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The Christadelphian | February 2014

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Fasting
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning The perspective of eternity | Kevin Talbot
  • Studies in Matthew’s Gospel 02 – Jesus the king | John Benson
  • Giants? | George Booker
  • The parable of the potter 02 – Roman reflections | Peter Heavyside
  • Archaeology in focus 02 – Stone vessels | James Andrews
  • Where was Sodom? | David Pearce
  • The purpose of the Ecclesia 01 – What are ecclesias all about? | Peter Anderton & Paul Tovell
  • Conversational preaching | Beulah Edwards
  • Bible Companion | John Hingley
  • Enhancing our worship Suggestions for February | John Botten
  • 100 years ago
  • Faith Alive! A fictional lost son | Paul Movassaghi
  • Book Review In the Company of Paul | Tecwyn Morgan
  • Signs of the times An Arabian enigma | John Morris
  • Israel and their Land "Bring my sons from afar" | John Morris
  • Epilogue Love thy neighbour | Irene Jerome
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Conversational preaching

In his article ‘First Steps’ (The Christadelphian, March 2013) Mark Buckler suggested some necessary changes, to make preaching in our assemblies more relevant. Similarly in last month’s article ‘Challenges for preaching in the UK’ (January, page 22) Thomas Gaston highlighted hurdles and possible solutions to preaching the gospel. Here, encouragement is given to preach individually, along with ideas that have been tried in New Zealand.

I have found that when I mention the words ‘Bible’ or ‘God’ there is usually an immediate glazed look in the eyes. Before a person is ready to accept an invitation to attend a meeting, his mind needs to be turned from lack of interest in God or the church. Here are some steps to overcome these initial reactions.

Conversation

Enter the conversation, developing it and steering it gently along the person’s interest, and then bringing up something relevant. Here in Christchurch, NZ, earthquakes are a regular topic. I add to the conversation by saying, “We seem to be in an age of disasters”. Everyone agrees to that! Then I tell them that Israel is monitoring increasing quakes, and the Danikel Depression in East Africa is being monitored. It is a fascinating subject, earthquakes causing land subsidence. This area is linked to the African Rift Valley, and the fault line continues north west up the Red Sea, turning into the Gulf of Aqabar, up through the Dead Sea depression, the lowest spot on earth. No-one doubts this for it is factual. Then I drop in the information that the Bible predicts a great earthquake at the coming of Christ beginning in this area. No-one disputes it, because the scientific basis has been laid.

People are often not ready to take action immediately; it may take another person to develop the initial interest at a later stage. Sometimes a well placed comment will achieve a shift in the thinking. A new brother in our meeting says it took him eight years to turn around. We have to remember the Lord’s longsuffering. Our modern thinking is geared to quick results. God doesn’t work that way, He sometimes works over years.

Questions

Use questions. God sometimes uses questions rather than statements (e.g., Genesis 3:9) because it stimulates thought. It also helps us to see what the other person has in mind. If we find a person’s real interest, we can more effectively give ‘a reason of the hope within us’. Try an open question. Last year I asked, “What do you think of our world now?” The man chose a subject which astounded me, yet it led to a discussion on Bible prophecy.

In conversation we can argue philosophically before bringing up a religious idea. Recently a brother who spoke on “Does it matter what we believe”, took the idea of gravity, and argued whether we needed to believe it existed. By the time he had finished, the listeners were thinking, “Of course it matters what we believe!” The favourite statement, “We are all going to heaven by different routes”, can be answered with logic; “There is only one way to Invercargill; you have to take the south road”.

I have written a series of A5 size leaflets on topical matters to try and engage the interest, e.g., ‘Have you a purpose in Life?’, ‘Does it matter what we believe?’, ‘Man and Woman’, ‘What is wrong with the World?’ and Carry them with me. When in England in 2011, I gave out my A5 leaflets as I travelled. Sometimes our literature concentrates on basic doctrines but in a complex way. I believe we need to enter the conversation at a simpler, more topical level.

The Apostle Paul adjusted his preaching to the situation. While in Athens he looked for an opening, and chose one of their altars to begin his comment. He developed his case from their point of interest. We can do this even if there is antipathy. In answer to a virulent anti-Semitic statement about the Jews, one brother said, “Did you know that the Jews are the only people to be conquered, dispersed throughout the world, and then repatriated?” The questioner stopped and said, “Is that true? That’s amazing.” The brother knew he wouldn’t shift anti-Semitic attitudes quickly but a well placed comment caused the man to think. Next time he hears about the Jews he will remember that there is something special about them.

While in hospital recently, the nurse explained he was using alcohol on the swab for hygiene purposes. I asked, “Do you know where the doctor who came up with the idea of modern hygiene in the eighteenth century got the idea from?” He didn’t know, so I told him that the Jewish Bible has laws of hygiene, quarantine, ecology and safety. He was surprised, but next time he hears the Bible mentioned he may take some notice.

Don’t over talk

We can over-talk. It is best to introduce only a few ideas that can be absorbed. A recent example is the daughter of our new Chinese Malaysian brother and sister. Ai Li wouldn’t listen to her parents discuss their new found faith. What could I do to help? While her parents were overseas, I invited Ai Li over with the idea of taking an interest in her. She told me about her university studies and plans. So I said, “Come and see my life long interest,” and took her into the study. She exclaimed at all the books, and I took down the concordance to show her how we check translation. Ai Li understood the need for this, working between two languages herself. Then she made the defining comment:

“Oh, there is more to it than I thought!” This was truly a comment from the heart and showed her outlook had shifted. We waited. In ensuing months, she sat in on two Bible discussions in her parents’ home and then attended her parents’ baptism. Several months later, she said suddenly to her mother, “After I have finished my university studies, I think I will ask Beulah to do Bible lessons”. We were amazed.

This is a bit like fishing, dropping in a little bait, or drip feeding.

Follow Up

Follow up is critical (ask marketing people). Make contact a few weeks later. Offer some information in their area of interest. Say, “I was thinking about our conversation last week, and …”. I revisited a neighbour who was very critical of the church (I said I wasn’t the church, I was a member of a laity – do-it-yourself people). He opened the door and said, “Ah, I have been thinking about our conversation”, and we had another talk.

When the carpet cleaner arrived at my house, he looked around the room and said, “Are you a church person?”. “No”, I said, “I am a Bible person”. My comment told him I saw the Bible as separate from the church. He told me his story – he wanted to go back to church, and had tried three churches, but given up. He left with some reading material and a simplified Bible reading chart. It is now my job to follow this up.

If you felt you didn’t really answer the question fully, write down a few notes with Bible quotations and hand it to your interested friend.

Sister Jamie Holder first heard about our beliefs from a Christadelphian teacher at her High School in Auckland. During the school holidays, she went online to check us out and had email contact with a couple in England. When they heard Jamie was moving to Christchurch to attend university, they were diligent enough to inform us. We invited Jamie to our seminars. Thus several people helped prepare Jamie for her eventual step.

The work is the Lord’s

Remember that we are servants doing the will of our Lord. If some plan doesn’t work out, then perhaps it is not the time or the place.

A brother or sister new to our community needs guidance on how to deal with family and friends. Giving an overview of why God made the world, and His ultimate plans, is more helpful than being overly critical. People simply don’t know and it is up to us to inform them (Romans 10:18).

Sometimes it is wise to tell people what is available, the courses we offer, one-to-one Bible instruction so that when they are ready they can ask. We need to say in a non-pressured way, “We offer Bible courses that you can have a look at when you would like to”.

Share your experiences with others. We can learn from each other to witness more effectively. There is only one way to learn however, we need to get in the driver’s seat and engage.

Beulah Edwards

 

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