I was delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Crown Jesus Ministries in contributing to their Go Groups initiative. CJM is an evangelism ministry based in Belfast directed by Keith ‘Mitch’ Mitchell. Their Go Groups (GG) are an online training course designed to bring interested people from across the island of Ireland together in order to inspire and practically equip them to engage in effective personal evangelism in accordance with their own contexts and capacities.
My contribution involved presenting a talk that introduced attendees to the concept of Conversational Apologetics, part of a broader GG module covering twelve methods of doing persuasive evangelism. I discussed the importance of us having – and communicating – the strong and persuasive bases for our faith that transcended merely personal experience and was rooted in objective evidence (i.e. evidence from history, science, philosophy, meaning etc.) We addressed the difficulty and intimidation that can come from modern society’s big questions and presuppositions around religious faith and topics such as science, evolution, the reliability of the bible, suffering and evil, and sexual ethics. Acknowledging these challenges, I also sought to encourage the group that these hurdles were nothing new to Christianity: Christians have also had to learn to both personally understand and publicly communicate the credibility of their faith in a social and ideological contexts that thinks very differently of issues of worldview and often harbours deep scepticism when it comes to Christian claims. That’s why apologetics, understood as what happens when any Christian engages with another person to explain the credibility of their hope in Jesus, was so inherent to Christian living. I concluded by suggesting that one of the best ways we can be involved in effective conversational apologetics is by learning to ask good questions, rather than simply trying to download a set of memorised answers or theological propositions. Following the talk we spend around 20mins doing Q&A before the attendees moved to breakout groups to discuss what they had heard.
The night appeared to be very successful and, as limited an opportunity as people had on Zoom to offered feedback, a number of people reached out on the night and since to say how helpful and inspiring they had found my material to be.
There are two aspects to this particular opportunity that I am deeply grateful for and encouraged by: First, is the opportunity to truly collaborate in evangelism training with local friends and ministry partners here in Ireland. I have been contributing with CJM on a personal capacity for several years but it is wonderful now to be able to connect Solas and CJM as true partners in the gospel as we collectively and strategically support one another in our shared vision to reach the people of Ireland with gospel and equip the local church here for effective witness in a changing spiritual climate. Having people who share your heart that Irish people will come to trust Jesus as Lord and who want to collaborate – in the fullest and truest sense of that word – is a deep encouragement as I conduct the work of Solas here on my own. Secondly, I’m increasingly inspired by the opportunities that I and being given to minister beyond the Northern Irish boarder into the Rep. of Ireland. Solas have an all-island vision for doing evangelism and evangelism training. There are many needs in the south, particularly given its vastly more multicultural, secular and religiously disenfranchised status compared with the north. Many evangelical churches, ministries and Christian Unions are significantly smaller and less resourced than their equivalents in the north, yet the needs are arguably much greater. Solas is delighted to be able to see the beginnings of several opportunities to be sharing the Gospel in a context with less than 1% evangelical Christians and we look forward to and welcome any future opportunities to serve, or support others in serving, the urgent need of the Irish people to come and meet the real Jesus of Nazareth for themselves.
We value your prayers for these opportunities. For “…how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)