PAUL FITZPATRICK shares how Church Army evangelists are reaching out to others and his hopes for a new study guide coming out in Lent
Throughout the world, from the poorest country to the very richest, 2008 has been a year of great uncertainty.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed or displaced by the cyclone in Burma; our own Church Army evangelists witnessed the terror of political violence and murder in Kenya, and the ‘prosperous West’ has been hit by an economic crisis which has signalled financial insecurity for millions.
When these worldly and man-made disasters threaten us, as Christians we find strength, courage and refuge in our relationship with God. Our prayerful lives offer us peaceful sanctity, allowing us to flourish with the hope and love that Christ gives us: we “accentuate the positive”, as Bing Crosby would have it!
Church Army evangelists are called to share the Good News among those who have either no experience of church or have for some reason lost touch.
We share our faith with humility through words and actions, guiding those we meet through their own challenges to hopefully find comfort in God’s kingdom.
Furthermore, we believe that all Christians have the opportunity to share Christ’s joy and inspire others, but are perhaps unable to appreciate just how simply that can be done in everyday life.
Early in 2009, we will be publishing The Fullness of Life, an easy-to-use study guide for individuals or groups. The guide is in no way prescriptive, but will enable readers to open their hearts and minds to Jesus, to look into scripture, and to be inspired by stories of how practising evangelists have simply but effectively transformed lives.
The Fullness of Life is divided into seven sections, and might, for instance, lend itself to a weekly Lenten programme. Each study has been written by a Church Army evangelist, sharing their inspiration with the reader and exploring often vivid examples of Christ in action.
Their experiences, calling and ministries have been chosen for their diversity. We will look at fresh expressions of church; evangelism in the workplace (be that an office or on the streets in the sex ‘industry’); working in an isolated rural context; evangelism among young people and the challenges of speaking up for Christ in our multi-faith society.
Importantly, evangelists know there is no right or wrong way to approach sharing faith. What will open a dialogue with one person in search of Christ may not even register with another, even though they are both looking for the same thing. This is the great challenge of bringing the Good News out into the world, but the lesson is that as long as we know in our hearts we are being true to Jesus, and true to ourselves, we can sow the seeds wherever we may be.
Over 125 years ago, in Victorian Kensington, Church Army’s founder, Prebendary Wilson Carlile, went into the streets and preached a simple but powerful message to the unchurched.
Today, such ‘soap-box evangelism’ might seem clichéd and ineffectual, but the basic principle – welcoming everyone to a ‘church without walls’ – is as alive, as real and as life-transforming as ever.
Every one of us has the ability to be an effective advocate for the wonders of our faith. An informal chat at the school gates can be as enlightening and empowering as preaching from a cathedral pulpit, and we should never underestimate the incredible power that God gives us as believers to bring others to the kingdom.
Through The Fullness of Life Church Army hopes to demonstrate to fellow Christians the impact that just a few words can have, and to motivate you to evangelise through everyday words and actions.
Please join us as we work together to make Jesus famous in 2009, and pray that through all of the stresses of our lives, we continue to prosper spiritually and make the kingdom open and available to all.
Church Army is making The Fullness of Life available as a resource to individuals and prospective group leaders on a suggested donation basis. We are asking for a minimum contribution of £1 for each resource booklet, to cover the cost of production and p&p.
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