Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…(1 Pet 3:15).
What is the meaning and purpose of life?
At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry He called to those who would become His disciples, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men.” (Matthew 4:19). At the end of His earthly ministry He spelt out the mission of the church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
In the book of Acts we see how Jesus empowered His church to Go: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). For these reasons (as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church) the gospel of Jesus Christ is of first importance (1 Cor 15:3-4). So for followers of Jesus the question of life purpose is clear: it’s all about the Great Commission and sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yet how many people take the time these days to think deeply through searching questions such as the meaning and purpose of life? Bill Mast, Area Director for Search, leads an Everyday Faith seminar showing us how to stimulate respectful and sensitive dialogue about life’s big questions.
Bill began with the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin in Luke 15, reminding us that in God’s economy each person is of infinite value to be adopted into the family of God. We’d have to be heartless not to care. As an atheist pointed out in Bill’s video, “If you’re convinced of the Truth, then how much do you have to hate me not to share it?”
Prayer. Friendships. Dialog.
Bill reminded us that we don’t need the gift of evangelism to share truth. Anyone can share truth in easy, winsome ways. Consider these key points from Bill’s presentation:
- Begin with One. Think intentionally about the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) as we go about our daily lives. “Start with prayer,” Bill urged. Begin with just one person in our existing network of relationships (i.e. family, neighbors, co-workers, or recreation groups). Keep it simple. Be intentional.
- Two Principles.
- Evangelism is a long-term relational process, not a one-off event. Love people unconditionally (Mt 22:37-40). Build long-term friendships regardless of the outcome. Invest prayerfully in the lives of others for their welfare and benefit.
- God is responsible for the results. Results come to fruition, not immediately, but over time. Take the pressure off yourself. God doesn’t expect us to be successful, just faithful. (See John 4:35-38 and 1 Cor 3:5-7).
- Three Barriers. Barriers may need to be crossed to foster dialog about life’s big questions. Barriers can be emotional (unpleasant memories from the past experiences); intellectual (commitments to alternative worldviews and assumptions); or volitional (willful, determined refusal to consider different perspectives). What’s the best way to cross these barriers? Build deep friendships.
Make time for deep conversations
Make time for meaningful work — remember the Managing Me seminar? In the busyness of life, we’re often too preoccupied to think deeply about our God-given calling as well as substantive relationships, meaningful dialog and real community. Bill provided helpful ideas for overcoming barriers, finding common ground, and shifting beyond small talk to deep conversation. Some examples:
- Ask friends over to lunch some time and simply ask questions that invite deeper conversation. “I’m curious. Tell me about your faith background. What was that like?”
- Listen respectfully. Seek clarification, understand reasons, and carefully follow the logic: “What do you mean? How did you come to that conclusion?”
- Be transparent. Share what you believe and give good reasons. (1 Pet 3:15). If you honestly don’t have answers to questions you’re asked, simply say so: “Actually that’s something I’d like to think more about and perhaps research. I’ll get back to you on that.” Then continue the conversation. Learn to dialog well. Enjoy one another’s company. Learn together. Build community.
Learn from the Master.
Observe Jesus engaging with others (e.g. John 4:7-42). Jesus models meaningful engagement about profoundly important questions. Build bridges, not barriers. Inquire gently. Encourage personal discovery. Seek clarification. Invite questions. Enjoy the conversation. Be a faithful friend. Leave outcomes to God.
Heavenly Father, may we come alive to the magnitude of the love, blessings and graces You’ve poured upon us in the gospel! The good news of the gospel is truly breathtaking, its implications staggering. We’re hungry beggars sharing Bread. Not to share would be heartless. By your Spirit, guide honest inquiry into the most important matters of life. And, when You open the door, help us share the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully, honestly and winsomely with those You bring across our path. We trust You for the outcome. In Jesus’ matchless name we pray. Amen.
The photograph in this post is of The Thinker, by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), which was inspired by Dante’s Inferno and possibly Michelangelo’s fresco The Last Judgment. The Thinker was part of a larger sculptural commission begun in 1880 called The Gates of Hell. (Makes you think — doesn’t it?)
(This post was written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.)