Posted on 12th December 2014 at 10:29 by Mark Herbert in Pastors’ Blog
On a typical Thursday evening I am normally out on pastoral visits of people in the church I help pastor, but last week I found myself sitting in St Albans, having some food with a good friend of mine. I had been invited by a church I used to work with, to help them at a carol service they were holding in the local pub. As I munched my way through the tried and tested ‘ham, egg and chips combo’, I began to feel a little nervous. I am normally pretty comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people; I do it every week in church. But this situation was different. In an hour’s time I knew I’d be speaking in an unfamiliar environment, to a bunch of strangers, about Jesus Christ (who, based on the general language being thrown around the pub, was probably little more than a swear word to the majority).
Over the next hour, the pub began to fill, mostly with regulars it seemed. I felt very out of place, especially when I tried to engage with three guys at the bar with a few pleasantries and wish them a happy Christmas, only to be told in no uncertain terms to 'get lost!'
Then my heart really started to race as the pastor who had organised the event turned to me and said: 'You can start now!'. How are you meant to start speaking in public, to a group of people who have not come to hear you speak?! I needed my mate Andy who does open air preaching as a day job. He’s brilliant at it! But he was not there. And I was not Andy.
It was in my panic that I suddenly recalled one of my favourite verses (Romans 1:16), where the Apostle Paul writes: 'I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God, for Salvation, for everyone who believes'. I know that verse by heart, have shared it with many people and taught on it numerous times. I was now in a situation where I had to live it.
Here are four brief thoughts based on my experience that night, to encourage you this Christmas time…..
1. 'I am not ashamed of the Gospel…' – It is easy to say this; far harder to live it. Boldness in evangelism is not ultimately determined by having a certain personality type (though this may help) and is not determined by being well drilled in ‘technique’. The key to not being ashamed of the gospel is to know the gospel and deeply love the one whom the gospel is all about. So, can I ask you: are you growing to love Christ more and more each day, and concentrating on your relationship with him, before you think about the work you will do for him?
2. …'for it is the power of God…' – standing in front of a large group of people who do not know Christ, it is always tempting to think that if you ‘entertain’, throw in a few ‘funnies’ and come across strong and confident in what you are saying, this combination will work powerfully to move people to realise they need spiritual life and this can only be found in Jesus. Yet personality and communication ability is not where the power lies. It is the gospel that is powerful to save. And that is good news to you and me when we feel weak. The gospel is never weak and God will always do his work when the gospel is proclaimed faithfully. A quick glance at Isaiah 55:1-11 should remind us of that. Have confidence in God’s power this Christmas.
3. …'for Salvation'… - The heart of the gospel, and indeed Christmas, is a God who so loved those he made, that he came down into our mess (remember Immanuel = God with us), to rescue us both from our sin (a rescue ultimately from ourselves) and from his righteous anger (he loves us so perfectly, he could never let rebellion against his sovereignty go unpunished).
No doubt your mad rush of buying presents is in full swing now? As you buy gifts for loved ones this Christmas, think about your friends and family who do not know Christ. The greatest gift you could give them this Christmas, and indeed ever, is an opportunity to hear the gospel. Carol services are probably the easiest invite of the year. I know you’re scared….’What if they say No!’ Take a risk this Christmas and don’t say No for them. God may just surprise you.
4. …'for everyone who believes' - Each day in my job I have to remind myself that the gospel is true and that the gospel changes lives. This coming Sunday two young men in our church are going to be baptised and testify to the grace of God at work in their lives. It will be a day of great joy!
Yet sadly, we must also be realistic. The Bible warns us that many choose to reject the gift of life that Jesus offers, by 'replacing the truth of God for a lie' (Romans 1:25). But can I encourage you that this is not a reason not to share the Gospel. Many will have walked away from the pub that night rejecting what they heard. But we pray on, that God will have opened some blind eyes and softened some hard hearts. This is his work and so we can have total confidence in his ability to save those that are his.
Why not pray now for the carol services that are taking place up and down the country in this season? Pray that God’s Spirit would give you confidence to play your part, by inviting someone to one of your services.