Mission and Evangelism: Meeting people at their point of need.
(In relation to aspects H3 & H6 on the Criteria for Selection)
Like it or not, we live in an increasingly secular nation. Our government does not openly declare any one faith, the media is not ‘Christianity friendly’ and church attendance is continuing to fall. This is the age of ‘the haves’ rather than ‘the have nots’; the era of knowledge - where we can find out pretty much everything we want to at the click of a button; the age of consumerism, selfish choice and demand.
And yet amidst all of this, increasing numbers of people are realising that wealth and possessions are not an answer to happiness. Research in the last decade has shown that the majority of people in the UK have a belief in a divine being and that they do pray. Various beliefs and religions are on the rise and ‘spirituality’ has come to be ‘cool’. So there seems to be a dichotomy between these two: People are seeking a spiritual encounter but in many cases their first choice appears not to be the Church. I long to see this turned on its head!
My own experience has been that by enabling the Kingdom of God to come into people’s lives at their point of need, hearts are softened and minds are far more open to hearing the Word of God. Inspired by the early church I believe God has given us all as believers, power and authority in His name and that in working within that, the church can have a far greater impact on those around us. Talking to someone about going to church can often be a conversation killer, however an offer to pray for an injury or an encouraging word can be a great opener into a conversation on the Kingdom of God. In some circles this is a controversial approach but St Paul tells us to ‘eagerly desire’ the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1) and that prophecy specifically is to: ‘strengthen, encourage and comfort’.
In my own walk with Christ I try to model this wherever I can, both in my own time and also corporately at church. I have had some wonderful conversations with people after giving them a word, or by offering to pray. One particular example is of a man who came to clean our carpets. When he arrived he was obviously limping and apologised for struggling with his equipment due to a painful foot condition. I offered to pray for his foot and the pain was largely reduced (so much that he stopped limping). He was happily amazed and it enabled us to have a more detailed conversation about my faith, the gospel and our next Alpha course, which he said he was going home to share with his wife! Another recent example is of a prophetic word I shared with a chap who works at our local station. Having been initially a bit reluctant to talk to me, he said that the word meant something to him and again there followed further discussion about Jesus. This was particularly interesting as he is a Muslim. What a great way to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, by offering people something at their point of need, first.
This kind of spirit-led ministry reflects the work of the early church that can be seen specifically in the book of Acts and the Letters of St Paul, and is something that I am passionate about seeing more of within the modern Church. In Acts 9 for example we see the power of a healing in evangelising, when a paralytic is healed and a woman raised from the dead after Peter has prayed for them:
Acts 9:35: All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Acts 9:42: This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord
Using the spiritual gifts that God has given to us is enormously helpful in proclaiming the Good news to non believers but also to encourage and nurture new or existing believers. I long for the day when an entire town turns to Jesus because someone is healed as we see above. The Kingdom of God promises us so much, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘on earth as it is in heaven…’ and I would love to see that, in all its glory, right across the church and across our nation. I want to see the church as a true centre of each and every community, people being met at their point of need, to see communities transformed by the power of God. To see people healed, encouraged, lives turned around and The Church being an absolute beacon of God’s power and glory in this broken nation.