Here’s part 5 of Dwight Bernier’s six-part review of Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ Everyday Church. We hope these chapter summaries will whet your appetite to devour the whole book: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.
By Dwight Bernier
Most of us don’t have the seemingly supernatural gifting of getting into gospel conversations with people we’ve just met. Some of us do. But most of us don’t. It’s helpful to have Tim Chester and Steve Timmis admit up front that they are not “natural evangelists”, but that the call to evangelism is there for all believers.
In chapter five, entitled “Everyday Evangelism”, Chester and Timmis help us think through how to be about evangelism in our everyday contexts. They pose the question, “if church and mission are more than an event to which we invite people, if they are about ordinary life with gospel intentionality, how do we do everyday evangelism?” (page 111). The authors then go on to explore this subject.
Going back to the reality of being in a post-Christian culture, we must recognize that people are not going to be biblically literate. They don’t have the same grasp as we do of God, Jesus, church, sin, salvation, and the Bible. Most of the culture has no idea what we are talking about when we ask “what must you do to be saved?”. Evangelism is most likely going to be a long road with people as they need much to actually arrive at the proper understanding of who God is and why Jesus would come to die and rise for sins, specifically theirs. Chester and Timmis offer some suggestions in sharing the gospel and God’s story in the everyday.
Four Suggestions for Everyday Evangelism
1 – Be patient and trust God’s sovereignty. Our role is often to move people along in their journey. God’s role is to save. He is in control of His mission. We don’t have to say everything all at once. We can slowly work people through the story of God, answering their questions along the way, trusting that God is working and is doing what He wants.
2 – We need to find ways of presenting the gospel to people who are far from understanding Jesus and not just with those who are much closer to understanding Him. The big questions of life are not the only ones being asked. Questions surround us everyday, and we need to learn how to answer the seemingly mundane ones as well as the massive metaphysical ones.
3 – The third suggestion stems from the second, but it helps us identify four points of intersection with the stories of others. Chester and Timmis remind us that everyone has a gospel story. Everyone is looking for a savior to remove them from what they believe is wrong with the world so that they can be brought into a “heaven” or new creation. Pages 115-120 should be studied and spoken about so that this type of paradigm can move in our hearts as we seek to really listen and love others. On those pages, the authors help us understand from a biblical theological perspective that everyone has an identity (creation), believes there is a problem (fall), tries to find the solution (redemption), and ultimately hopes that the solution words (consummation). On pages 119-120, a case study is provided, which is very helpful.
4 – As we share God’s story with others, there are four liberating truths that the person of Jesus Christ and His gospel provide, of which each person is searching. In essence, these truths destroy the lies that are believed by those we are ministering to (and often ourselves!). I will list them, but the authors do an incredible job helping us understand how to contextualize them in the power of the Holy Spirit to the people we are sharing life with. These truths are:
- God is great, so we don’t have to be in control.
- God is glorious, so we don’t have to fear others.
- God is good, so we don’t have to look elsewhere.
- God is gracious, so we don’t have to prove ourselves.
A helpful section at the end of the chapter equips us to adapt typical modes of conversation. Many of the points they make here are opportunities that each one of us (that actually interacts with other humans) have in our lives everyday. The authors help us explore how we can turn confirmation (isn’t that right?) into reinterpretation, advice (what would you do?) into proclamation, complaint into lament, and anecdote into testimony.
This chapter is stocked full of good counsel. In 20 pages, Chester and Timmis share more practical and helpful information than many books written on the subject of evangelism. Their chapter on Evangelism from Total Church would be helpful to read next to this in order to get the full sense of how a community should be about the task of evangelism, a task that each of us is called to and empowered by the Spirit of God to do.
This post adapted from Dwight’s blog. Used with permission.
Dwight is the church planting pastor of Initiative 22 in Montreal, Canada. He grew up in Maine and graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a B.A. in social work. He and his wife, Jessica, have two boys, Nehemiah and Malachi.