Every CA Evangelist has a personal and powerful testimony of how they came to be saved. While everyone’s story is unique and different there is often a common element where God works through someone else to bring that person into relationship with Him. For those who follow God’s calling to a lifetime of evangelism, those evangelists become an instrument themselves, used by God to bring people to know and trust in Jesus.
Ian Maher’s story starts like this. He is one of CA’s retired Evangelists with a lifetime of stories of people encountering the Living God, and it began with one person taking the time to talk and listen to a young man with questions about God.
My early experience of church was Sunday school, but I remember nothing of the content. It wasn’t until my late teens that I began think “there must be more to life than this!”. As I look back now, I can see that it was God’s prompting. One Sunday I walked into the church nearest my house, in Wales. I later found out the vicar had been a CA Evangelist. I burnt the midnight oil with him for months, during which time I threw every possible objection to Christianity at him I could think of; questions like “how can there be suffering in the world?” I would give him 101 reasons why there couldn’t possibly be a God. He simply let me say what I needed to. He didn’t belittle my questions, he just gave me the space to explore. At one point the penny dropped and I thought “yes, I do believe that Jesus is risen from the dead”. That moment changed the direction of my life. I wanted other people to know this as well, so I tried to maintain that throughout the years of my ministry.
Often, I would encounter questions, but you know that underneath there’s something else, you know this is not the question that they really want answered. So just by listening and giving them the chance and the freedom to express doubts without feeling belittled or put down and then once they have the confidence to do that they start to wrestle with the big questions of faith and that’s certainly what happened with me and this approach with me was great. I saw something in the vicar that made me think “I want what you have got”. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time but looking back it was how God worked in his life and enabled him to work with other people and I think I wanted to be able to do something similar.
Those who train as CA Evangelists do not lay down their evangelistic calling when they reach retirement age. Ian spent his last 12 years before retiring as a chaplain at Sheffield Hallam University. During that time, he also felt called to ordination. Today he is an ordained CA Evangelist and works in a selfsupporting role at Sheffield Cathedral as part of the clergy team.
My Advice For younger evangelists
Be comfortable in knowing you don’t have the answers to all questions. Because it’s often in the exploration of things where God works, so you don’t have to have the answer to every question that someone throws at you. It’s quite okay to say “I’m not really sure about that let me come back to you.” And sometimes we just don’t have the answer you know, “Why does God allow suffering?” “Well, where is God in the middle of all that?” I think sometimes, especially starting out in ministry we think we have to have everything nailed down and know all the answers. Instead, I think we need to have the courage to live with the questions that we don’t have the answers to and help others to feel ok to do that. Because I think if our minds are open then God can speak, if we close everything off, we end up
putting God in a box.
Prayers in Focus
- Pray for wisdom for evangelists to know the times when the best thing you can do is simply to help someone live with the questions more easily. It is OK not to have all the answers.
- Pray for opportunities for evangelists to get alongside people and build relationships. Of course, our words about Christian faith matter, but sometimes, who we are speaks far more eloquently than the words we utter.
- Pray for evangelists to have insight to see where God is already at work and then look for ways of working with others to help build up the communities in which you are called to serve.
- Pray that God always has new things for retired evangelists. That they might
see clearly how God might be calling them in this particular phase of their