Feeling a call to spread the Good News of the Gospel on his own discipleship journey, Clive Jackson from Rothley has created a course to equip his fellow Christians in their evangelism...
Clive, like most Christians, wants to witness to his faith - among his family and friends, but most significantly, to those who may not yet know Jesus. He’s passionate and articulate about sharing the Good News of the Gospel. He also recognises that it takes more than these things to confidently engage in the sort of thought-provoking conversations we need to be having when bringing the love of God into other people’s lives.
Having been involved in Christian outreach with the church of St Mary and St John for many years, and an active member of the Rothley church community since 1984, Clive knows the frustrations of putting on evangelistic initiatives and missional ‘events’ that very few non-Christians come to or connect with the Gospel during.
“Since my growth in faith, during my Ph.D. time around the age of 22, I have always had a passion for sharing the Good News,” he explains. “While we can never know the outcome of our words, when I have had an opportunity to share my (pre-prepared) witness and explanation of the Gospel it has never seemed to lead to the fruitful discussions I’d hoped for,” he confesses.
“As disciples and as part of the diocesan Shaped By God vision, we are urged to do these things, but I have a strong sense that many church members are not being helped to develop the necessary confidence, interpersonal and practical skills to do this effectively. We can struggle for various reasons, for example, being afraid of failing God or not knowing how to move the conversation on without it being awkward.”
Clive’s house group has a real desire to learn how to grow in evangelism, and with these sorts of gatherings offering a great space to explore and be honest about our feelings of faith, he agreed to find material for them to study.
Suggestions from Jon Barrett, diocesan Mission and Communications Enabler, lead him to focus on two books - Sam Chan's How to Talk about Jesus (Without Being THAT Guy) and Stay Salt by Rebecca Manley Pippert.
“Both authors offer a similar approach to evangelism that is different to putting on events and inviting people,” says Clive. “What they advocate seems to make sense in terms of human behaviour and contemporary society.”
With there not really being a ‘course 101’ on evangelism per say, a vision began to formulate in Clive’s mind, and that idea only got clearer, he explains: “When I read Chan’s book and the ‘Methods’ chapter of Pippert’s book, I could then see the way forward to put a course together myself.
“Because of how God has helped me over the years, I felt confident and empowered in stepping out in faith to do this. It is also in my nature that when I see an opportunity clearly like this then I have a strong personal drive to do something about it,” says the retired AstraZeneca principal research scientist.
So Clive wrote Sharing Our Faith - a series of nine studies based around Sam Chan’s How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being THAT Guy) - to help build a culture of evangelism in his church community.
While the course only requires Chan’s book, the first two sessions are inspired by Pippert’s, alongside scripture including how Jesus and the apostles evangelised those they met. These are followed by five sessions exploring the practical tips in Chan’s book.
Clive thought it important to help with how to respond to some of the difficult questions and opposing views we might encounter so has included a session on this along with an appendix of apologetics, which also includes some personal suggestions.
“Chan’s book is incredibly readable, great fun, entertaining and contains great insights into human nature and the importance of inevitably leaning into differing views and ‘defeater beliefs’ that stop people in our society coming to faith,” says Clive.
“I’ve always enjoyed apologetics and debate and have spoken about how I can be a Christian and a scientist. How we say things can be as important as what we’re trying to say so having a discussion, rather than delivering a monologue, really helps.”
The final session is important, as it is about deciding whether to commit to certain actions and if the group or individuals want to apply any of the learning from the series.
Clive says: “People may disagree with some of Chan’s assertions but hopefully the series will encourage a constructive discussion on evangelism. There are leaders notes and questions for each session to aid the facilitator.”
Clive is keen to apply the learning from Chan’s book to empower those Christians who have a real desire to share the Gospel. He says this includes how to get out of our Christian bubble effectively and take time to build trusting relationships with non-Christians including going to their ‘things’ so they are more likely to come to ours. Both books also emphasise the importance of developing good questioning and listening skills to understand and respect the other person’s point of view and so tailor our message to suit them. Sharing our faith then becomes a discussion and not a monologue.
“What God has done in my life, that which is real and true, is the underlying passion and driving force for me,” says Clive. “I give all the glory to Him. We can build the altar, but it’s God that brings the fire. We just need to build the altar right!”
In 2018, the diocese held a Bishop’s Big Conversation weekend in Rothley, building on the enthusiasm and drive this church community was putting into practice to grow disciples and create the Kingdom on earth.
Recognising the importance of evangelism, the PCC has in parallel to Clive’s course found material by CPAS on nurturing a faith-sharing culture, which it is intending to roll out with the church.
If you are interested in finding out more about Clive’s evangelism course, or would like to run it in your worshipping community, you can contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to read the books mentioned in this article - How to Talk about Jesus (Without Being THAT Guy) by Sam Chan and Stay Salt by Rebecca Manley Pippert - they are available to purchase from Christian Resources, St Martins House, Leicester, LE1 5PZ.
Call 0116 2615222 or visit www.christianresourcesleicester.com