Love your neighbour literally
I will be honest. When I was given the title and text of the second greatest commandment, I was thinking what more or what new can be said about it? It was for a service aimed for people on the edge of church admittedly but even so. I was of course wrong on 2 counts.
1. The wonders of the Word
Once I started to look again into what loving your neighbour as yourself really means, no surprise, as always, the Word opens up its riches. You would have thought I would have learnt that by now. What is this love? Not the reactionary feeling society so often portrays it as but as an active choice we should make. Who is our neighbour? Anyone in need so everyone as everyone is in need whether that is physical, emotional, financial or spiritual. How do we love them as ourselves? As Jesus says in Matthew 7 v 12, treat people as we would want to be treated. All this underpinned by its Old Testament background where we can see in places like Luke 10 that the 2 greatest commandments had already been identified by the Jews and had an example of loving others as themselves in Leviticus 19 v 18, 33, 34.
2. The way of the world
We did talk about the coronavirus during the service and during the sermon. But it turned out to be the last Sunday churches could physically meet together so it had not quite hit home. How different things are right now. How relevant is loving our neighbours right now. Literally, loving the people we are living with and next door to, whether that is by staying in, isolating, checking they are OK by text, buying shopping for them, talking at the length of a broom stick apart across the fence or meeting over the internet.
If we love our neighbours as God wants it can have a huge impact and that includes telling people about Jesus. Think evangelism stops in lockdown? Read here for some more thoughts and ideas: https://christianconcern.com/comment/evangelism-under-lockdown/
Here is one amazing example from Hope Together’s email sent out on 27th March by Dr Julian Urban, a 38-year-old doctor in Italy:
“Up until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists…I always laughed at my parents when they went to church. Nine days ago, a 75-year-old pastor came to us for medical help. He had grave respiratory problems, but he had a Bible with him and it impressed us that he was reading the Bible to the people who were dying and holding their hands.
We were all tired, discouraged doctors, psychologically and physically spent, and so we found that we were listening to him… We realised that we have reached the limits of what man can do. We need God, and we have begun to ask for his help, when we have a few moments free. We cannot believe that we who were fierce atheists are now seeking for interior peace by asking the Lord to help us…
The 75-year old pastor [has now] died. Despite the fact that in the last three weeks we have had over 120 people die in our unit, and we are all exhausted and feel destroyed, he succeeded, despite his own condition and our own difficulties, to bring us a PEACE that we no longer hoped to find.”
“Love your neighbour as yourself” could not have been more of a relevant title and text.
Further thoughts on what we might learn from the coronavirus are at https://nigelbolitho.org/some-things-we-might-learn/
Preached at Holy Trinity, Rayleigh to launch their year of invitation, where they have 12 events throughout the year to invite people to who don’t usually come to church to ranging from a concert to a dog display to a family art day. It was encouraging to hear that their first event had had quite a few guests attend after being invited. Please pray for them as they manage these in light of the coronavirus.
Met with Saffron Walden Deanery Evangelism team and planned out a small group guide for all their churches to use in PCC meetings, home groups, choir practices and flower arranging groups to discuss evangelism, relationships and inviting people to church.
Led sessions at a meeting with Bishop of Chelmsford and Saffron Walden Deanery churches about the small group guides (outlined above) and at a Deanery synod meeting. Both meetings had some great ideas and input from people. This was all to lead to Gospel Sundays in June with an evangelistic service in every church which has now been cancelled. Please pray for these churches as they pick this initiative up again in the future.
Spoke at Midlands CRE with my Oak Hill College lanyard on about connecting faith and culture based on Niebuhr (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/christ-and-culture-an-overview-of-a-christian-classic/, Bavink (not Batfink) (http://www.eldrbarry.net/clas/en/5mgnts.pdf) and Paul in Athens in Acts 17.
Linked up with some other evangelism types from different churches in Chelmsford to suggest regularly meeting up together to support each other, find out what’s going on in the city and be open to working together more. People seemed keen to do this so we will be starting online soon.
Preached at Broomfield Road Evangelical church in Chelmsford about Loving your neighbour as yourself – see above.
Now with the coronavirus, there are lots of unknowns for all of us, some of which will be life changing. In terms of Evangelism consultancy, there were plans in the next couple of months for training for Saffron Walden Deanery Evangelistic preachers, preaching at Broomfield Road Evangelical church, a meeting of Chelmsford evangelists, evangelistic preaching in Saffron Walden and a church training session in Great Wakering. Some of these might be possible online, we will have to see along with everything and everyone else.
Please pray for these churches, your church and all churches as they engage with their surrounding community at this time of challenge and uncertainty, that people will find Jesus as the Italian Doctor describes above,
If you have some more time at the moment why not watch:
To help talk about your faith – Faith pictures
A short course by the Church Army of 6 sessions to help talk naturally to people about what we believe.
To reflect on what church could / should be? – Sheep amoung wolves
A documentary about the fastest growing church in the world – the church in Iran. A really moving and motivating film with many lessons that we could learn.
To think about how we can interact with people’s faith journey – Elim’s vision
Although an Elim vision for how churches can think about evangelism, this 2 hour course can be applied to all of us.
If you would like regular evangelism ideas for you and your church, please sign up to receive this update.