An unprecedented opportunity for sharing Jesus with your friends

I don’t know about you, but I keep finding myself wondering if this coronavirus crisis is all a bad dream. Two factors in particular that make this extraordinary season seem incredibly surreal.

Firstly, the magnitude of the change it’s made to my life. My days and weeks used to have tangible, recognisable markers, familiar rhythms and reassuring milestones. School runs, work routines, takeaway on Friday, football on Saturday, church on Sunday; these are the sort of landmarks that give comfortable structure to so many of our lives – but now most of us are rightly confined to our homes, clutching at the smallest things to help build a new normal.

Secondly, there is the uncertainty of wondering how long it is all going to last. Most disasters that hit our news feeds pass quickly are unlikely to affect us personally. But here we all are in ‘lockdown’ for 3 weeks, with no idea how long it is before we will be able to hug loved ones, return to our familiar office seats or go out for a Big Mac and fries.

Churches have responded with beautiful creativity and passionate resilience and my social media timelines are full of churches offering help to the isolated, ramping up food bank efforts, live streaming services… if only I had shares in Zoom…

But let’s not pass over the chance staring us each in the face at this unparalleled moment in time – the unique opportunity to share our faith with our friends. In ‘The Contagiousness of Hope’ [1], I argued that if your friends are going to come to know Jesus, the most likely catalytic agent in that process is you. And here are three reasons why this is a time to make the most of:

The sands beneath us are shifting

Cultural guru Mark Sayers writes, ‘Individuals in the midst of a life transition are more open to the gospel.’ [2] Evangelical Alliance CEO Gavin Calver wrote before Covid-19 that, ‘Many of the things people have previously placed their hope in seem to be falling down or crumbling before their eyes.’ [3] Into an already spiritually hungry and anxious world, the coronavirus has exposed both the frailties of many of our society’s most precious pursuits and our addiction to and obsession with them.

As Christians we can help our friends navigate their path through confusion and crisis because we follow The Way. We can quiet the voices of fear and anxiety because we listen to The Truth. And we can bring hope into the gravest of situations because we know The Life. These are the days in which faith in Jesus should make the biggest difference as the ground quakes and we can demonstrate the power of standing on the Rock.

You will never have more free time

Most active Christians I know are not just consumers of church life, but wholehearted contributors to it. This should be celebrated and is one of the reasons the church makes such a monumental contribution to society, but because the needs are great and we are passion rich, it can lead to free-evening and weekend poverty. It is so easy to be so enslaved to church rotas that we have no time to join a club, go to the gym, hang out with neighbours and invest in and develop meaningful friendships with mates who aren’t Christians.

Whilst many groups are continuing virtually, my diary has been liberated in the last week and I have taken the opportunity to host virtual hang outs and grab some much needed catch ups that should have happened a long time ago. What would it look like if we all were intentional about investing in a few key friendships during this time, some of which were with friends who don’t yet know Jesus? Perhaps this is a moment to go deeper with a few relationships and share stories of life and hope.

The technology is amazing

First, a health warning: My screen time has rocketed in the absence of face to face contact with people. Let’s not be enslaved to our media feeds. But this is not a bad time in history to be self-isolated. I get to see my mum on a video call every day and multi-screen meetings are the norm. Had the virus arrived thirty years ago, communication would not quite have been the same through fax machines, pagers and households fighting over the land line. In the age of authentic friendship, can we find ways of being a non-anxious presence for our friends who are struggling?

If one of the best things we can do for our not-yet-Christian friends is introduce them to our Christian friends [4], can we host virtual hang outs like Zoom and Houseparty where they can meet and find common ground in this new strange world? Might some of our friends be more open to a virtual Alpha or Christianity Explored course than they would if it were held in a church building? Now is the time to find out.

Paul prays from prison in Colossians 4 that God would open a door for our message. I pray that prayer regularly. What if this is it? As a major broadcaster reported with enthusiasm that in some churches, attendance doubled at the weekend, could we be on the edge of something where the gospel message spreads faster than this virus. If it does, it will be through us. Let’s not miss the moment.

Phil Knox is the Head of Mission to young adults at the Evangelical Alliance. His book Story Bearer is written to help you share your faith naturally and relationally with those around you. www.storybearer.com

So how might you respond?

Make sure you are ready to share your story. The best way to do this is get a copy of Story Bearer for yourself.  The book tells you everything you need to be able to share your faith relevantly and relationally with your friends. Alongside the book there are also a couple of key videos:

  1. How to share your story
  2. An example as I share my story

There is also some small group material if you wanted to explore the book and its themes as a church or as a small group. What would it look like if as a whole Christian community we were more equipped and inspired in this area at this time?

So go for it. Take this opportunity to invest in yourself to be a Story Bearer and make the most of this chance to share your faith. Consider and explore how you might deepen your friendships with those around you and don’t miss the moment to live and tell the Gospel.

[1] https://storybearer.com/the-contagiousness-of-hope/

[2] Reappearing Church, Mark Sayers (2019)

[3] Story Bearer, Phil Knox (2020)

[4] See Evangelism in a sceptical world, Sam Chan (2018) where Sam argues that that we build plausibility structures by helping our friends become their friends.