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Facing Inwards/Facing Outwards? Part 2

Date Wednesday, 19th July 2023

Preached by Nick Butcher

This is part 2 of a 2 part series reflecting on the evangelistic implications of our latest series of focus studies.

Last time I put forward that the Goal of the cross was to rescue a people for God, that the proclamation of the Gospel should create a community, and therefore if we miss that from our evangelism we lose something from God’s plan for the world.

Going further, our relational life as a Church is vital to our evangelism itself. God has always intended how His community relates to one another to be part of how it draws in new family members. 

Take Jesus’ words in John 13: ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ How believers love each other shows the world that we really are different, that Jesus really has changed us. So every study we did last term is not only valuable to our communal life as a Church, but integral to our evangelism too.

My experience is that this is undeniably true. The love believers have for one another has been one of the primary things I’ve seen God use to draw in the lost. I’ve been involved with mission weeks at universities around the country, and yes people are impacted by the clear proclamation of the Gospel, but what they comment on most, what makes people linger in cold marquees and want to hang out with complete strangers is the love within the community they’re witnessing. They recognise that there is something different about Christians by how they love. Our love for eachother enables others to see the Gospel in action.

There’s something about our current cultural moment that makes this form of witness even more potent. In his book Evangelism in a skeptical age Sam Chan argues that for post-modern western people, the liveability of the Christian faith is of primary importance. Post-modernity has brought a rejection of truth claims which means logical arguments about the truth of the Gospel are largely ineffective. Furthermore, our Age of Authenticity means that people are looking for worldviews that are thorough, coherent, and real. According to Chan the chain of logic for postmoderns therefore goes like this – First people need to see ‘the Christian life is livable. If it’s liveable then it’s also believable. If it’s believable, then it’s also true.’ How are people going to see that the Gospel they hear about is liveable? By seeing how Christians live and love.

Lesslie Newbigin, writing in 1989 about mission in post-christian contexts puts it like this (emphasis my own):

‘How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross?

I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it. ‘

I’m not suggesting we stop speaking about Jesus. But we need both words and actions. The Church needs to communicate the truth of the Gospel verbally and non-verbally. There’s no point in having a loving community if we never speak about Jesus. But our actions can ‘make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’ (Titus 2:10). How we love one another impacts how our message is heard.

For us this means creating opportunities for people to see our Church community, to see how Christians live, and to see Christians relating to each other. This means hanging out in mixed friendship groups. It means living close lives with others. And it means that one of the best places to bring your non-christian friends is to a Church gathering. They won’t understand all of it. But that’s okay. At the very least they should hear the Gospel, and see a community where that good news is actually changing lives. Why not try and invite someone along this week?

Let’s love one another. Then let’s invite others to see that love in action, and hear about the person who makes that love possible. 

We might call this the ecclesial or communal apologetic. The life of a Church is itself a defence of the Gospel.