How to prepare for an outreach event
- Written by: Sarah Seabrook
Event evangelism. Has it had its day? Not if you look at what is still happening in our churches in the School Holidays, at Easter and around Christmas. We still like to invite friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues to a gathering that isn’t church but where the hope is they might hear something of the gospel or even perhaps a very clear gospel presentation and a call to respond. Getting it right for everyone is pretty tricky. How do we make it outsider friendly? When will the talk be and for how long? What ought to happen around the talk time?
We often put a lot of effort into the event we are holding and possibly not as much effort and time into preparing ourselves beforehand. So, if you do go to an event as a believer, what should your attitude and actions be?
There are 3 things that need to inform our attitude.
1. Be convinced that God will work because Christ came to save sinners and God desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). He will work through the message of the gospel in power and the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:1, 2:13) and in you ‘to fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power’ (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
2. Be assured that the message is relevant because the gospel is the means of salvation for every single person and ‘God commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30-31).
3. Be aware that you have a role to play because the message is always delivered in a context. The relationship between the people who are listening is significant. In a very encouraging article about how sceptics have come to Christ, the number one influence was having a close relationship with a Christian who was patient and open with them (J. Harmon, worldviewbulletin.substack.com/p/what-ilearned- from-100-atheists) The New Testament exhorts Christians to live a life/walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (eg: 1 Thess. 2:11, Titus 2:11- 14, Eph. 4:1) speaking and walking in love (Eph. 4:15, 5:2), being wise (Eph. 5:10), pleasing to God and bearing fruit (Col. 1:10). Our friends and family see how we live, and they will have questions for us. It is up to us to be ready to answer them.
As for our actions, there are 6 ‘P’ things to do – two before the event and four at the event.
1. Pray. We know it is a spiritual act to be reconciled to God, to no longer be alienated and hostile to Him (Col 1: 21-22), and to be brought out from the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19-20). Not many come to Christ in one hearing of the gospel. God often draws people to himself over a long time. This event may be one of many things God is using to awaken people. We need to remember it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin (John 16:8) and that God will open hearts for people to pay attention and believe (as happened to Lydia in Acts 16) so we ask God to do just that.
2. Practice gospel speech. At the event the speaker is going to assume that believers will continue talking about the gospel issues, but often our church people are not ready or keen to do that! A bit of forethought and training does not go astray. A church which has learnt to love and speak gospel truths to one another is going to find it a lot easier to include the outsider in that sort of conversation. We have found it particularly effective at our church to model and expect that parishioners will talk about the sermon after the service and enquire after each other’s spiritual well-being. We also have open mic times of praise for answered prayer. Peter tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have (1Peter 3:14-15) so we need to practice. To that end, running a course or including role playing (maybe during Bible Study) where the congregants are engaged in turning conversations to Jesus is very effective. There are a variety of courses around and you can visit the Evangelism and New Churches website to find out more. (encministries.org.au)
At the event:
1. Pay attention to what is said. For a lot of us we can tune out when we listen to a talk at an event, or we tune in to the illustration and miss the point. Try putting yourself in the shoes of the outsider. Listen so that you are internally asking questions of what is said and make a mental note of something that would be a good springboard for conversation.
2. Politely engage in conversation. We are not there to verbally pound people into submission. We want to be respectful and loving, having our conversation full of grace, seasoned with salt so that we can discern how to answer people when they have questions (Col 4: 5-6).
3. Prompt conversation by asking good questions! If you look at how Jesus engaged with people, he spent a lot of time asking them questions. Questions show that you are interested in others. They also allow people to gather their thoughts and provide the space to deal with spiritual things. After all, those invited guests know they’ve come to a Christian event. They know these kinds of topics are on the table. If you apply the above you can ask: ‘I thought it was interesting how the speaker said that the world’s complexity points to God, what were your thoughts on that?’
4. And lastly, prove that what was said out the front is true in your experience. Your ‘story’ is powerful. You are living proof that what the speaker said is true. Find ways to declare God’s excellencies to those around you (1 Peter 2:9-12) so that they know the gospel is transformational knowledge. I find that people gifted in evangelism have no trouble with this part (or any of the others actually!). They delight in telling others about how God has worked in their life. However, for your ‘average’ (especially Anglo) Christian speaking up about the goodness of God to them in salvation does not come as easily. This is where ‘God talk’ is good to model and teach (see point 2 Practice Gospel Speech) so that we are ready to be engaged in it with outsiders.
Sarah Seabrook is a Trainer and Evangelist at Evangelism and New Churches (ENC) in Sydney.
Reflections on the Evangelistic Opportunities of a School Chaplain
- Written by: Louise Davies
I have been a School Chaplain for almost 9 years and am currently working at the New England Girls’ School (NEGS) in Armidale NSW. NEGS is both a day and boarding school, so the evangelistic opportunities I have do not end when the bell rings at the end of the day. They continue as I support and cheer on students at their weekend sporting events, taking students to Youth Group on a Friday night, or simply walking around the school grounds after school with my 2 dogs beside me allowing boarders to love them as they miss their own dogs back home. The role of a chaplain is wide and varied, and the evangelistic opportunities are endless.
I work in both the Junior and Senior School (Pre-K – Year 12) alongside staff, students, and families from a range of backgrounds and religions. Each week I teach Christian Studies to every student from Pre-K to Year 10, run independent chapel services and lunchtime groups for both the junior and senior students, and provide pastoral care to students, staff, and families.
I thought the best way to provide a glimpse into the daily opportunities I have is to detail for you two examples of interactions I have had.
Emma* is a year 7 student who showed enthusiasm and a keenness to learn from day 1. Emma: I believe in God, and I believe that Jesus is God, but how can He be both God’s son and God at the same time?
Me: What a brilliant question! Everyone grab a Bible from the shelf. I want this side of the room to read this passage from Genesis 1, and this side of the room to read this passage from John 1.
(What followed was a discussion where the students were able to compare the passages and see how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were there at the beginning of the world, and how the Word that John speaks about is actually Jesus.)
Kirrily*: I think my scripture teacher showed me a diagram for this. Can I draw it on the board? (Student then draws a diagram which gives the students a visual prompt as they begin to understand the complexities of the trinity.)
This interaction was in just my second lesson with them, and each lesson since has been an absolute joy. They do not all believe in God, however they are all respectful, inquisitive and are keen to ask the questions they have and discover the answers.
The second example I will give is an interaction between myself and a Kindergarten class.
Context: In the junior school chapel we had been working through ‘The King, The Snake and The Promise’ where we see the big picture of the Bible.
Me: This story is all about what God did to fix the problem of sin. Let’s see if we can remember what we’ve been looking at in chapel, so we know where we are up to in God’s story. What is the first picture we looked at?
A range of students: from there the class then retell the story from creation to exile prompting each other as they went. They remembered every picture and used them to recall the story. I barely had to say a word to help them.
Their teacher and I looked at each other in disbelief because they had remembered so many details!
I have given you an example from both the Junior and Senior School. I did this intentionally. One of the most amazing things as a school chaplain at a Pre-K – 12 school is that there are students who remain at the same school for up to 14 years. So, they are being taught from God’s Word regularly and the chaplains can get to know them and their families.
When you see students in your class regularly each week, in chapel services, at sporting events, youth group etc., you don’t have to rush to get the message of Jesus out there thinking you will never see them again like other areas of ministry. There is time. I am a big believer in taking time to build up a positive rapport with the entire school community. This can happen over a number of years due to the nature of a school. I worked at my previous school for 8 years and was able to walk alongside families during their best days and their worst. I have rejoiced with them at the birth of a new child and mourned with them and helped with funeral arrangements at the death of a loved one. When you ‘do life’ together, the evangelistic opportunities come naturally. As a chaplain, the school community obviously know I am a Christian, they know I am there to teach students about Jesus, but I also hope they see my role as more than that. I am there to love and support staff, families and students day to day. Whether that is assisting a teacher for an hour or two if their class is unsettled, going to the Junior School Disco dressed up as a Disco Pelican (true story) to be an extra set of eyes for supervision, or cheering on students at the weekend sports. It is through these everyday things that the school gets to know me, and I them. When that evangelistic opportunity comes, either formally in a chapel service or informally during a discussion at recess, they tend to listen because they know there is trust there, not judgment. There is a relationship that has been built to support what can sometimes be a hard thing to hear.
I could write forever about all the joys as a chaplain, but there are of course challenges too. Students who have no interest in what I’m teaching, the emotional toll of often discussing hard topics and being asked the big questions, seeing students finish school without putting their trust in Jesus. However, the one thing that keeps me going (besides the support of many teachers and families) is knowing this isn’t my work, but God’s. I’m simply the vessel. I do not know what God has planned for the students in my care, but my prayer that I often pray at the beginning of each day on my way to school, is this:
I pray that on that final day when You return or call us home, many of my students, staff, and families, both past and present, will be rejoicing with me together in heaven. And may my work be done for Your glory.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality.
Lou Davies is the Chaplain of New England Girls’ School (NEGS) in Armidale NSW.
Training in Evangelism Today
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
How do we best train people in personal evangelism today?
In a recent survey of our church it emerged that the vast majority saw personal evangelism as their individual responsibility (83%). It seems that very few had bought the line that evangelism was only for the specialists or the especially gifted. The average parishioner knew it was at least partly their job. Yet, in the same survey it also emerged that at least half that number had virtually no spiritual conversations with non-Christians in the previous year. Not unexpectedly such a situation leads to an ongoing and constant low-level sense of failure and frustration: “I want to share Christ, I know I ought to share Christ, and yet I rarely do it”. In the same survey most (84%) felt comfortable to clearly explain the gospel, and whether we agree with this assessment matters little in regards to a conclusion that a sense of inability to share the gospel does not represent a primary barrier to speaking.
How Are We Going with Evangelism?
- Written by: Julie-Anne Laird
Recently, in my role as Chair of Lausanne Australia, we gathered 330 key leaders around Australia and I asked people to vote on how we're going with evangelism? In each State, the agreed amount was either 2/10 or 3/10. People really feel like we are failing in evangelism. In my other role as the Specialist Consultant for Evangelism and Mission for City to City Australia, I've been going around to Churches and helping them try and turn around with evangelism. This has been so good! But similarly, people really feel like we are not doing well with evangelism. Here's a few things that I've observed...
1. We Need To Pray
The thing to note is that Christians have a real heart for their non-Christian friends and would love them to know Jesus, but they feel inadequate to speak and they have lost the burden to pray. I often say, it's like we've given up on God, that he could possibly draw our friend or family member to Himself. All revivals start with prayer, and I feel like things are shifting in Australia. We know we are not doing that well now, which is a good posture to have because we know we need God. Really, this should have always been our posture but somehow, we think we can do it without God if we are not praying.
Art, Cars, Coffee, Mission, and Mental Health.
- Written by: Rev Adam Gompertz w. Rev Dr Chris Porter
A Chat with the Scribbling Vicar
Psychiatric nurse and car designer come historic car artist, Station Chaplain to Bicester Heritage, pioneer missionary, and minister to the classic car community through the REVS meetings and REVS-Limiter online group, the scribbling vicar Reverend Adam Gompertz talks faith, mission, and mental health.
Chris: Moving from nursing to car design, ordination, and now as a pioneer minister is a rather large series of shifts. How did that come about?
Adam: I grew up with parents who were vicars, but like a lot of vicar’s kids I didn’t really think of ministry, and ended up getting into the car industry via a long and protracted process via psychiatric nursing. Once I was in the car industry it was prompted through a period of redundancy in the 2008 recession. There wasn’t an angel standing at the end of my bed with a flaming sword, saying “It’s you, it’s you.” Rather it was more that we started looking and the doors kept opening. I was accepted for the selection course— which I liken to the SAS except with more cake and less diving through windows. But between selection and hearing back, I had started at Rolls Royce Motor Cars and really had to make a choice. But at that point I had no pioneer leaning at all. I thought I would be a vicar in a country church in rural England and that was it.
While in the car industry, I had a sense that when you went to theological college you left your old life at the door and walked into a new life and suddenly turned into a priest. The problem is that I could never leave the cars behind. I never quite fitted in that way. I still loved the cars, and the whole scene. During college I started reading works on missionality and church, like The Shaping of Things to Come, and that blew my mind. The picture of what ministry could look like, and what ministry needed to look like in the age in which we were living. From then on, I started thinking rather than walking away, what could I do to go back into that community as a priest. That really started my thinking.
Chris: The automotive industry and classic cars tends to be a far more diverse space than what we see on a Sunday. How did you end up being a clergyperson in that space?
Adam: When I went and did my curacy, in a very wealthy area, the vicar said you are going to have to deal with people driving around in Ferraris and Aston Martins, and I was like “sure, fine, no problem.” Back in 2014 I asked him to do a car show in the church. We had 28 cars, opened the church, served food, and made sure everything was free so that people didn’t think we were after their money. At the end of that someone said to me “you know this is only going to get bigger” and I thought “this is it, we are done;” but sure enough we doubled in size each time we held it. Yet it was tough to grow relationships with an annual event, so we moved to a monthly Cars and Coffee meet in Shrewsbury. That first REVS group has just grown from there, and quite naturally I just fell into this pioneer role as God opened the doors bit by bit.
I had spent quite a bit of time in my teenage years trying to marry having a faith and being a car fanatic. Can you be both? Because I thought that surely cars are very materialistic. Over these years I have come to a position that, yes, you can do both; and perhaps in the church we should stop dividing ourselves up into our work life and spiritual life etc. I feel just as called on a Sunday morning to be in a carpark peering into somebody’s engine bay as I do in a pew. I think it’s a by-product of our evangelical underpinnings, where we see God purely in terms of church, but He is out there doing stuff and calls us to join in; often in the most surprising places.
I have just as many encounters with God around cars as I have anywhere else. Because cars give space for a community to walk with people through the highs and lows of life, and for me that is my calling. Not so much to preach at people but called to walk with them, weep when they weep, and to celebrate when they celebrate; all with the perspective of God’s kingdom.
Chris: How have you found the reception of your faith and reflections on faith in such a secular space?
Adam: When I put things out, like a Fuel for Thought, there will be people in the group who are way off the spiritual radar, others who are curious, and others who are onboard. The challenge then is how do you talk about Jesus in a way that people won’t switch off,
but a way that puts it in their language. One of the things with REVS that I felt called to ask was “what does the kingdom of God look like in a car community?” For me, that is one of the key questions that I go back to. Aspects like radical generosity, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and wholeness. What do they look like in the car community? The Fuel for Thought reflections seek to do that, and to meet people where they are at.
Church language just doesn’t work in this space, people are so unfamiliar with it, or have a simplistic one-dimensional understanding. Instead of typical church language we talk about “rust,” and “restoration,” all grounded in the car stuff that we know and love, and from there we can ask questions.
It’s what Jesus did, taking the language of fishing, planting seeds, building houses—the language of his every day—and applied the gospel to what people are familiar with. With REVS we do a “Carols by Carlight,” and use metaphors of journeying, like the Pilgrim Tour along an ancient Christian pilgrim route in North Wales. I liken it to being bilingual, speaking the language of our host culture, and being familiar with the church and theological language.
Chris: One of the challenges with car culture is that there is often a self-reliance, a stiff upper lip, and people don’t want to talk about their struggles. How have you seen REVS speaking into that space?
Adam: I think that initially it is rooted in my own walk with mental health, in that I have struggled with anxiety and depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder for around 25 years now. It has become part of our life, as a family, and we have learnt to manage and live with it. Part of my ministry came from sharing that story, and from the fact that after a major breakdown I have had the sense of God restoring me bit by bit. I just started telling my story.
Psychiatric nursing gave me an awareness of mental health, but it was my own story and God’s restoration that really promoted it. REVS really is a story of God’s restoration, it’s not a story of my own ministry, because several years ago I really thought that I was on the scrapheap.
Telling my story was the first stage, and then meeting others with a similar story, paired with a general cultural willingness to start talking about mental health. COVID and lockdown certainly had a knock on effect with people’s mental health and gave space for talking. The REVS-Limiter online community itself was borne out of our shared lockdown frustration. Charlotte—my wife—asked me one day why I was grumpier than usual, and I said, “because I can’t get the car out and meet with others,” so she suggested taking it online. I remember thinking that if I get a few people watching along it would be amazing, and by the end of the first event we had almost 3000! We made sure we talked about mental health, offered prayer, and finished each event with a prayer of blessing. REVS-Limiter doesn’t hide faith away, instead people know that as a vicar I am probably going to mention Jesus at some point, and people are open to it.
Chris: The Barna group recently found that 42% of those in ministry have considered quitting in the past year alone. Pioneer ministry is often seen as this super high stakes environment. How has the REVS ministry been a blessing to your own mental health?
Adam: Like any kind of ministry, it has its demands, and it sometimes feels like we are just making it up as we go along. Some things work, and you are amazed; then other stuff won’t. There is a great deal of introspection, which comes with ministry anyway, but heightened because this is new and different, and a sense of wanting to do things right. All things which play into my anxiety. Here the artwork that I do is great, not just as a tool for starting conversations, but also to switch off and refresh myself. But I have to be careful with my art, that it doesn’t just become another ministry tool and kill my enjoyment of it. There is a challenge with having refreshment so close to ministry. It really takes some discipline, especially as the ministry keeps expanding.
Chris: What advice do you have for others who want to engage in pioneer ministry?
Adam: You can do the same with anything. People who run groups which are all geared around baking bread or making stuff to eat, others doing stuff with animals. Dog walking is a massive way to meet people and becoming a community of some kind. In some ways I am not doing anything radical or different, certainly not from Jesus did. I’m just doing it in a different context. With REVS we talk about being community, we aren’t a car club, but a community that is open and welcoming and allows people to celebrate their own piece of car culture. Just trying to model the kingdom of God in this space.
When I was first thinking about REVS, a friend of mine advised me to be straight with where you are coming from. Because there is nothing worse than going to something and finding that you have been pulled into something else. The bait and switch of “come watch a film… oh it’s a film about Jesus.” People know where I am coming from, and who I represent. Sometimes that busts their ideas about what a vicar represents. With REVS-Limiter we say that there will be faith posts there for you to think about and reflect on, if that isn’t your thing just pass on by, but there might be something to engage with. Being up front with it leads to things like being on a podcast and having the hosts open up about their own faith journey, or others praying for people who are struggling or have had their car stolen. We need to take faith into people’s lives and go be where they are at rather than expecting them to be where we are at. Like mental health it is all about just being honest and saying, “this is me.” When you are in that space, then get people around you. For so many clergy there is a sense that they are the only ones who do ministry. Particularly within some of our more middle-class churches we have inherited this model where people come, sit, and go and that is all their involvement. Actually, that is not the church that Paul was talking about or that Jesus started, where people came, got involved, became an active community, involved in every area of life. We have made it very personal and private, with the vicar doing all the ministry. It is little surprise that many get to the point where they just can’t keep going on like that. Certainly, in the UK we have significant clergy burnout, as there is no one to help and support. With REVS I was getting to the point where I realised that the ministry needed more than just me to be involved. I have a very good group of directors around me, who are keen to release me to do the bits that I am good at and know me well enough to support my mental health.
Adam Gompertz is Station Chaplain to Bicester Heritage, and @revslimiter on Social Media