The Minister of Emmanuel Church Wimbledon in south London, the Revd Robin Weekes, explains why his church is using The Word One to One evangelism resource.
For a long time, many evangelical churches have tended to view evangelism as event-based. Whether that event was a Billy Graham rally, an evangelistic course, a church mission or carol service, the idea was much the same: get as many people to the event as we can and pray that they will hear the gospel there and respond. By God’s grace, many, many people have come to saving faith this way, and we rejoice in that. There remains a real place for evangelistic events, missions and courses, and we do all three at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon, where I serve.
However approaching evangelism as event-based has its limitations. For one thing, it places the responsibility for communicating the gospel on to a few people – the evangelist, the course leader, or the vicar. It also assumes that people are free for the event. We continue to enjoy using Christianity Explored and now Life Explored at our church, but we’re finding that it is increasingly difficult for people to make it every week. Moreover, people are starting considerably further back, such that we’re finding it’s only they finish the course they are really ready to start it! Some of the fruit we’ve seen in recent years has come from people doing two, even three courses.
That’s why as a church we have been excited to use and promote The Word One to One. We have found it to be a wonderful resource for a number of reasons. First, it gives Christians a vision. The name says it all – let’s open up the Word one to one with someone! Secondly, it gives Christians confidence in the Word.
Here is a resource which is the Word of God (John’s gospel) in an accessible form, with questions and answers on the text to help you and the person you’re reading it with understand the meaning. It requires no expertise and no preparation – just the courage to say to a friend, “would you be interested in reading John’s gospel together?” In that way then it at the same time equips Christians and de-centralises evangelism making it no longer the sole responsibility of the evangelist, course leader, or vicar. And thirdly, it is wonderfully flexible. As a church we continue to run Christianity Explored and Life Explored courses. However, unlike events, The Word One to One only requires you and your friend to be free, and you can meet whenever is convenient for you both.
In terms of how we’ve used it, here are a number of things which have helped. We’ve twice had Richard Borgonon, the co-author of The Word One to One at Emmanuel. The first time he came mid-week to equip us for a church mission. The second time he came on a Sunday and preached a sermon based on one of the studies. As well as that, I have tried to lead by example by doing it with some men myself. We’ve also had people up front on a Sunday saying how they’ve used it – including sharing their experience of when it hasn’t gone well. And then recently we preached through John chapters one to four using the same divisions that The Word One to One makes. This was to give the church family both familiarity with the early chapters of John’s gospel and confidence in at as God’s word.
It’s been really encouraging to see different ways people have picked up the ball and run with it. One father in church used it each night with his two teenage sons (we don’t mind in the least that this was the word one to two!). One of my colleagues has been doing it with her father over Skype each week. Others have taken it on holiday with them and done it with relatives in Africa and Asia.
So we thank God for The Word One to One and pray that He will continue to use it powerfully by His Spirit to make Jesus known as his word is opened. And that by believing in Christ, countless people all over the world will find life in his name.
- Click here for more information on The Word One to One.