Life After Being an Evangelist
Possibly the most exciting thing of my early 20s was being a key player in seeing a number of friends and youth group kids come to faith in Christ. I remember our youth pastor at the time, Mark Wilkinson, suggesting that I was going through a real “purple patch” as it seemed that everyone who got baptised at our church named me as a significant person in their journey of faith. I don’t say this to brag but rather to pre-empt what I’m about to say, and that is that life has been very different in recent years. I thought this was just how life was and would always be; unfortunately it isn’t.
I’m an Associate Pastor now and I enjoy this role, but it means that I’m no longer at uni or hanging with youth who are ripe to become Christians. Instead I spend most of my week journeying with Christians, often in the midst of their most difficult times. Some of whom are themselves seeking to be the ones reaching out to non-Christians they work or study with. As someone who used to live and breathe opportunities to share the gospel, my “purple patch” evangelist time feels like another lifetime ago. Back in those days, whenever I used to preach at church it was a simple gospel message; basically “jokes and Jesus”. However, now as a ‘serious’ pastor, I’ve been doing teaching sermons so long that I feel like I’ve started to lose my edge.
Recently I had the privilege to hear Dennis Pethers, and what he shared, as well as the discussions that ensued, were inspiring. I’ve been reminded of the importance of being on the coal face of evangelism; if I’m wanting to call my church into sharing the good news of Jesus with those around them, I need to be actively doing it too. I want to be a preacher who shares of recent stories of how God is at work in my life and the lives of those around me (and not just someone who tells stories of a bygone era). I was always sceptical about how out of touch pastors became surrounded entirely by the Christian world and whose primary friends outside of their local church were other pastors. I don’t want that fate for myself; I don’t think it’s good for my life or the church that God has called me to serve.
So I’ve continued to hear the Lord’s call upon my ministry but I am acutely aware that it includes me making space to be a presence in my child’s school. It is only in recognising that this is a crucial mission field that deserves time which will enable my eyes to see the opportunities God provides to share the gospel with other parents at this local public school. That means I have to make time to regularly be present as parents hang around waiting for their kids after school and at school events rather than just rush off to more church work.
I’ve also been stirred to ensure that I make opportunities to connect deeply with the non-Christians friends in my life. A simple achievable goal that I have is to have one non-Christian friend a month over for dinner and spend the night chatting about life, love, the universe and everything and waiting expectantly that matters of faith will crop up – they usually do.
My most recent project (sounds harsh but that’s the word that comes to mind) is connecting more deeply with the neighbours in our street. Aside from conversations at the kerbside asking to use green bin space, or if they could feed our chooks when we are away, Facebook has provided a great launching pad and viewing point into their lives. Just last weekend we took the risk of inviting a young couple that live opposite us over for tea. Surely this is basic hospitality that was so obvious that all the New Testament writers would take this as a given for good neighbours to do, but in our busy roller shutter communities opening ourselves up to people near us can be a daring act.
I long to see my church take genuinely risky steps to share of the great news that has captured our hearts. It seems easy to speak about social justice or even loving others or short-term mission trips but surely this means we need to become leaders whose lives make deliberate space to connect with non-Christians. We can’t be teachers of Jesus’ mission movement if we aren’t active practitioners “fishing for men and women” and living out his kingdom.
Scott Berry is Associate Pastor at Enfield Baptist Church, Adelaide. Prac 14.