by Mike Stark (Youth & School’s Worker for NCC)
I recently attended “Deep Impact”, Scotland’s National Christian Youth Work Conference in Aviemore. I came back refreshed, inspired and excited about all the work ahead. I’ve got a lot to reflect on over the next couple of weeks: the people I met, the things I learned, and truths I just needed to digest. Since I got back last Sunday, whenever possible, I’ve been re-reading my notes and musing, thinking about how to apply some of these things to our Youth and Children’s work in Niddrie.
The whole theme of the conference was to ‘Boldly go…‘ encouraging Youth and Children’s workers to be bold in their lives and ministries for Jesus. The main speaker for the weekend was Gavin Calver, head of Youth For Christ in the UK, who seems to be a bit of a ‘have-a-go hero’ in evangelism – the kind of man normal people don’t want to sit next to on a long haul flight. During one of the seminars, Gavin talked about the Three Stories model of evangelism as a particularly good way to engage post modern people in a biblical way.
Three Story Evangelism is about connecting stories… three of them as you have probably guessed: me and my story, Christ and His story, and finally them and their story. The idea is to find connections between you and them, therefore connecting an unbeliever’s life and story to Christ and His story.
The more these stories and lives connect and the more we have in common, the better. This model also stresses the importance of nurturing our ‘connection‘ with Christ in evangelism even more than we would look to nurture our ‘connection’ with a lost world. So, our relationship with Jesus is of first importance in evangelism.
I confess I’m not always the boldest in my evangelism. It’s tempting to buy into the notion that because I’m not a gifted evangelist, I can leave the evangelism to others. Ellis is, on the other hand, a gifted evangelist – he’s bold as brass when it comes to sharing his faith – and so his gifts are complimentary to my own. However, that aside, every Christian has a role in evangelism, in sharing the good news of Jesus with a lost and dying world, and the three stories model is a very simple approach to use. In fact, most of us have probably used it without even thinking about it because it’s an approach that Jesus used in the Bible.
In John chapter 4, we read the extraordinary story of the woman at the well. Here, I’m taking for granted Christ’s ‘connection’ with his Father, and we will look at how he engages with the woman and her story. Jesus is tired, his disciples have gone into town to buy food, and he says to the woman “Will you give me a drink?”
What does Jesus have in common with this Samaritan woman? Well, they’re in the same place at the same time: Jesus needs a drink and the woman is equipped to draw water. And so Jesus throws social conventions (v.9) out the window to establish a relationship with this lost individual. From a very simple conversation starter, Jesus goes on to share some very profound truths with this woman. He cuts to the core of the woman’s idolatries (men, relationships, sex and intimacy) and brings the gospel to bear in her life. She is so profoundly changed that she forgets her shame (v.6-7), returns to her community and shares the good news there (v.28-30).
I was up at the gym last week with Mez and Andy. As I sat in the sauna thinking about all this, I decided I’d give it a go, so I asked the man next to me a question about the gym (seeing as I was in on a guest pass). This developed into, admittedly, a relatively superficial conversation ranging from golf, TV packages, and the recession, on to my job as a church youth worker. OK, he didn’t repent of his sins and put his trust in Jesus, but it was a little conversation that could have gone anywhere. And it’s important to recognise that it could have gone nowhere: if people don’t want to talk (as most in a sauna won’t!) pursuing conversation isn’t going to do us any favours.
How does all this relate to evangelism among young people in a housing scheme in Niddrie? Nearly every single Gospel opportunity I’ve had in the past 4 years has come because I’m in relationship with a young person. Although I still get opportunities, especially through my chaplain role at the high school, to stand in front of a class, house, or an entire year group and share the Gospel, but the only conversation I can remember off the back of one of these was a little chat with a girl about bullying. Yet, when I’m involved in a young persons life, as they see me day after day, and hear little bits of my story, that’s where the majority of my Gospel conversations come – it’s at these moments that I’m striking gold.
There are some really exciting things happening in the youth work at NCC just now. There are lots of little pockets of young people interested in finding out more about Christianity because of conversations they’ve had with us. We have a little group of girls going through the Christianity Explored ‘Soul’ DVD series, one of whom’s been coming to church every week for about 3 months and it’s really cool seeing her understanding of the Gospel grow. I’m doing ‘Soul‘ with 2 young men in our one-2-ones. The Chaplaincy Room isn’t even officially open yet, but already we’ve had numerous conversations with a little group of boys who have been really keen to take away and read Gideon’s bibles – and not just to use as skins (for rolling joints)! In fact, it looks like a little group of boys up at the school will be doing ‘Soul‘ with us too. I feel as though, very soon, we’re going to have a little group of Christian young people to disciple. So we’re in the thick of planning beyond ‘Soul’ what we can do with these young people.
In all of this, the greatest lesson for me has been to stay close to Jesus. He’s the difference young people notice in our lives. He’s the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. And He’s the one who has power to turn the hardest of hearts towards Him in repentance and faith. If everyone involved in our Children’s and Youth work are walking hand in hand with our Saviour in prayer and through His Word, if we’re living in dependence on God, in step with His Spirit (Galatians 5:25), then we’re in the right place to be of use to others in evangelism.