It is hard to believe that on Saturday morning, March 14, I was sitting in a coffee shop. I paused in my sermon prep that day to talk with some of the church leaders about whether or not we would hold a church service the next day. We are a mid-sized church by Canadian standards, so we would have less than 250 people at the service. Since the evening of March 15 (in Ontario), Canada has changed.
Our church, like many others, has quickly shifted to providing online services and new online content. I encourage you to see, that amidst much truly bad news in Canada and around the world, the church’s new online presence and content is an opportunity to share with people who Jesus is, what He accomplished, and why this is important news for them.
Please consider adopting “The Discipline of Three.” Simply put, this means that every week you pick one new online resource from your church and send an email or text sharing that online content with three non-Christians. Choosing three people is a small, manageable step for anyone. Here are a few constructive comments on what this means.
First, don’t steal sheep
You might think your church is way better than your friend’s church. You might want to have your friend leave his church and join yours. You might think that sharing your church’s YouTube service will convince him to leave his church and join yours. But I urge you to not share the online content if that is your motivation – it is commonly known as sheep stealing.
I want to encourage evangelism, not sheep stealing. A caveat, we can be judgmental and narrow, taking second- or third-order issues as if they are first-order issues. But if your friend goes to a church which denies many first-order issues, then, by all means, prayerfully consider sending him the links. If they just disagree on second or third-order issues, then don’t send the link.
Second, pray and take risks
Before you send the link to some of your church’s online content, pray that the Lord will show you the three non-Christian friends, neighbours, or co-workers that He wants you to send the link to. Pray and take note if someone “preposterous” pops into your head after praying.
Do not quickly reject the preposterous person from consideration. Remember Saul of Tarsus. Who in their right mind would have thought that he would become a Christian? So, be prepared to take a risk and send the text/email to an unlikely person––all the while praying for them. Note, be bold in your prayer. Pray, “Lord, please bring ______ to saving faith in Jesus.”
Third, remember only God is sovereign and knows the heart
What this means is that you do not really know what God will use as He shines into a persons’ heart. “… to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6b, ESV). This means it is hard to know what is really relevant to another person.
So, I recommend that you share something that you personally found helpful or interesting. This is often a good conversation starter for Canadians. You can send the email/text saying something like, “Dear friend, thought I’d share this with you. I found it helpful, or moving, or “it touched my heart.” Then add something like, “No pressure to watch this, but if you do, love to hear your thoughts.”
Fourth, follow up on the interested but continue to pray and think of other people
If some people don’t respond to your email at all or ask you not to send them stuff like this anymore, then respect their wishes, pray for them, and ask the Lord for three more people to share online content with. If someone says that they watched the online content, tell them again you’d love to hear their “no-hold” comments.
Fifth, walk towards criticism and hard questions, not away from them
If someone makes a point and you do not know how to respond, say something like “I am not sure what to say, but I will get back to you about this.” Then contact your pastor and/or a wise Christian you know and ask for help. Remember that sometimes people confront (with hard questions or comments) because they want to connect.
Also, remember in your prayers and conversation that the goal is to win the person, not the argument. Your hope should be that they will come to Christ, not that you can win discussions. So answer all comments, even the hardest, with self-effacing gentleness and respect.
Sixth, remember what drives people
Non-Christians genuinely believe they have good reasons and arguments as to why Christianity is not true. But there is something else rarely acknowledged. At a deep level, they do not want Christianity to be true. This does not mean you confront them about this heart issue. It does mean you need to think and pray about it, praying the Lord will give you wisdom about how and when to say what you say.
Finally, pray for your church’s online presence
Pray that the speaker will love the sheep, feed the sheep, protect the sheep, and speak in such a way that they are also seeking the lost sheep who are not yet in Christ’s fold.