Rico Tice, the architect of the Christianity Explored courses, has a thing about pain. He says that when we’re explaining the gospel to people, we have to steel ourselves to cross a couple of thresholds which we find awkward and embarrassing, but unless we do so we will compromise the message.
One is that we must have the courage to open the Bible with people. If the authority and power of the gospel is God’s and not ours, then we have to use his given message. It looks weird to explain a book to people, but it has to be done.
A second lies in the area of the consequences of sin. Nerving ourselves to talk about sin, righteousness and judgment, knowing we will look foolish, is the way to the cross.
There are others he mentions, but there is one that has become quite sharp for me as we look back to the last Passion for Life, and look forward to the next in 2014.
What are we expecting our people to do? For many of them, simply having the courage to admit to a work colleague that they are Christians is a big deal, and we try to make it easy for them to take the terrifying next step and invite that colleague to an event. ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’ we say. ‘They can only say no.’
Is that it? Is the New Testament pattern of normal Christian witness, ‘Always be ready to invite your neighbour to an evangelistic barbecue’? ‘Go into all the world and get them to hear someone else make disciples’?
Don’t misunderstand me. I am hugely grateful for Christianity Explored, and people like Rico who have an enormous ability and energy to get the gospel out. We need them, admire them, and thank God for them.
But I do wonder if we’re being too low-level in our expectations of what the rest of us, ordinary Christians, should be doing. I’m really not persuaded by the argument that ‘partnership in the gospel’ meant that the Philippians prayed for and supported Paul while he got on with the preaching. Surely in Philippians, Paul is delighted to hear that they are engaged in the same work as him, not support work.
I’ve been asked to record one of the training videos for the next Passion for Life DVD, on exactly this issue. I want as many people as possible in our churches to be able to lead someone to Christ, and to cross the pain threshold where they can say, ‘Does that make sense to you? Let me guide you as you give your life over to Jesus Christ.’
After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s not that the colleague says ‘No’. It’s that the Christian responds, ‘Oh, that’s a pity. Because I can’t lead you to Christ.’