Evangelism in Hard Places

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Reflections on Outreach Conference 2018

The greatest question I faced at the recent Outreach Conference in Kilkenny was: Do I really care about the needs of the poor who are marginalized in society today?

Mez McConnell, who coordinates 20 Schemes (a church planting movement aimed at reaching the 20 hardest council estates in Scotland) led us to think, in general, we just ignore them as they are not part of our lives.  People in social care live with experiences we think will never happen with us or our family. Worse than that, we don´t want to be involved with them.   He was very clear that we need to be asking: What are we doing with the Gospel of Jesus in relation to these people? 

His main contention was that although these people may be struggling with drug addiction, for example, their greatest need is still to apply the Gospel of Jesus to their lives. 

So, what can we do as it can be so difficult to work with them? 

It begins with applying the gospel to our own lives and after that, we are able to help them. We need to remember that the gospel is unchanging.  This is the first and most important point to remember.  We are just as spiritually needy as they are.  

The second thing we need to be convinced of is that their greatest need is the gospel too. God alone is worthy of all honour and in Christ alone our hope is found.  I was struck by how we were challenged to keep it about the gospel, and keep it simple.  This happens when we read the Bible with those caught up in trouble, and show how the good news of Jesus applies to their lives.

Thirdly then comes practical help.  We need to keep in mind important things such as being prepared to be involved in their messy lives, praying constantly, spending time with them, having patience and walking with them through their trials.  On occasion this might mean we need to stop agreeing that they are victims of their situation, instead we must confront them with their sins.

But how do we connect with people who are hurting in a meaningful way?  Mez encouraged us to see that the church is the greatest agent for good in any society.  Church planting is the best way to reach and change every area of society.  In addition however, he also asked us to consider if there are other organisations or church ministries we can volunteer with too?  

All in all, we need to ask God to help us and change our own poor, unworthy heart, not to waste opportunities and to be more useful for His kingdom.

Angel Alves