How do you feel about evangelism at the moment?
Each of us we will have different reflections and experiences. In the recent months I have felt a mix of daunted, scared, tired, hopeful, overwhelmed and excited. I found the pandemic took its toll, both in church and family life. Our mental and emotional energy felt exhausted at times. My spiritual life was not what I hoped for and suffered from both my sin and my tiredness. We had the joy of our children joining our family, through adoption, during the pandemic. I was excited to get to know new families at the school gate, but masks and social distancing meant this was disappointingly slow. As an inexperienced parent, I also found it hard to find time and capacity for those outside my family. At times, making Jesus known has hardly been on my radar.
I was excited, and a bit apprehensive, to take a day thinking about Making Jesus Known at the London Ministry Wives conference this year. I was blessed by the teaching and fellowship. Thank you to Lizzy Smallwood and all the LMW organising team. I hope that sharing a couple of things that helped me may be thought provoking for others:
I have permission, from Jesus
I don’t like to offend and I like to be liked. This is a barrier. How well do you need to know someone before you have permission to share the gospel? What if they are from a different faith – do I have permission? What if their family life is completely different from mine – do I have permission?
In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus says ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.’ Then Jesus sends out his disciples, who are right there. He gives them authority, he gives them permission, he commands them to proclaim the message ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matthew 10:7). Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth – he gives us permission, he commands us (Matthew 28:18-20), he authorises us to go and proclaim. I don’t need anyone else’s permission.
I need compassion, not a sense of duty
I was struck by Jesus’ description of both those who need to hear the good news and the workers – we are all sheep.
In Matthew 9:36, when Jesus saw the crowds ‘he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’. Lizzy helped us to reflect that if we rely on a sense of duty, we won’t do evangelism. I know I am commanded to share the gospel, I know I should, but I must pray for a heart of compassion towards sinners, like Jesus had. A heart of compassion will lead to action. I am praying that I will see how helpless those around me are and love them enough to share the gospel with them.
I am afraid, but I am helped
Not only does Jesus describe the crowds as sheep, but in Matthew 10:16 he says to his disciples ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves’. I was struck by how honest Jesus is with his disciples – there will be opposition and persecution, because of being faithful to Jesus. But rather than fearing people and fearing opposition, Jesus encourages us to have a right fear of God.
Jesus is honest about the experience the disciples will face but assures them of the help of the Spirit (10:20) and the care of the Father (10:29-31). I need to hold to these truths that I am cared for and the Spirit will help me, I may not have perfect words but I can speak what I know about Jesus.
Since the LMW conference, I have been trying to think and pray about these things more. I have tried to take little steps towards talking more about Jesus (not just church or being a vicar’s wife!). I have been able to see more of the helpless state and vulnerability of others which, I pray, will help me be more compassionate.
Caroline Fletcher is part of St Mary’s Summertown in South West London. She serves the church there alongside her husband James, with their two children.