Stories, Source Code and the Start of Term
3 things i learned about evangelism from Bristol University
I spent an excellent day with Bristol University Christian Union yesterday. It was the day before the end of term and yet they were still pushing hard on the evangelism front – putting on an evangelistic lunch bar meeting explaining the meaning of Easter. Publicity included – free Easter Eggs and an offer of a Baguette, a 20 minute talk and a question and answer session.
My job was to provide the talk, but I also had opportunity to meet up with the CU exec to offer an evangelism clinic and a discussion about how to help finalists make their final year their best at university (something i would like to offer to other CU’s when I go and speak at a meeting.)
Here are three things I learned from the day
1. Source Code
I was asked to give a 20 minute talk in a physics lecture theatre. It had great audio visual set up so I was pleased to be able to use the following keynote presentation.
I decided to push on the evangelism that connects head and heart, so as the talk was about Jesus back from the dead I talked about bereavement and recognised that in a room of people this size chances are someone had experienced loss. I talked about my own experience a little bit as it’s just over a year since my Mum died. I showed a clip from a movie, then asked if death is really all we have to look forward to, and explored how the resurrection offers hope.
Rather than present the evidence of the resurrection – I spent time looking at the implications of the resurrection by taking a chunk of 1 Corinthians 15. I set the context by explaining about Paul’s conversion from persecutor of the church to being a persecuted member of the church. I then put up the following Bible passage – and asked the mixed audience to see which conclusions they could make as to the implications to the Christian faith if Jesus had not been raised from the dead. They then had 3 or 4 minutes to discuss this.
I wanted to model the following principles:
- the authoratative revelation from God is not the preacher but the scriptures
- the Bible is perspicuous – clear and able to be understood
- that people that have discovered truth for themselves are more likely to both believe and remember it
- that this was a live event – not a prepackaged / predetermined sermon they could have watched on youtube – but an event where we will respond to the people in the room and hopefully the spirit’s guidance.
As people made observations – i riffed off of them to make wider points about the nature of faith, the costliness of christianity, the fact that the resurrection validates the effectiveness of the atonement.
As an experiment I think it went pretty well – will try it out elsewhere and see where we get. If you try it – met me know how it works for you.
2. Student Evangelism
As i chatted with the exec, I discovered that they had had two mini missions as a CU in the last 6 months. I was really pleased to hear that they had put on some events in the first term. As I suspected there was a greater openness from fresher’s to come to things in the first term – even when compared to the second term. I still think fresher’s week is the best time for a full on university mission.
3. Stories open doors
The CU had seen a big turn out to some evening events called REAL LIVES- which tackled the following huge questions:
Where was God when I was raped?
Where was God when I was blown up in Afghanistan?
Where was God when my son was killed in a hit and run accident?
Each night involved 15 minutes of interview / testimony from someone who had had to face one of these horrific experiences and then a 20 minute talk from an evangelist. The CU also produced a really nicely produced book of testimonies from current students to go along with the week and gave out 20 000 pieces of publicity. There were also some lunch time events which included a rapping former drug dealer who explained his story in rap format.
I like this model a lot. There are some dangers of course.
- the spectacular nature of the testimonies can sometimes alienate people – not many of the university population has been a drug dealer or a soldier.
- the evangelist could fail to make sufficient connection with the testimony – and even offer a simplistic / reductionist gospel – but I guess that is true at any other time too.
Anyway great to spend time with the Bristol CU and learn from their creativity. Well done all round.