Tonight we have our final discussion of Dr. Hanna Steele’s book Living His Story. Please read Chapter 7 “Stories of Finding Jesus.” In the final part of this chapter, Dr. Steele gives us an understanding of how modern conversions generally occur.
In our modern society, Dr. Steele relates her experiences of how people outside of the church come to know Jesus. For most of us who grew up in the church, this process is somewhat foreign to us. First, she says that we must establish trust with someone. In many ways, the Church and Christianity have a negative perception in society. Priests and pastors only make the news when something bad happens, and, generally, the representation of the church and Christianity in popular culture is negative. Living our faith with integrity and trustworthiness is the first step in modern evangelism and is necessary to overcome the negative perceptions.
Second, she writes that the Church and Christianity are generally irrelevant to others’ lives. She counsels that we should arouse curiosity in others about our faith instead of simply having to say everything all at once. Our conversations, as she says, need to be more like appetizers rather than dinners.
As we talk to others, the challenge is to move them from a place of thinking that Christianity is interesting (like the new show on Netflix) to thinking that it might have something to say to them. Our stories are not about doctrine, but about the difference that our faith makes in our lives. Our challenge is to have the self-awareness to understand how Jesus makes a difference in our lives, and the boldness to share.
One of the more important aspects of evangelism is to allow others to ask questions, and for us to affirm those questions. The question of whether Jesus might be a space alien, if asked in good faith, should be addressed seriously and without derision. We should embrace those who want to know more, even if their starting point is on unfamiliar or irrelevant ground.
The goal of evangelism is not to seal the deal and get another sale for God. The goal is to help others find and explore their place in God’s story. Jesus did not demand converts but disciples. Discipleship, however, takes time and is a life-long process. We are on the road of discipleship and our invitation to others is to join on this road. Evangelism with a quick-fix altar call without any long-term discipleship is not what we are to be about.
One important aspect of discipleship is that it requires a community. On the day after Pentecost where 3,000 souls were baptized, they gathered and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42. Conversion is only the beginning of discipleship within a community.
The final point Dr. Steele makes is that conversion is not simply believing and understanding the right things, but is about the doing as well. James tells us that faith without works is dead. James 2:14. Our works demonstrate the faith that we have within us. Discipleship is about showing others how to be involved in actively following Jesus.
Dr. Steele ends her chapter with the following discussion questions:
1. Reflect upon your own faith journey and ask yourself: What are the key moments that stand out? Who has
influenced and helped you?
2. How do you feel the story of your journey to faith affects others? How do those of others affect you?
3. What are some of the ways you might be able to help gently nudge people along the pathway to faith?
Dinner is at 6:30. Menu is chicken mole (Cinco de Mayo). Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20