Helping people discover the truth about Jesus – Part 6

Further insights regarding discovery being a journey

We need to move beyond just focusing on people making a decision to follow Jesus. We need to give equal, if not greater emphasis, to moving people forward in their understanding of Jesus. To move them on in their picture of who God is and what the church is. We need to correct people’s understanding of the nature and character of God, help them see that Jesus introduces us to God the Father. We need to introduce people to the Big Story of the Bible, in which the smaller stories take their place. We need to help people know who is and should be in control – God not us!

Whilst recognising the important role that the supernatural, including healing, plays in the process we need to also recognise that not everyone Jesus healed followed him. E.g.  See John 6v66. However someone being healed does usually open the door to sharing a little more about the one who healed them!

My own experience and that of many others, is that people often need many positive experiences of Christianity before they are willing to follow Jesus. It is suggested that the norm is between 5 and 7 such experiences.

Jesus told the parable of the sower to help us understand the process of discovery. See Matthew 13 and Luke 8.

In the parable there are 3 bad soils and 1 good soil. The difference between the soils relates to understanding. The path represents no understanding; rocky soil some understanding but not the full implications; thorns some understanding but no understanding of the lordship of Christ, there is no change in lifestyle. The good soil is characterised by honesty and understanding.

We therefore need to help people, over time, to come to a proper understanding of who Jesus is if we want to keep them and reduce the prospect of them falling away.

I am also convinced that we have to exercise caution regarding declaring someone an authentic follower of Jesus. God alone is the judge. We are told that there will be observable fruit that someone has started following Jesus, but this can take time to be seen. We therefore need to be patient, not rushing people to a premature decision to follow Jesus and being careful regarding what we claim on behalf of others.

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

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Helping people discover the truth about Jesus – Part 5

More stages on the journey of discovery

In my previous blog I introduced the first 2 stages in the process as outlined in Laurence Singlehurst’s book “Sowing, reaping and keeping” which are the sowing stages. Here we look briefly at reaping and keeping.

 

Stage 3

Reaping

Once we have won a hearing for the truth about Jesus and have communicated it in a relevant way we need to provide a context where people can respond to the challenge that results. We need to encourage people to “follow” the Jesus they have discovered.

There are many different ways that churches do this – Courses such as Alpha, guest services designed to challenge people to follow Jesus, as well as in one to one conversations.

 

Stage 4

Keeping

As I discovered many years ago the process includes becoming part of a community with others who have also discovered the truth about Jesus and are following him. There is a continuation of joint discovery. This is a great challenge for both those who have newly discovered Jesus and well as for the existing community.

Too often we reduce this to expecting people to be added to a meeting rather than a community. A meeting that often feels foreign and strange!

We need to learn again what it means to be a loving open community. We need to learn again what it means to be real friends rather than people who attend meetings together. There is much work to be done on what a church that is helping people to discover the truth about Jesus looks like, if we expect to keep those we reach!

In my next blog I will share some more insights I have gleaned over the years about the journey of discovery.

 

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Helping people discover the truth about Jesus – Part 4

Starting to unpack the implications of the process of discovery

As soon as we acknowledge the concept of a process we need to ask ourselves what are the key elements of that process. Many have written about this, I find Laurence Singlehurst’s description in his book “Sowing, reaping and keeping” especially helpful.

Laurence identifies 4 stages in the process:

 

Stage 1.

Sowing 1

Helping people understand that God is good and we, His people, are OK. Many outside the church have a wrong view about God and his people. This has to be corrected if we are to win a hearing for the truth about Jesus. We do this by demonstrating the love of Christ. This can be done through supernatural means, e.g. praying for healing and people experiencing it; by social concern, e.g. getting involved in the community to do it good, e.g. food banks, debt advice centres. We should be doing this anyway, because we love people. By doing them we demonstrate the love of Christ and win a hearing for the truth about Jesus.

 

Stage 2.

Sowing 2

Once we have won a hearing for the gospel we need to communicate the truth about Jesus in a relevant way. Methods used in previous generations when everyone knew the basics of the Christian story no longer work. We need to find new ways that stay true to the Bible story. E.g.  When talking with Muslims it is helpful to start with what the Koran teaches about Jesus. See Nick Chatrath’s book “Reaching Muslims” for examples of how to do this.

For most we need to communicate the big story of the Bible, from creation in Genesis 1 to recreation in Revelation 22 and how Jesus fits into that story. We can help people understand why it is relevant and important by talking about how we “make idols” in our lives – things that we worship and try to put in the place of God but that cannot satisfy us. We can talk about the longing in people for a Father that only God the Father can fulfil.

I could write another series of blogs on this subject, maybe I will in the future. Enough for now.

In my next blog I will look at the final 2 stages of the process.

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Helping people discover the truth about Jesus – Part 3

Our motivation.

In previous blogs I have written about the crucial importance of our being motivated by compassion and by love. I will therefore not say too much more. However, it does need to be recognised that this is where we have to start.

Too often we can be motivated out of guilt, something we really should be doing but don’t really want to, motivated by wanting to look good to others, maybe even to God himself.

Christ’s love should compel us (see 2 Corinthians 5v14).

I know the total difference discovering the truth about Jesus has made in my life, I’m compelled to want others to discover the same for themselves.

Christ’s love doesn’t just provide us with motivation, it also provides a model for how we go about it – in love!

The next few blogs unpack probably the most important lesson I have learnt over the years. Discovering the truth about Jesus is a process more than just a decision. It is a process that includes being part of a community after the decision to follow Christ. In many ways the massive challenge we currently face is enabling those who have recently discovered the truth about Jesus to be part of the church community. More of this to come.

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Helping people discover the truth about Jesus – Part 2

Putting things into context

The first thing I want to say is that helping people discover the truth about Jesus is one thing amongst many that the church is called to do. We are called to care for the poor, with no strings attached, seek to bring justice and mercy wherever it is needed, we are called to worship God, we are to enable God’s will to be done on earth as it is being done in heaven.

We are to do all these things, however our mandate also includes helping people discover the truth about Jesus. “Making disciples of all nations” is how Jesus expressed it just before he returned to heaven – Matthew 28v19.

The context that many churches find themselves in is such that few people not brought up in a church community are discovering the truth about Jesus. This can result in us focusing on our other callings. We are bombarded with the fact that a massive percentage of people who discover Jesus do so before the age of 18. This is used to promote the importance of investing in youth and children’s work rather than seeking to put effort into helping over 18’s not brought up in church discover the truth about Jesus.

I know the challenges, however I still feel that we cannot afford to side step the importance of sharing what we have discovered with others, especially those outside of the church community.

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.