Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to speak at the European Leadership Forum (ELF). That is a conference which brings Christians from right across Europe together to teach, equip and train them in everything from evangelism to apologetics to theology to preaching and much more! It is an amazing conference!
Because of the ongoing Covid-related restrictions on international travel, the conference was online this time. In some ways that actually increased the richness of the event as it meant they had people from other continents joining them for the first time.
I spoke at three ELF sessions this time.
They asked me to speak firstly on ‘short and sharable messages on digital media’. Friends of Solas will know that we have our Short Answers videos that have been viewed somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million times (it’s hard to track the numbers!). ELF asked me to think through what we do when we communicate through short answers and how can we teach that to others. So we talked about the rationale behind Short Answers, that is creating video pieces which are short, succinct, accessible, free of Christian jargon. We talked about the content of Short Answers and the way in which they take people’s questions and objections and respond to them; then how hard we have worked to get people to share them. After all, it’s one thing to create a good resource, it’s quite another to get it seen! Another critical part of the Short Answers series is that they are free to view. It’s really important not to hold back gospel resources but to get them out there. So it was great to share so much of what we have learnt through Short Answers and we pray that as a result others will be stimulated to be creative in digital space in different contexts across Europe.
Here’s an example of a Short Answers video.
My second session was entitled, “5 steps for answering any really tough question”. In that session I really wanted to stress that rather than trying to learn complex, detailed answers to every tough question there are five steps that we can work through whenever a tough question arises. It begins with the importance of really listening to, and connecting with the questioner. It continues with giving the questioner cause to think about or even question their own worldview. So for example if someone says, “how can you believe in a good God when there is evil in the world?” then its worth getting them to think about atheism. Can you meaningfully use words like “good” and “evil” if we live in an atheistic universe? The next step is to think about a biblical worldview and how the Bible sheds light upon the question and then critically how we connect that to Jesus. we need to show people difference that the gospel makes to the question being posed. Then lastly we looked at the importance of connecting people to good resources.
My third session at ELF was about “Joined-Up Evangelism” which was about helping people to connect their deepest longings to the gospel. We live in a world in which so many people are just apathetic about God and faith – but a lot of Christian apologetics has focussed on how to answer hostile atheists and their objections. But what if your friends don’t have objections, but are just apathetic and disinterested. So in this session, I looked at the way that those deep longings that our friends have for things like justice, beauty, meaning, truth, identity, significance and value (the list goes on and on!), only make sense and join up in a coherent when seen through the Christian faith. We looked at that with the help of the great Christian thinker from a few centuries ago, Blaise Pascal, who said, “Talk about the gospel in such a way that good people wish it were true – and then show them that it is.” Sometimes we leap to the ‘show them that it is’ stage, but people aren’t interested in engaging with evidence for the resurrection of Jesus yet. What they want to know is what difference Christianity will make. So in that talk I showed that Christianity makes a massive difference to all the things we humans are wired to care about.
Have a look at the European Leadership Forum website, because many of the talks given there by me and loads of others are available there. We look forward to working with the ELF more in the years to come.