Column: Challenges posed by Christian faith

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
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As The Church of England in Lancashire we have a vision for healthy churches enabling the transformation of communities.

The strategic document sitting behind ‘Vision 2026’ has been described by one of my colleagues as like ‘War and Peace’ but with graphs.

However, the three key priorities can be distilled as – Making Disciples of Jesus Christ, Being Witnesses to Jesus Christ, and Growing Leaders for Jesus Christ.

Being a witness sounds easy but often people lack the confidence to be effective witnesses for Jesus. They usually find it easier to show God’s love in action through foodbanks or credit unions than sharing good news about the hope that is within them.

For Christians I find the following exercise to help make people better witnesses works better than most …

I encourage people to get into threes and I ask each in turn to say to the other two ‘Why are they still a Christian?’

They have 60 seconds to answer which I time with a stopwatch and I ask for no interruptions.

After each person in the threes have had their moment in the spotlight I ask for two groups of three to join together to form a six. In this bigger group each person, rather than tell their own story, has a further 60 seconds to explain what somebody else in their original three said.

This is partly a test to see how well they were listening. There is a proverb that reminds us that we have two ears and one mouth which means we should listen twice as much as we speak.

I only give 60 seconds because I find it rare in real life that people will give you lots of space to share about your faith and what makes you tick.

Often you may have just a little window of opportunity and we need to be ready to share good news without falling into religious jargon or making the great adventure of following Jesus Christ sound boring.

At the back of my mind I have my experience with a young dad, called Clive, prompting me. When he heard the good news of God’s rescue plan through Jesus it was received with a mixture of joy and anger.

Yes, he was joyful to discover a faith that gave him a new quality of life and a real sense of eternity. However, he was also angry that no-one had told him about this joy and hope earlier in his life!

I could only encourage him to be a better witness than those of us around him.