by Andy Bannister
About 240 men from across Scotland recently gathered for the Christian Men Together conference in Glasgow. I was speaking alongside Ian Coffey, the Director of Leadership Training at Moorlands College. We spoke about how we guys can engage the culture, share our faith and be “Salt and Light” in the secular world.
I spoke about how they can engage their friends more naturally in conversations about faith by using great conversations and apologetics. We’ve found that if you can teach people to ask good questions, amazing conversations about the gospel can happen. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that that’s the approach that Jesus used consistently in the gospels.
In my second session, I took a look at two commonly asked tough questions: “Why would a good God send people to hell?” and “There are so many other religions in the world, how can we know that Christianity is true?” We also explored the best approaches to use in answering all kinds of questions, equipping the men to be more effective, confident witnesses for Jesus.
Since the conference, we’ve had emails from people saying how helpful it was and that they are putting this into practice. That’s really what we are about at Solas, getting Christians equipped and excited about evangelism. We believe that the effects of a conference like Christian Men Together can ripple out, right across Scotland, as Christians get bolder about sharing their faith at work, or with their friends.
Fear seems to be the biggest thing holding us back in evangelism today. It occurred to me a few years ago that there are lots of situations in life when we are afraid, but we keep going anyway! I’ve been a bit of a rock-climber for many years, but still I hate abseiling down after a climb. Why do I still do it, even though dangling on a rope over a sheer drop terrifies me? Because I have done just enough training to know what to do. More importantly though, I trust the person on the other end of the rope.
I think the same is true of evangelism. Fear doesn’t have to be paralysing—if you know just enough in terms of helpful approaches, and have a few tools for good conversations, you can see some amazing things happen. But ultimately though, it’s about knowing that God has “got the other end of the rope”. It’s not our job to win people for Christ, it’s our job to be the most effective ambassadors we can. God does the rest of the work and has got the other end of the rope. Grasping these principles helps people to see that evangelism really isn’t impossible!
These messages worked well alongside Ian Coffey’s emphasis on The Beatitudes and Christian character. Sharing the gospel, and showing the character of Christ are two things which really need to go together. I was reminded of 1 Peter 3:15-16—“always be prepared to give an answer for the hope you have, but do this with gentleness and respect”. If you try giving a reason for the hope you have, using all the right “techniques”—but you are an angry, obnoxious person—people are not going to respond. On the other hand, I think a more common error that Christians make is that they think, “If I am a really nice person, at home, at work, and in the neighbourhood, people will get that this is because I’m a Christian.” Sadly though, it doesn’t work, they’ll just assume that you are a nice person. You could be a nice humanist, or a nice Buddhist or a nice Muslim! We need both Christian character, and the courage of our convictions to talk about what we believe. Put those together, and it’s very powerful, it’s 1 Peter 3!
It’s the first time that I’ve spoken at the Christian Men Together Conference in Glasgow, but it was a return visit for Solas because David Robertson has spoken there before. We really appreciate their work, and enjoy our ongoing relationship with them.