Ollie Alexander

Evangelism should be comfortable, right? (Issue 25)

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When the Holy Spirit nudges me to talk about faith, three soothing thoughts often come to mind. “Now isn’t the appropriate time or place.” “I can’t think of the right words to say.” “I forgot to brush my teeth this morning.” These convenient excuses mean I can get on with my day and no one has to feel awkward.

The underlying belief in our post-modern world is a me-centred relativism. “I can believe whatever makes me feel good and you can believe whatever makes you feel good, just don’t push it on me.” Feelings equal truth, and this creates some challenges when it comes to evangelism. And these are challenges within the Church as well. As a post-modern Christian, my motivation to witness is often dictated by my feelings, and my feelings often say no.

For me, evangelism begins beside the fireplace on my knees. When I seek God’s company, he reminds me that I’m his loved and accepted child. Regardless of what my feelings tell me, my identity is in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I can risk looking like a fool for him.

I’ve been encouraged to plan my day by asking God “Who?” Who is he wanting to bless through me and have a conversation with today? Once that’s arranged, I can sort out the daily what, where, when and how’s. I can risk being fruitful instead of busy, and risk partnering with God to reach the people around me.

Evangelism also begins on the deck reading my Bible. When our worldview is rooted in Scripture, we understand the spiritual condition of others. We can look beyond people’s feelings and see their desperate need for forgiveness, reconciliation, cleansing, wholeness. In Scripture we rediscover God’s passion for the broken. When God’s truth is more important than feelings, we can risk having an awkward conversation.

At the heart of evangelism is a lifestyle of love and obedience to God. If we don’t share God’s passion for transforming lives, then all of the tools and methods we learn are useless. As we work on our hearts, we can start exploring faithful approaches to help connect our culture with Christ. Perhaps you’ll find opportunities to apply the AAA approach below.

Accept Everyone

Jesus was labelled a friend of sinners by the religious leaders. What would it take for us to hang out with the ‘wrong people’? Here’s a few pointers:

Create opportunities to spend time with not-yet-Christians. Joining an interest club or invite the neighbourhood around for lunch. Don’t be offended when not-yet-Christians act like not-yet-Christians. Good roots come before good fruit, and noticing, accepting and loving people for who they are is not the same as endorsing their behaviour. Ask God to put five not-yet-Christians on your heart. Try to pray for their salvation daily, visit them weekly, bless them monthly and include them in your activities whenever possible.

Ask Questions

Jesus asks about 300 questions in the New Testament. Asking questions gives us a chance to truly listen, and listening is a rare yet powerful way to show love. Ask about their interests, family and dreams. Questions also allow people to evaluate their spiritual beliefs and consider new ideas.

Admit the Truth

While many hold that ‘all roads lead to God,’ Christianity claims an exclusive message. Only faith in Jesus Christ can lead us to a right relationship with our Creator. We need to believe this, and we need to believe that Jesus is the best gift that we can offer anybody. One way to speak the truth in our culture is to tell stories. Listen to their story, and be prepared to share some stories of how you’ve experienced God in your life. You can also share stories from Jesus’ life, as this is the Jesus we’re inviting people to follow!

Ollie is the Anglican Evangelism and Under 40’s Ministry Enabler for South Canterbury.

For discussion

How does Ollie’s example challenge you?

What can your group do to put the AAA approach into action?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

The little old lady and her ice-cream

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Last night I enjoyed eating vanilla ice-cream coated in trade aid chocolate sauce. Mmm. Yesterday I also met an elderly woman who had enjoyed a bowl of ice-cream.

My ice-cream encounter reminded me of a passage: “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realising it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies” (Hebrews 13:1-3).

This ice-cream woman had welcomed me and my St John’s co-workers into her home. Unfortunately, she was immobilised with back pain and her bed had become a prison. Her clothes were stained in urine and faeces. She lived alone and probably felt neglected, and that bowl of ice-cream was all that she had eaten for a couple of days.

Perhaps this woman was entertaining angels. Or perhaps we were. And perhaps this was an opportunity for us to share her pain and love her as a (much older) sister.

I’m also reminded of the close Fijian communities I experienced in 2012. Not many people there ate ice-cream, but they were hardly ever alone. They may have experienced physical pain, but their friends, family and neighbours were by their side. A young man named Sammy made a lasting impression on me. After eventually making his way to university, he put it all on hold to care and live with his aging Grandmother. Loving support wasn’t left to paid carers or wonderful strangers in uniform. This feels like an uncomfortable contrast to our own neighbourhoods.

It’s hard to take Jesus’ command to love our neighbours seriously when we don’t really know who they are. Since the beginning of the year, God’s really been challenging me on this. If we want to see God’s Kingdom come, I think we all need to simply know and love the people next door.

For months I found ways to ignore that challenge. My life’s far too busy, and knocking on someone’s door is far too unacceptable.

What rubbish!

I just get nervous, shy and disobedient. Thankfully, God’s showing me that I don’t have to meet and love the world by myself. Our Christian brothers and sisters are also our co-workers with God, and unity with one another is a powerful witness to Christ (John 17:23)!

One of my recent joys was partnering with my flatmate to celebrate National Neighbours Day. We used this day as an excuse to visit all 14 or so houses on Douglas Street Lane – yep it is a street and a lane – and invite everyone to our house for “Tea, Coffee, Chat and Cake.” Seven neighbours turned up to our house and other families welcomed us into theirs. A single mother brought her kids to my flatmate’s church’s Easter Party, and everyone seems keen to have another neighbourhood gathering soon. It’s becoming a little bit easier to love them as I would love myself. In the next few weeks I plan to invite a few neighbours to a Jesus discussion home group, so any little prayers will be hugely appreciated!

  THE MUSE Ponder the passage in Hebrews above. Can you see ways that it relates to Matthew 25:31-40? Who was the last angel you might have shared love, food, clothes, hope or pain with?

 

THE MOVE Are there any old ladies on your street waiting to share ice-cream with you? Grab some trade aid chocolate sauce, knock on a few doors and find out! Honestly, do it! That would be awesome!

Plugged In Or Unplugged?

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It’s 2:29am on Friday morning and I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while. There are some occasions when I’m full of inspiration and can just leak words, when the words feels alive, meaningful and inspired. My green journal is full of Bible verses and moments like that, but tonight is not one of those nights. Tonight’s one of the nights where I feel overwhelmed by the million little jobs that need to be done, and I’m scrolling through Facebook to secretly avoid them all.

It’s strange, but the more demanding life seems to be, the more time I spend in that virtual cage called Facebook. Suddenly, replying to that message becomes critical, and watching my friend’s video about a reggae shark is of essential importance. Facebook is a great way to escape life, and it’s also a great source of shallow comfort. I’m thinking of a status that I wrote just after my 21st birthday with the intention of glorifying God. The post felt totally inspired and hopefully impacted a few of my friends, but every extra ‘like’ seems to create a subtle sense of acceptance and pride. Within Facebook, every photo we upload and video we share can become about building our own little kingdom.

It also takes a lot of integrity to scroll through photos of Kim Kardashian’s bum, pictures of cute selfies and a number of crude videos while keeping fixed on Christ. That’s more integrity than I usually have. Instead I just get numbed to it all. I think true integrity is being able to close the internet browser and choose to hunger for purpose, identity, community and worship within the Word of God, with fellow Christians and in prayer. Facebook might be a great place to mention Christ, but it’s not a place to grow deeper with him.

Where we spend our time is also a good indication of what we value. Ask me any day and I will say that God is first in my life. He’s my Alpha and my Omega… but my use of time doesn’t usually reflect that. My use of time often idolises the internet. Every aspect of our lives is to be in communion with God with an awareness of his presence, but I find this especially hard in the busy world of the internet. When we practice beginning our day in the still presence of God, we will begin to see him in the everyday noise and madness.

Instead of trying to craft more points and a strong conclusion in my sleepless state, I will end with some Scripture and invite you to finish the rest. I would love for you to share your thoughts, perhaps argue a point, or disagree completely with me. It would be great for #NZCMS to flourish as a community of ideas and conversation.

Lastly, here is also a video that reminds me of God’s glory and holiness, found not through a screen but in his beautiful Creation.

 

THE MUSE

What do these verses mean in our internet saturated environment?

“I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that day their plans come to nothing.” Psalm 146:2-4.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot! I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth . . . To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne” Revelation 2:15-16,21.

 

THE MOVE

For those of you who live in Canterbury, I’ll recommend the “Unplugged” silent retreat coming up in January. Funny enough, you should find this event on Facebook. Unplugged is three days without internet, without distractions and idols, but simply to be still in the presence of God. What a counter cultural challenge.

For those of you living elsewhere, try a Facebook fast. I’ve found this website helpful in the past: www.facebooklimiter.com

Reflections from a Past Haerenga Intern

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At the age of 18, the 2012 Haerenga Internship was an incredible journey in my character. It was also a chance to discover God’s love for me and for the world. With an invitation to “grow in my faith” after Confirmation, Bible College was the last thing on my mind. Why not join an overseas mission trip and sunbathe on the beach!? I pursued this idea and received far more than a crisp tan… Haerenga was an experience that nurtured my faith and challenged me to share it with others. My eyes were opened to a calling that desires more than just Sunday mornings, and my insecurity was transformed as I discovered a voice and the truth of the Gospel. God revealed himself, not as boring and distant, but as exciting, real and relational – a God of power and love. It was a huge encouragement to grow with other young Christians on Haerenga, and we realised that Christ’s Body is alive and active all over the world.

This exciting new journey never finished as Haerenga 2012 came to an end. Since returning to NZ, God has used my new joy for him and the skills I learnt to further his Kingdom. In 2013 I took hold of a wonderful opportunity to work as the South Canterbury Evangelism and Under 40s Enabler. God’s Kingdom continues to grow in my own life as well, and studying at Laidlaw Bible College has become a great reality. Jesus’ words in John 10:10 took on flesh during the internship. His promise of life “to the full” will remain true for the years to come, and for the many others who decide to step out on Haerenga.

 

If you or someone you know might be interested in the Haerenga Mission Internship 2015, check out www.nzcms.org.nz/haerenga