Churches can draw on an ever-increasing set of resources which help to build confidence in sharing with others the ways in which God has changed, transformed, protected and been with us. And there are lots of opportunities for churches to join together in sharing the good news in their communities.
Nationally the Churches Group for Evangelisation meets regularly to discuss issues around evangelism and mission and helped organise the Learning to be Missionary Disciples Conference in November 2020 and 2021 and the upcoming conference in 2023.
What is evangelism?
In his groundbreaking book Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, David Bosch (arguably the most significant missiologist in the 20th century) has suggested a number of ways to think about evangelism. Four are particularly useful:
- Evangelism involves witnessing to what God has done, is doing and will do – evangelism is a response to what God has done in Christ Jesus and involves every area and aspect of life. It’s about revealing the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in our own lives.
- Evangelism is always an invitation – to evangelise is to communicate joy. Lesslie Newbigin says that the Gospel is an “explosion of joy”. It shouldn’t be about convincing, manipulating or threatening people. Nor should it be about caring for people to try to get them to repent. “People should turn to God because they are drawn by God’s love.”
- Evangelism is only possible when the community that evangelises – the church – is a radiant manifestation of the Christian faith and exhibits an attractive lifestyle – the medium is the message! What we are and what we do is no less important than what we say.
- Authentic evangelism is always contextual – evangelism must take seriously the setting of the people it wishes to share the good news with. Evangelism must understand and appreciate people’s language, culture, socio-economic challenges, political leanings and more. Jesus treated each person he met as an individual, and by the Spirit could see exactly what they needed, what they wrestled with and the broken bits of their lives. An example of this might be found in the story of Jesus healing and forgiving a paralysed man in Luke 5:17-26. In this story Jesus not only addresses the physical condition of the man lowered through the roof by his friends but also his need for reconciliation with God and at the same time addressing the posture of the hearts of the Pharisees present in the room.
Further resources and conferences
It would be impossible to list all the resources available to churches around the area of evangelism. However, we include a few below as a starting point:
- The Alpha course is an 11-week programme. Graham Tomlin has called Alpha the most effective ecumenical movement in the world. Millions of people have tried Alpha and it has been translated into 112 different languages. The Alpha Talks have been repackaged for today’s audience in the Alpha Film Series, and the Alpha Youth Series was created to reach a younger generation with the gospel. Even as times have changed, the Alpha course has continued to be used a wide range of churches as an effective tool to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They also have a web page specifically about running Alpha in a Catholic context. In a number of smaller towns and villages churches have run the course ecumenically supporting one another with the practicalities and ultimately praying people would encounter Jesus.
- In September 2021 the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield published an excellent Kingdom Evangelism pack is aimed at, ‘fairly well informed lay people and clergy who either want to explore a different basis for evangelism or who want to lead their congregation into active and intentional reaching out.’ Access Kingdom Evangelism Pack
- HOPE Together, The Salvation Army and Fresh Expressions launched The Share Jesus website in October 2021
- Amplified Academy is a Youth Evangelism training scheme run by HOPE Together.
- Talking Jesus is an excellent resource put together in partnership with EA, HOPE, and the Church of England.
- The Christianity.org.uk website is the go-to place to find answers about the Christian faith from a non-partisan perspective (read more here). Visitors to the site can also engage in meaningful conversations via email with a real Christian using the conversation feature. Run by the Christian Enquiry Agency (CEA), one of CTE’s National Agencies, the website is offered as a free gift to the wider Church. Why not use it on the bottom of your church or Churches Together website, or on your church or organisation’s literature?
- Living and Telling from Apagé UK is a course that will encourage, train and equip you to share your faith in Jesus naturally and helpfully, as a way of life. The course is for anyone age 16 or 116, whether you have recently made a commitment or whether you have followed Jesus all your life.
- The Emmaus course has been an effective tool for evangelism and adult initiation in the UK and throughout the world. Nurture is a 15-session course for enquirers and new Christians that is also suitable for an adult confirmation course.
- A new resource from the Church of England helps thinking about engaging with those who categorise themselves as Spiritual but not Religious (SNR) called the reachingthenones.
- The Pilgrim course is a major teaching and discipleship resource from the Church of England. It aims to help every local church create a place where people can explore the Christian faith together and see how it can be lived out each day.
- The Great Commission web resource from the Evangelical Alliance brings together a range of video stories, tools, and initiatives to help you share your faith.
- HOPE Together produce a range of resources to help churches in their outreach, including resources encouraging a rhythm of mission throughout the year.
- A 2019 report entitled Doing Mission Together, from the Council for Christian Unity, surveyed churches working together in medium-sized market towns. 34 responses showed involvement with one or more missional activity under the first Mark of Mission.
- Two important documents from World Council of Churches (WCC) on Mission and Evangelism are useful for those interested in reflecting on the theology of evangelism. Mission and Evangelism: An Ecumenical Affirmation was approved by the central committee in 1982. More recently the document Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes was produced in 2013.