“I haven’t mentioned my faith, I just don’t think I have a good enough relationship yet?”. Maybe you have heard this statement or said it yourself. When is enough relationship enough to share your faith? Navigating complex relationships cannot be reduced to a three point, step by step plan. Believers need to make their own sound judgments as to how to gauge the point in the relationship that gospel conversation is appropriate. However, when it does come to that appropriate time to share their faith, do members of our churches know what to do?
Relationship is important in personal evangelism, especially to Generation X (born in the 60’s-80’s). Generational consultant, Graham Codrington in his book Mind The Gap reflects on this pragmatic generation born into a divorce boom. He states: “Many an Xer spent every second weekend at their other parents home and saw a profusion of different family relationships such as ‘dad’s girlfriend’ and ‘mums ex-husband’. No wonder Xers are skeptical about relationships, yet feel a need to fill the void with something else. This has turned out to be surrogate families made up of friends and peers who are chosen for their closeness, loyalty and dependable relationships.”
Evangelism Explosion (EE) has just developed a new tool to help people discover how to navigate into those relational networks and build genuine connection to share their faith. Its called XEE. Many of you may be familiar with the ministry of EE in the past and those two famous questions. Perhaps you even saw fruit from it many years ago but you wouldn’t choose to use it now. The popularity of EE after its introduction to Australia in 1974 flowed largely from the focus on the assurance of salvation that spoke to a generation whose background generally had a positive church experience.
Times and culture have changed, and while the gospel doesn’t change, the pragmatics of evangelism have must. Parish Evangelism Minister Stuart Starr observes that now we find ourselves in a relational culture with a prevailing cynicism of church. “Many GenXers live with a pretty full calendar of commitments. It is quite possible for Christians to have totally parallel lives to those of the unchurched around them. Consequently many exist in friendship networks that simply don’t cross, except at work for men or for women in times of childbirth, childcare and choosing friends. Outside of these, necessity to meet new friends is removed and most people will continue with complete stability in their existing networks hardly ever crossing paths with a Christian unless they are a member of their existing family or friends.” It then it becomes imperative that we place a high priority on engaging with the world around us and begin to bend the lines so that the networks cross.
XEE places this meeting of parallel lives firmly at the centre of its new training tool. In consultation with leaders across four continents and produced here in Australia and being used around the world, XEE is an equipping tool now being used to help believers of all ages share the gospel with Christian illiterates
Churches using XEE are equipped at a Facilitators Workshop, and then see training take place in facilitator led small groups based on high quality DVD material, group discussion and mentoring through real connect activities. There are a three layers to the training each with a number of specific units.
The first layer is Connect helping people develop their relational skills and build intentional relationships. XEE’s function is not simply to cate Save chize the learners but to provide them with tools that can create an opportunity to share what they learn. XEE then goes further than that. The second layer, Share develops a simple structure that people can use to begin share their faith while remaining flexible enough to be personalized and not be a spiel to be rote learned and recited. Multiply is the third layer equipping people to grow disciples who can also “be fishers of men”.
In our post church culture, being equipped for personal evangelism is now more important than ever. Whilst being only one of a number of tools aimed at today’s generation, XEE’s quality material, practical teaching on how to engage in gospel conversations, and inherited focus on putting the training into practice makes it a tool no pastor can afford to leave uninvestigated.
Langdon Stewart is the Australian Director for XEE and has served with Evangelism Explosion around the pacific for the last six years.
Harry Goodhew is a member of the Australian and International Boards of Evangelism Explosion International. He was previously Anglican Archbishop of Sydney.