Is sharing your faith *actually* counter-productive?

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So you may have seen that some new research has just come out looking at perceptions of Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England. Called ‘Talking Jesus’ the research was done by the respected Barna group and commissioned by the Church of England, Evangelical Alliance and Hope.

My mother in law actually flagged this up to me, as she arrived to see us today clutching a piece clipped from the Telegraph. In the paper the story is shortened and immediately got up my nose, with the implication it gave that sharing one’s faith does more harm than good.  The full version here has more info and seems a little more balanced. But it is this kind of reporting that irritates me most. The media has a role to give us the news, not their version of it. If you actually read the full report it is actually very positive, so it’s just typical that the Telegraph has highlighted the negative stats.

For example, the report begins with these questions:

What do people in this nation know and believe about Jesus? What do they really think of us, his followers? Are we talking about Jesus enough? And when we are, are we drawing people closer towards him, or further away?

and goes on to say this:

This piece of research had the potential to equip every Christian to have these conversations. But we wanted to make sure. So denominational leaders agreed to fund further, more comprehensive, research… This piece of research should provoke us to prayer as our hearts are heavy with the reality of how little our friends and neighbours understand about who Jesus is. But there are glimmers of hope; we are excited about this unique opportunity to understand the landscape we are in. This is not a quick-fix strategy, but a long-term commitment to changing the story in our nation, so that people might meet Jesus, love him and follow him.

Hardly an overall summary that sharing one’s faith does more harm than good, more that perhaps we should do it more. The report doesn’t just look at evangelism it also looks at who people think Jesus was and what their perceptions are of the faith. But as evangelism is something I’m passionate about I want to highlight that.

So to balance it out, here’s a few positives:

66% of practising Christians have talked about Jesus to a non-Christian in the past month

72% of practising Christians feel comfortable talking to non-Christians about Jesus

44% of practising Christians credit their friends for introducing them to Jesus

 

Woah, so 66% of Christians have actually talked to someone else about their faith in the last month? How encouraging is that!? I’m always hearing people say they find it hard to talk about their faith or they would feel awkward or wouldn’t know what to say. But these stats seems to show people do still do it! And what’s more it is clearly having an impact as 44% of Christians credit friends with helping them come to faith.

There are some negatives so here’s a few:

40% of people do not realise Jesus was a real person who actually lived

One in four 18 to 34-year-olds thinks Jesus was a mythical or fictional character

This is sad but not unexpected, so perhaps we need to change the way we are having these conversations rather than stop them completely! The Great Commission in Mathew 28 tells the disciples to share the good news and to teach believers to do as they are doing, so then it is our commission too, to tell people about Jesus. We cannot deny it. I’m sorry if you are a quiet ‘my faith is personal’ type., because that’s just not biblical I’m afraid (yes yes you can disagree but how do you think people will know about Jesus if we don’t tell them…?). The report says this:

Each of us is called to take part in the Great Commission. As followers of Christ, we should be vocal about our faith, and it seems many of us are. Our research showed that 95% of practising Christians believe “it is every Christian’s responsibility to talk to non-Christians about Jesus Christ”. That’s why so many of us are often talking to people about Jesus.

However it also says this:

More than half of non-Christians (54%) who know a Christian, have not had a conversation with this person about faith in Jesus. Two thirds (64%) of 45-54 year olds who know a practising Christian say they have never had a conversation with any practising Christian about their faith in Jesus Christ.

This is more what I expected to see to be honest. But despite this, figures also show that generally Christians are liked and well received, for example friendly and caring, with much lower numbers saying Christians were, for example, narrow minded or hypocritical.

As the report also points out, not everyone had a positive reaction even to Jesus himself. Heck, even in his own town he was nearly thrown from a cliff! (Luke 4) So perhaps that should give us some encouragement too. The bible shows us that not everyone will respond to the gospel, so we shouldn’t expect everyone to. Our commission is to tell people, not drag them into the kingdom kicking and screaming! And that can be tough of course. For those close to us, for those in true need, we so long for them to know Jesus, to see their lives transformed by him. But we must also remember others salvation is not our responsibility. My heart is currently breaking for a few people who I long to turn to Jesus. They are broken, in need, struggling with life and yet something holds them back…

The report ends with this:

What this study reveals is that people are far more open than we might realise. After we’ve had conversations with non-Christians about Jesus, one in five of them is open to finding out more about him…

So we need to talk about him: to more people, more often, and more relevantly. The research shows that so many of us are already talking about Jesus. We are not ashamed of the gospel, despite some of us feeling ill-equipped to talk to our not-yet Christian friends and family members about Jesus.

So, let’s focus on that, let’s be encouraged, let’s share the good news that we know can transform people. Let us not be put off by scaremongering Journo’s with nothing better to do that knock the church some more…

#Write31Days Round Up

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#Write31Days Round Up // Day 31

Phew! made it to the last day, so I hope you’ve enjoyed this series or found it useful. To finish I’m just posting a list of all the posts so they are all in one place. 

1. Intro – 31 days of out there, loving one another with purpose.

2. Why be ‘Out There’?

3.Being Incarnational

4. Bless Where you are

5. Foundations: Prayer

6. Foundations: Love LoveOneAnotherJPG

7. Foundations: Relationships

8. Foundations: Team

9. Clearing our rubbish

10. Radical Transformation of life?

11. Sabbath

12. Church Live – reaching the nations with Social Media

13. A transforming presence

14. Being transformed

15. What’s your vision?

16. Really getting ‘Out There

17. Loving People

18. Sabbath

19. What is Mission Not?

20.‘Out There’

21. Church in a Pub

22. Working Ecumenically – a necessary challenge!

23. Resources for Mission & Outreach

24. Dave Walker cartoon ‘ Where is the church’?

25. Sabbath

26. Out There Video

27. Moving from Prayer to Something

28. Funding for Mission

29. To Jesus or not to

30. Social Media & Mission

31. this one!

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Social Media & Mission

Social Media & Mission // #Write31Days // Day 30

Ok So I’m a blogger, of course I’m going to rave about Social media. It is a passion of mine. I’ve written about it before here and here and here, here on a Christian Practice of Internet use and here on a short guide to soc med in the church, and plenty of other places too! But listen up people, the church needs to embrace social media – it was referred to as new media but it’s not new anymore! the world has embraced it and we need to as well if we want to reach people.

So whatever you are doing, whether you are a church, starting a new initiative, planning an event, get a Facebook page, post some tweets, it will get the word out there and feed into that all important communication which I mentioned a few days ago. It’s not difficult and if you don’t know where to start ask someone who does.

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One of my fave people right now is Pope Francis (@pontifex). On the World Day of Communications last year, he said felt the internet was a gift from God, when referring to its benefits and possibilities! He asked also:

How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel? 

So then there’s a challenge to us, and in my essay that I wrote about here I asked myself how does a christian use Social Media any different to anyone else? How can we enable others to meet with Jesus through our online use? Of course being authentic, not hiding our faith, being open to talking (or writing!) about it is key but more than that, I think need to be intentional about it.

So in mission, are we using soc med to share what we are doing? are we being overt about our faith? I mean it’s not just getting out into the community, what about our own friends and family too? Are they seeing us giving glory to God online and with boldness?

And here’s another question, how many people have you ‘friended’ or ‘followed’ online who you’ve met through a missional outreach? Are you actually forming friendships as you would with others?Actually soc med is a great way to interact with new friends in mission as it’s pretty non threatening. They don’t have to give you a phone number and also have the option to unfollow/block you if they are worried! That can actually be a real concern for some people, especially the most vulnerable.

dannyQuote3JPGAnd more than that how about a soc med campaign? For 2 years we have run ‘Share the Hope’ through Advent, an evangelistic campaign run solely online to encourage people to think about hope in a very busy time of year. This (left) was a quote from last year. Jesus is for everyone, exactly that! and if we want our social media use to be missional we must remember that and meet people where they are at. And for many where they are at is online! 

A few weeks ago I wrote this:

One of the biggest reasons to reach ‘out there’ – to outside our church walls – is that so many people just wouldn’t step foot over the threshold of a church. So how will we share the Gospel if we don’t get ‘out there’? And of course for some, coming to church is more than a mental barrier it’s a physical one.

and this:

 Isn’t our mission to reach ‘all nations’ with the message of Jesus? Well here’s a very 21st century way of doing just that…

Do we need any other reason to use social media now?

To Jesus or not to…


To Jesus or not to…. // #Write31Days // Day 29

shutterstock_321668363So a couple of days ago I wrote about how to move from praying about mission to moving on to something practical. Today I want to think about how to move from that practical thing to real discipling (this doesn’t necessarily apply if you are planting a church or similar as you are probably doing it anyway!).

This is a challenge it’s true. You’ve formed a relationship with someone, or a group of people maybe and then the question is, how, or do you, start telling them about Jesus? To Jesus or not to, now that is the question! A friend told me recently of an experience where she found herself bound by regulations and unable to speak about her faith. She told me she would never allow herself to be in that position again. And I am so with her. This is a free country, we do have the right to talk about our faith, where so many others cannot so we shouldn’t feel constrained. But that said, if you befriend people and then launch into being too full on with the gospel at the wrong time, well that’s one way to annoy people I’m sure!

Actually I think it should start well before that anyway. Be open and honest about being ‘from the church’. Talk to people about ‘prayer’ or ‘the spiritual’ right from the off. Ask God for opportunities to share those things. I’ve had conversations with people where they have been ill or had an issue going on and I’ve just said, I find praying helpful and can I pray for you? Most people are open to being prayed for, even atheists I’ve found! Then you are being far more open about who you are.

You can also make the most of opportunities like Easter and Christmas which many people will understand and want to celebrate. We did an informal carol service last year at one of our projects, followed by a free lunch which worked really well. Who doesn’t love carol singing?! (or a free lunch for that matter!). If you are doing something like that you can then lead into something else, use it as an opportunity. ‘If you’ve enjoyed this morning we will be meeting on Wednesday to talk about what Easter means for us now’ for example…

IMG_20130623_141634If people then start to open up and ask questions you might find a core of people who want to know more, or who are ready for something more concrete but might not be up for ‘church’. I used to host a ‘coffee and questions’ group in which people could come and just ask any question of faith. It was very informal and worked well for a while. Of course there are standard things you can do like an Alpha course too, but remember to think about what would work in your context or with the people you are reaching out to.

One thing I have mentioned previously but I think is really important is that we don’t just think that we have to feed people into a church. Our aim is not to get them to a Sunday morning service, but to get them to know Jesus! So whatever we do we need to keep that at the forefront of our minds….

 

Funding for Mission

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Funding for Mission // #Write31Days // Day 28

I mentioned funding in yesterday’s post, so here’s a few places you might be able to apply for funding for mission projects. There are of course many others but this should give you a starting point. If you apply, do your homework well, find out exactly what they will fund and how you apply, then do a thorough and well put together application.
All Churches Trust

Grants will be considered for Churches, Church establishments, religious charities, charities preserving UK heritage, theological colleges, schools promoting Christian religion, charities sponsored or recommended by the Church in the United Kingdom. Grants tend to be made for general works, repairs, refurbishment and

Children in Need

The BBC Children in Need Main Grants programme distributes grants of over £10,000 to not for profit organisations such as Registered charities; Voluntary organisations; Schools ; Churches; and Community groups, etc that work with disadvantaged children below the age of 18 living in the UK

Burden Trust

The Trust makes grants of up to £5,000 to voluntary and community organisations benefitting the young or people in need. The scheme is intended to support organisations undertaking projects to benefit those in need, including schools and training institutions

The Church Central Fund

The Church and Community Fund (CCF) assists the Church of England to develop its capacity to engage with the whole community through supporting innovative use of resources, help transform areas of greatest need and opportunity and grow spiritually and numerically

Church Urban Fund

The Church Urban Fund is a not-for-profit organisation supporting social action in the poorest parts of England.

CREATE

CREATE provides small grants to projects throughout the country via the administration of two funds: The Christian Fund and The Community Fund

Esmee Fairburn Foundation

The Main Fund is open to applications for support from across our sectors, which are:

  • Arts
  • Education and Learning
  • Environment
  • Social Change

Hilden Charitable Fund

The aim of the fund is to address disadvantages, notably by supporting causes which are less likely to raise funds from public subscriptions.

Jerusalem Trust

The objectives of the Jerusalem Trust Grant are to advance the Christian religion and to promote Christian organisations and the charitable purposes and institutions they support and to advance Christian education and learning.

Moto in the Community Trust

The Moto in the Community Trust looks to support a wide variety of local charity and community projects with a 25 miles radius of its 48 service stations. There are three types of grants under the Moto in the Community Trust umbrella. Community Grant; ‘Making a difference’ Grant (employee volunteering scheme); and Moto Benevolent Fund Grant. The Community Grant Scheme is the most appropriate scheme for outside bodies wishing to approach the Moto in the Community Trust.

O2 Think Big Community Programme

The O2 programme supports projects by young people (13 – 25) that have a positive impact upon their community.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation

is one of the larger independent grant-making foundations in the UK. The Foundation makes grants to organisations which aim to maximise opportunities for individuals to experience a full quality of life, both now and in the future.

The Greggs Foundation

The Greggs Foundation prioritises local organisations that help people in need in their local area. Many charitable causes can be supported through the programme. Most of the grants are to support an identifiable cause such as trips, activities and equipment.

The Woodward Charitable Trust

is one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. Applications will only be considered if they fall within the following areas; Children and young people who are isolated, at risk of exclusion or involved in anti-social behaviour; Minority groups including refugees, gypsies and travellers; Prisoners and ex-offenders; Disability projects which can include rehabilitation and training for people who are either physically disabled or learning disabled, as well as help to improve employment prospects; Homelessness, especially affecting young people and women, and covering facilities such as women’s refuges; Arts outreach work by local groups for the benefit of disadvantaged people; Environmental projects, especially with a strong educational element.

 

 

Just came across this article, so I’m linking it here. if you’re a church receiving money from people in your congregation, it’s so relevant. You have to take people with you in your vision, otherwise they will just think you are spending all their money on ‘repaving the parking lot’…

Moving from Prayer to Something

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Moving from Prayer to Something // #Write31Days // Day 27

So at the beginning of this series I talked about building a foundation of prayer before anything else. And the challenge then is how you move from that into something practical, and then how you move from that to something more spiritual, (assuming you aren’t just planting a church that is) and of course the key is to be guided by God in that.

A few things I’ve learned along the way are:

  1. Listen to God  – If you are on a mission from God you have to be guided by him! simple :) I had a bit of an eye opener on this, as I’m a planner and organiser, I’m often thinking of the practical things. In one particular prayer meeting I was feeling stressed that we were taking up all the planning time. One member of the group just said to me, listen to God, and all of a sudden it was like a download, answers to questions, lists of things to do. I just started scribbling it all down and that was all I needed in that moment. That isn’t to say you can’t plan at all, we need both of course, but never forget that God is the manager in whatever you are planning, not you!
  2. Listen to the peopleThe Mission Shaped church report  (which although a bit dated now is well worth a read) had a section on ‘double listening’ – listen to God, but also listen to context. And it’s so true, we need to also focus on the area God has put us in, what is needed, what is missing, what do people actually want. The idea for our community cafe came from locals, Church in a Pub came when the Landlord suggested doing just that, our skip day began as a result of seeing what was needed in the area. Look around, ask around and move forward from that.
  3. Working with others – I’ve found it key to work with other churches and other agencies. It doesn’t always work and sometimes people don’t want to, but at least trying this is a good start. It also means you are keeping people in the loop on what you are planning. You don’t want to start something to find there is already a local group doing the same, or planning to do something similar. It can save a lot of time and energy to do a bit of homework first! And it may just work out well, as it did with our cafe, which has volunteers from 4 local churches.  Also, as I’ve written before, it’s so important to at least consult with other churches, we are all in the same game, worshiping the same God and there is nothing worse than churches being annoyed at each other. You might find working together won’t work but still talk to each other!
  4. Which brings me on to communication – important on so many levels!! As I’ve said, with other churches and agencies but also with the context – keeping people informed on what you’re doing, and not least with your church. People want to know where there money is going, where time is being spent and what’s more, what God is doing! So tell them. We’re starting a new thing where each outreach project gets a slot on a Sunday morning once a year to tell the church how it is going which also means people get to see the leaders and to know who they are. Not only that but we have regular updates on our Facebook page too so people can see how things are developing. And one thing that I repeat time and again is – ‘you can put on the most amazing event, but if no one knows about it no one will come’! Whatever you are planning, make sure people know. Leaflet drops, posters, word of mouth, school assemblies, Social media – use it all. I don’t think you can ever over-communicate so go for it!
  5. Finances – a tricky one and again depends on your context, but you might just have a fab idea and no money. God often provides and opens up avenues of funding you may never have thought of, incurring the miraculous! But it’s worth looking into funding bodies of which there are many. Try those linked to the church or those are Christian but also if you’re doing something specific look at those that cover that area, for example we’re looking at running a homework club, so we could look to educational charities for computers or other equipment.  If you are in the CofE your diocese may have a mission fund you can apply to and if not still ask them, if they think it’s worthwhile they might just find you the money anyway. And talk to people in the know, or in relevant positions of authority who might give support to your project, with the church/ diocese but also try your local council. You may find your church has funds to put behind your project too, but make sure you think about set up costs and ongoing costs, you don’t want to get a few months in and find there is no money.

So there’s just a few things to consider, feel free to get in touch if you have questions or would like to know more…

 

 

The shame of self-promotion…

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I’ve been blogging for about 5 years now. When I started I really just wanted to write about what was going on in our lives. We had just begun following Jesus and life was ker-ay-zee… So I started writing. It wasn’t my first blog, I’ve loved writing for a while but this one was THE one. Before it had been a bit hit and miss but now, well now I really had something to write about. And because of that it’s been easy. Initially I thought this is part diary for me, to remember all this crazy stuff, but also I wondered if it might help or reach people. So to some extent I didn’t really mind whether people read it or not.

However, I can’t say that I don’t care AT ALL. That would be lying, and therein is the problem with blogging as a Christian (or perhaps as anyone). Because once you do it, people start reading it, then you get some likes or subscribers, then you get comments, and conversations start going and then, well then you start looking at stats. It is, I would suggest, unavoidable. After all if you are writing publicly then you can’t say you don’t care if anyone reads it, because if that was the case you’d keep a diary.

…o0O0o…

That isn’t to say that your motives aren’t honourable. I would count myself in this bracket (how modest of me). I still write for personal pleasure and to record things, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, but I do find myself writing more and more with an audience in mind. Is that ok, I ask myself? I challenge my motives each time I write. Why am I writing this, is it because I want lots of people to ‘like’ the post, or because I want to reach an audience, or is it because it’s something I feel strongly about?

…o0O0o…

Pride. That’s what I’m talking about really. Ugh, in Christian circles that’s practically like swearing. We talk about being motivated by pride, by the enemy, are we, dare I say it, ‘self-promoting’?

There was a Twitter conversation last week in which this issue was raised, in which self-promotion was berated as a terrible thing, and some strong opinions were aired. I found myself asking why on earth people felt that strongly about it. In a class last year, one of my tutors shared a quote which suggested that when you criticise someone, it is usually because you are holding a mirror up to yourself – i.e. recognising in them the things you don’t like in yourself. Contraversial maybe and I can’t speak for the people in that Twitter conversation, but it certainly challenged me.

…o0O0o…

LikeI try not to ‘self-promote’ as it were. My blog does not bear my name because I want it to be with God as the focus, not me. I tweet because I like tweeting, not just to publicise my writing. But I still share all my posts on Twitter, I still have a Facebook page for my blog, I still get excited when others share my posts or retweet them. Is that wrong? I don’t know, perhaps if we are overly obsessed with stats maybe. But if you have something to share then you want to share it. I would defy any blogger to say that they never look at stats, or never feel a little bit pleased when a post is really popular. As human beings I don’t think we can deny that we want to feel loved, we want to feel accepted. If you put yourself out there (and writing is very personal) then you want people to respond, of course you do.

…o0O0o…

So where do we draw the line and who even draws it anyway? Like anything, we have to make that choice ourselves. As someone said to me this week, if you are running a business and that business is yourself then you need to publicise ‘you’. But when is that too much? do we have rules: how many tweets, how many posts, how many ‘look this is what I’m doing this week’ posts?

…o0O0o…

fearfullyJPGAs a society we live in an age of self-promotion. That’s what’s social media is all about, sharing the ‘me’ that ‘I’ want people to see, with those around me. And again, who would say that they don’t secretly quite like it when a post gets masses of ‘likes’? I’ve written before about the dangers of this, the younger crowd with their constant ‘like for a rate’ posts, ‘like for like’, ‘I follow back’ and all that, yes there is a danger of becoming so full of pride that we are selfish and self-centred. We do need to be aware of that. But there is nothing wrong with embracing who God made us to be, to recognise those gifts, to use them and to yes, be proud of them! After all he gave them to us…

So then, let’s celebrate the awesomeness of God in us, rather than being falsely humble or tearing apart each others personal ‘brand’ (and I blame the Daily Mail for that little trait…). We are all much better than that…

 

For various reasons this post has been edited from the original.

Out There

‘Out There’ // #Write31Days //  Day 26 

So the whole title of this series is ‘Out There’ because that’s what I feel as the church we need to do more of! It’s also the title of a new series of events we’re doing at church to encourage people to get out in their communities. Here’s a little video of the first one….

Where is ‘the church’ ?

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#Write31Days // Day 24

A little pictorial interlude today. Came across this cartoon from Dave Walker today and thought it perfect for this series of posts. You can see more of his work at Cartoon Church...