and live out their Christian life in the context of the local church. Encouraging Discipleship helps us to think about the way in which we welcome people into our churches and how we support new Christians as they grow in their discipleship. There are two options on the menu titled:
• Welcoming people into church – Felix Aremo helps us think through what our churches look like to new believers, how we welcome them, and the various ways our availability can be a blessing.
• Helping new Christians grow – it’s always a privilege to play a part in the nurture and development of new believers and Felix Aremo, drawing on the example of Paul, outlines the beliefs and behaviours that cultivate and encourage growth.
These resources have been shaped by the churches for the churches. Whilst they are initially there to help Christians get ready to play their part in a month of mission leading up to Easter 2022, they will remain available on apassionforlife.org.uk for any Christian and church to benefit from.
God’s word and the rich experience of our presenters provide a menu of wholesome fayre. Our prayer is that for many churches it will be a recipe for success, with that success being measured by an increased confidence in the gospel and inspired believers engaging in all-year-round evangelism.
John MacKinnon is Training Director – A Passion for Life http://www.apassionforlife.org.uk