Is there a topic that you naturally find yourself talking about?
Carl Beech – who used to lead the men’s ministry CVM – doesn’t like football. However, he found that in order to have a common conversational topic with many men, he had to learn about it. How often do we Brits talk about the weather as a way of breaking the ‘conversational ice’?
A recent survey discovered that 1 in 2 non-Christians feel comfortable about having a conversation about a Christian’s faith in Jesus.
1 in 5 non-Christians are open to find out more about or have an experience of Jesus Christ.What struck me is that it was not a conversation about Christianity or the Church, but Jesus. The Evangelical Alliance, Hope Together and Church of England’s survey polled 2,545 English adults. This, and other research, formed a fascinating insight into current attitudes to Christianity in England, laid out in a document called ‘Talking Jesus.’ (available at www.talkingjesus.org )
The survey asked questions such as: ‘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?’.
Too often I’ve expected a negative reaction from people when talking about my faith. Yet this research says otherwise. I was asking some friends and former work colleagues about this. One insightful non-Christian friend said, ‘I suppose that if we were talking about Church and Christianity, I’d feel ignorant and afraid of saying something foolish or offensive. But I feel I know something about Jesus – that I could talk about him'. I find this encouraging and challenging. How often have I talked to my non-Church friends and work colleagues about Church and Christianity but not about Jesus?
This is also making me rethink how I refer to myself regarding my faith. I wonder if saying that I am a follower of Jesus is clearer – since the term ‘Christian’ is often misunderstood. But am I talking about Him, my Lord and Saviour who I’ve committed my life to follow? Too often I find myself talking about Church – programme and projects but NOT about the one who is the foundation and head of the Church!
Talking Jesus – what we are called to do. Talking about His death on the cross, Jesus said, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself" (John 12:33 NLT). Pointing people to Jesus, and to faith in Him, draws people to the only One who saves. After Pentecost, Peter & John were arrested for talking Jesus in the temple. They said to the Jewish Council, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12 ESV). He is the author and perfecter of our faith, therefore He is the one we need to point people to.
Talking Jesus – divides. I used to be part of a street evangelism team doing sketch-board talks. There was always an element of theatre about the presentation which drew attention. There would come a moment when you’d reveal the person you want to talk about, Jesus Christ. At this point many people would walk away. While I do not doubt the message, looking back I do question the method. It was like we had to lure people under a false pretence before revealing that we were Christians wanting to talk about Jesus. I do wonder if we should have been clear from the start that we were talking about Jesus. People may walk away, but people walked away from Jesus too. Then, we could concentrate on talking to the ones who actually want to know more about him. Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected which has become the cornerstone (Matt 21:42 ESV). Sadly, people will reject Jesus, he said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34 ESV). However, that does not mean we are to be silent.
Talking Jesus – challenge. Many people are ignorant of basic facts about Jesus. 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. Yet there is hope. Most non-Christians (67%) in England know a practising Christian – and that person is most likely to be a friend (40%) or family member (34%). For 15% of non-Christians, the Christian they know is an acquaintance, for 7% a colleague and for 4% a neighbour. And they don’t just know us; they like us too, with non-Christians more likely to describe us positively than negatively. If people in our country are so ignorant about who Jesus is, surely it is the responsibility of his followers to do something about it.
So what are we going to do?
For the coming Autumn we are going have a series called ‘Jesus is…’. This follows our series ‘Church is…’ with a series that focuses on Jesus as the head of the Church. On Sunday mornings we are going to talk about Jesus – trusting that those who know him will know him better and those who don’t will come to know him. We will look at significant moments of his life and mission from Mark’s gospel. This will help our services and teaching to keep focus on our Lord and Saviour, the cornerstone of our faith. In turn this will provoke discussions in our small groups about Jesus. Each week we want to give a challenge to talk about Jesus to our families, friends, work colleagues and those around us. Perhaps a question to ask is what they think about Jesus. For example, if we were talking about Jesus being a healer, a question to ask is ‘Do people think that Jesus can heal today?’
The Jewish Council charged Peter & John not speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Their response was to say “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20 NLT)
Jesus should be the person we cannot help talking about. Let us with the help of the Spirit proclaim his name everywhere we go.