When it comes to evangelism, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Up and down the country, millions gather to sing songs pregnant with gospel meaning of the God who came to us as a man to invite us into relationship with Him.
For most of us, and most of our society, our appetite for ‘Christmassy’ activities rivals our actual appetites on Christmas day. Despite increasing secularisation, our society still cherishes many parts of christian Christmas traditions, as well as the puddings, tinsel and presents. Carol services are a fantastic example of this; up and down the country, millions gather to sing songs pregnant with gospel meaning of the God who came to us as a man to invite us into relationship with Him. We should need no convincing that the opportunity is there!
Barely a week into Advent, and chances are, if you’re a student, you’ve probably already attended at least one carol service, starting early to fit all the necessary festivities into term time. If you’ve already donned your Christmas jumper, invited your friends, sung your lungs out and scoffed some mince pies at your church or university carol service, in a few weeks (or maybe days) you may well find yourself home for Christmas – meaning there’s a whole different set of friends and even more Christmas events to invite them to.
Here are four top tips for making the most of those Christmas invite opportunities:
Heading home for Christmas means there's a whole different set of friends and even more Christmas events to invite them to.
- Invite thoughtfully and prayerfully:
It can take less than ten seconds to invite all your facebook friends to an event, but how often do you turn up to an event when you know that ‘select all’ has been utilised? Sowing gospel invites widely isn’t without merit, but it can often come across as deeply impersonal – exactly the opposite impression we want to give our friends about the God who moved into our neighbourhood. Ask God who He wants you to invite and then invite them personally.
- Know who you’re inviting:
Following on from the above, invest time in whoever it is you’re inviting. If you’ve never had a conversation about faith or invited their opinion on what they make of Jesus, invest some of your time getting to know them better. Start where they’re at. What are the barriers they need to cross before they start following Jesus for themselves? Are they intellectual barriers – do they need to be convinced that Jesus really is who He claimed to be? Are they emotional barriers – have they had life experiences that left them wondering how there could possibly be a God who loves them? Have they been hurt by Christians in the past, and need to hear a humble and gracious apology on behalf of the whole family before they can take seriously anything Christians say? The incarnation tells the story of God coming to us, to our brokenness, doubts and pain, He didn’t demand that we meet Him half way.
- Don’t be afraid to go beyond the carols:
Christmas events aimed at guests are brilliant, but they don’t represent the sum total of things we can invite our friends to. God in his infinite creativity made us all differently, and that means there is no one-size-fits all when it comes to evangelism. For some, a carol service with a short talk on the meaning of Christmas might be exactly the thing the Holy Spirit works through, but that’s most certainly not a rule.
Fusion, a student mission movement, have created a great tool called Mission Styles to help think through the ways in which our God-ordained differences may impact how we most naturally share Jesus, and how non-Christians might most naturally encounter Him. If you’re not familiar with it, give the test a go and think about where your friends fall on the scale, or even get them to do the test themselves. Here’s a quick run-down to get you thinking:
o ‘Convince me‘ types will want to get their teeth into questions about the truth and reliability of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. They may well find the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus really compelling, so prepare well and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
o ‘Talk with me‘ friends love hearing stories, and want to find how their own story connects with the story they’re hearing, be it the Christmas story or the story of God working in your own life.
o ‘Show me‘ people want to see what practical differences faith makes to everyday life; invite them to join in with practical ways your church demonstrates the love of God at Christmas – homeless outreach, food hampers, reverse advent calendars can be powerful ways for ‘show mes’ to understand the meaning of Christmas for themselves.
o ‘Let me experience‘ types want a piece of all the action so don’t be shy in inviting them to anything and everything. They encounter Jesus best by experiencing what it means to follow Him for themselves
- Follow up well:
Evangelism doesn’t end when the event is over – a great excuse to make time for a glass of mulled wine or a festive hot chocolate! Invite their honest opinion and any reflections they may want to talk more about. I’ve found that it’s important to give your friends permission to be fully honest – if they don’t know it’s a safe space to speak openly, they may well keep their opinions to themselves to save your feelings. Ask yourself – or even better, ask them – where were they on their journey to faith in Jesus when they arrived? Have they taken any steps towards believing? What would it take for them to take that next step, or the one after that?
Follow up will look completely different for different people, but these are good questions to be thinking about. What does your church have coming up that would help them get to know Jesus better? Do you know any other Christians in your town or at their university who could help follow up when you disappear back to uni in January? Could you fit in reading a gospel together before you go your separate ways?
Let’s make the most of this wonderful time of year for our friends who really need the message of hope that Jesus brings.