Sharing faith during a pandemic
Amin was rather shocked when I said to him: “Christmas is more to do with people spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need.” He had just asked me, “Was I ready for Christmas?”!
Amin is a barber, and this was in 2019 – it was the first time I had met him. It was a ‘barber type’ question that he thought probably wouldn’t go anywhere. But my answer made him curious.
Amin is a Muslim, though I suspect culturally. So when he told me how he was looking forward to Christmas, ‘pulling his leg’, I said it was interesting, a Muslim celebrating the birth of Jesus… which made him laugh! But it gave me the natural opportunity to explain to him that the birth of Jesus was and still is the greatest gift that has ever been offered to human beings and that is what l was looking forward to celebrating.
I felt at that moment that enough had been said on that subject, but this began a relationship that has lasted over twelve months so far. Each time I go in for my haircut and – as you can see from my picture – that isn’t all that often, we continue our conversation about life and faith. [If you want to hear of how this relationship continued, watch my 1882 Challenge sermon for Church Army.]
The first simple and basic aspect in evangelism (that is sharing our faith with others) is that it should be natural not forced, in the context of a reasonable relationship, and confirmed in what the other person sees in us. This has been an aspect that during the pandemic has been extremely difficult to do… but not impossible.
I moved here in retirement, moving into a neighbourhood that is polite, but I hadn’t been able to get to know anyone. So the first lockdown gave us the opportunity to actively do something about this. We wrote out messages on Christian prayer cards and delivered them to all our neighbours, telling them that we were praying for them and asking if they would like us to specifically pray for a concern for them. We received about a dozen requests but even more ‘thank you’ responses which were encouraging.
In the first week in Advent we did something similar, giving out small Dalit candles and a ‘hope’ Advent Card. How good it was on Advent Sunday to go out in the evening and see a small number of theses candles lit in folk’s porches. Thankfully the only fire this caused was in our porch when the poster I had put up caught fire!
No deep soul-searching question, well not yet, but who knows… This for us is something long-term.
God calls us to reveal His glory wherever we might be. This simply means to tangibly show His presence and it is – I believe – when we intentionally decide to do this, as well as when we do it without knowing. It is the basis of our place within God’s mission. It is being open to what God wants to do through us. And when the conversations we are in are going in a particular way, to share something of our faith. Perhaps even sharing our doubts – these interest people as well, if not more so!
COVID-19 and its effect upon our lives might have restricted the way we can build our relationships but not necessarily stopped them. We cannot convert anyone, but we can share something of our faith in Jesus if we willing to listen to conversations and introduce ‘low key’ comments and answers. A powerful response is to ask if you can pray for them (even better if there and then).
All these ‘seed sowing’ moments can build up in the people we know, and begin to challenge their personal world views about life, living, and death. Remember it’s not all down to us. Once sowed, water the seeds with prayer. The pandemic must have caused people to think about life and death in ways not created before. We need to be around to be a part of those conversations as best we can.
Evangelism is always going to be a slow(-ish) process and it is not always entirely down to us to do everything; sometimes it’s just showing up when needed.
Take some time, prayerfully looking at the relationships you have. Name them before God and then when the opportunities arise (they will!), don’t panic! But carefully see with integrity where and when you can invest in that conversation something that reflects your relationship with Jesus. God will be with you as you do.