Gareth Black had a great night with the youth fellowship at Abbotts Cross Congregational Church in Newtonabbey. It was something of a homecoming for Gareth too as he grew up at Abbotts Cross, became a Christian through the church and was a member of the youth fellowship too. “I have lots of fond memories and affinity with so many of the people there – and it was great to connect with old friends again”, Gareth said.
The other thing that made the evening significant for Gareth was that this was one of the first live events he did as the churches emerged from the last pandemic lock-down. 25 people met in the church’s sports hall and despite the fact that masks were on, and mingling, interaction and singing weren’t really permitted, several of the young people really appreciated being able to meet again in person. Some of them hadn’t really engaged much with the Zoom programme the church had offered during the lockdown, and they were especially enthusiastic about the meeting.
The subject Gareth looked at was “How to Share Your Faith Effectively”. He looked at the way that the first Christians shared their faith; not primarily through preaching, or running ‘evangelistic events’ but through everyday conversation and living out their faith in the public square. Gareth explained that the reason that they did this so confidently and effectively is that Christianity is an evidence based faith. A lot of Christians have never looked at that, and tie their faith simply to subjective experience. in response, Gareth have them a brief introduction to some of the evidence in history, science, philosophy and morality.
1 Peter 3:15 is a classic Bible text for dealing with all of this. It says, “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. Gareth encouraged the young people at Abbotts Cross to face up to the challenges in today’s culture, but not to be afraid of them. He especially encouraged them to resist the temptation to hide with a ‘privatised’ faith. A purely subjective faith, based on experience might be a private matter, he said; but challenged the young people to look at the publically available evidence for the Christian faith and to have the confidence to be a bit more ‘public’ about what they believe.
An observation that Gareth made was that a lot of Christians are prepared to give an answer for how they came to faith: their testimony. He underlined that that is good and important. However, he also pointed out that the text in 1 Peter says we are to give a reason why we believe! The importance of always speaking with “gentleness and respect” was Gareth’s next major point, because it is all too easy to put people off the message by the way we conduct ourselves.
He brought the evening to a conclusion with his “Top 4 Tips for Sharing the Gospel”. These are
- Being in a good, healthy friendships with non-Christians
- Learning to ask good questions
- Learning to persuasively articulate why you think Christianity is true.
Afterwards Gareth said, “It was a good night! Despite the fact that regulations in place here at the time meant that there were restrictions on mixing, mingling or interaction and so it was hard to gauge what the young people were thinking – the leaders were very positive. I hope to be able to work with them again!”