Today’s guest post is from Robert Shaw, Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Winfield Indiana. I’ve met Robert at the Evangelism Conference for the PCUSA last year, and ran into him again at the transformation pastors conference that just ended in St. Pete’s Beach in FL.
He shares with us some of the things that he does as pastor in a local church to help folks with evangelism.
by the Reverend Robert Shaw
Sharing the gospel is as easy as breathing. But then I also find swimming just as easy.
For many mainline Christians being asked to share the good news of Jesus Christ is as scary as being thrown off the end of a pier without the benefit of swimming lessons. But like swimming, once one knows when and how to breath sharing the gospel is easy and the end of the pier becomes an a place to enjoy and dive into the water.
I remember the lifeguard teaching my classmates and I to blow bubbles at my first swimming lesson. “Take a breath of air, put your face into the water, blow bubbles, turn your head to the side, take another breath, and repeat.” This is a lesson I mastered as a six year-old.
Similarly the first lesson when sharing the gospel is learning to blow bubbles. Take a deep breath of the Holy Spirit, then while out in the world slowly exhale. Return to the community of faith and take another deep breath of the Holy Spirit.
This lesson applies not only to sharing the gospel, but to life itself. During the week we face numerous challenges and make our share of mistakes. Some of these feel like getting punched and having your breath knocked out. Knowing where to get a refreshing and life restoring breath of the Holy Spirit helps Christians flourish from one Sunday to the next.
Practice Blowing Bubbles
To help Presbyterian congregations “provide opportunities for evangelism,” I have, as part of morning worship, encouraged those present to talk about why they come to church in small groups. During the passing of the peace, which in my order for worship comes before the Scripture readings and the sermon, I ask those present to re-seat themselves into groups of three. I encourage people from the same household, or usual circle of friends, to sit in different groups.
After a brief introduction, as illustrated in above paragraphs, the sermon is presented as three segments. Each segment is comprised of a Scripture reading, a minute or two of exposition, then three minutes for participants to answer the related question within their triad. I have found using a verse of a hymn an effective and necessary transition between segments. Typically I have had the three questions (the section headings below) printed in the bulletin.
Time with Young Disciples
Before the introduction to the sermon, I invite all of the children to come forward for an object lesson. I hand each child a paper cup saying pretend this is your heart. Then I place a chocolate Kiss® in each cup saying that love is like having a kiss in your heart. Then while pouring more candies from an opaque pitcher into their hands, I say, “But God’s love is heaped up, tamped down, and over flowing.” After the children finish scrambling for the chocolates that have spilled onto the floor, I tell them that with so much love they can could give one to everyone in the congregation and still have more than enough. If pressed for time, the sermon introduction could begin while the children distribute the candy.
What is God doing in your life that excites you?
Scripture Lesson: Psalm 96.
The psalmist was excited about what God had done in creation. He wanted everyone to sing God’s praises with him. Consider the glorious creation that God has placed us in; the majestic beauty of the Grand Canyon, the scent of spring flowers, the song of a wren. Breath deeply to shout about what God is doing now!
What brings you spiritual calm when things are chaotic?
Scripture Lesson: John 20.
The disciples had retreated to the upper room following the Crucifixion. Stain glass windows help separate a congregation from the noise of life, creating a place for quiet reflection. Even the white spaces between the words of Scripture is sacred, for they help us to see the words more clearly. Teach others where to find rest from the storm, to breathe in the Spirit, and receive grace.
How do you contribute to building the Kingdom of Heaven?
Scripture lesson: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
The Apostle Paul recorded several ways that people contribute to being church together. In addition to teaching, preaching, and healing, we contribute to bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, and loose the bonds of injustice. Invite people outside the church to work alongside us so we might see God’s future together.
While gathering joys and concerns in preparation for the Pastoral Prayer, following the Sermon, I ask people to name one thing heard in their triad, that someone outside the church should know.
Before the charge and benediction I ask if participants had enough time to discuss each question. I have always received a resounding “NO!” Then I charge everyone to continue the conversation during the coffee hour with people from other groups, over lunch with family, and during the week with co-workers and neighbors.
Robert Shaw received a Masters in Divinity from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has served as the chair of church development committees for the Synod of Trinity and for the Synod of Lincoln Trails.
Currently he is the Designated Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Winfield, Indiana, which is in the midst of a Transformation project. This article is refined by experiences with six congregations including rural, suburban, and urban settings.