Written by Stephen Cox
Ever heard of the fire triangle?
For a fire to burn it needs three essential ingredients: fuel, oxygen and heat. If you remove any one of those three elements then the fire goes out. Fire extinguishers work by removing one or more of those three from the equation. The fire blanket smothers the fire by removing the oxygen. A CO2 extinguisher cools the fire by drastically reducing the heat. And a foam extinguisher isolates the fuel. As you can see, my time as the fire warden in the office wasn’t wasted!
For a fire to make progress you need each one of those three elements. In the same way, for a church to make evangelistic progress it needs three essential ingredients: good news to proclaim, a messenger to share it and an audience to engage with it. Take any one of those three elements away and the fire goes out.
Are you clear on the gospel? Are you good to go with the gospel? And are there people willing to listen? Where do you think you’re strongest? Where do you think you’re the weakest?
For me, it’s the audience bit. I know the gospel. And I’m willing to share it. But I have become aware that although I know a few people around town I simply haven’t invested as I would have wanted to in deep non-superficial relationships. There are lots of reasons for that which I won’t bore you with. But I’m determined not to make those reasons excuses. Excuses won’t ignite the evangelistic fire that we long to see burning in our lives.
The Christmas season and the summer offer lots of opportunities to strengthen the audience component. There’s ample opportunity. We’ve got more time. And so it’s a great time of year to be able invest in non-superficial relationships with friends that God has brought into our lives. Here are just a few ideas that you might like to consider too.
Do some inviting
Invite them to our Christmas Celebration
Some friends and family might not be happy about you being a Christian, but they generally love Christmas. So inviting them to anything Christmassy is a good idea. Our Christmas Celebration next week would be ideal!
Invite your family to church on Christmas Day, but give them notice. If they don’t want to come, still give them notice that you will be going so they can plan around it.
Invite a friend who doesn’t have somewhere to go for Christmas to share Christmas with you and/or your family. It shows other-person centeredness on your part, both to your friend and to your family who wouldn’t have thought of this act of generosity. It’s sharing both parts of your life with the other.
And of course PRAY.
Pray for opportunities to speak snapshots of the gospel through and pray for opportunities to love others and be the “fragrance” of God’s kingdom to them.
On Christmas Day
Choose presents which point to Jesus
Give cards which are related to the good news of God incarnate where you can or buy charity cards or charity gifts at Christmas. For example, TEAR and World Vision have great gift catalogues. If your family really don’t like these, respect the way they show love by showing them love with a physical gift.
You will do lots of small talk.
Think about how you might talk about your year without saying it was “busy” or “hectic” or other conversation killers. It’s a great witness to really be present and interested in what others are saying, their life, their Christmas, plans for the holidays, dreams and hopes for next year. Think ahead of time about what others are up to so you can have things to talk about. You want to be interested in their lives and show that you care.
In the time after Christmas when everyone has empty diaries and nothing to do, this is the one time of the year when the society stops and you can have a less hurried conversation. Think about who you might spend time with. So why not host a BBQ and have both those from your Bible study group and your workplace along? Why not go cycling with a bunch from church as well as others who also love time spent on two wheels? Why not take a longer lunch break with a colleague in the park? Why not organise a game of cricket at the park and then share post match analysis with a drink at the local? Why not go for a summer walk around the lake with friends from church and your neighbours? Why not have a picnic in the Botanical Gardens with the family of your son or daughter’s best friend from school? The possibilities are seemingly endless.
I take it that we all want the evangelistic fire to burn bright in our lives. These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you could think of a lot more.