Questions can be scary – particularly when they are asked of us and we feel as if we do not have an adequate answer. What is the last question someone asked you about God? More specifically, what is the last question someone asked you about God that you could not answer?
Questions can also be powerful – particularly in conversation, as a means of revealing our intentions, misconceptions, and desires. What is a significant question you find yourself asking God in the season you find yourself in today?
Questions about life, faith and God.
Questions also revealed an opportunity to run Alpha in my workplace. I found that many of my coworkers had questions about life, faith and God. While nearly everyone I work with was open to discussing these questions (or debating them, in a few cases), I found myself frustrated at the lack of opportunity to have these conversations. Many people work late and some commute in from far away, catching trains out of the city immediately after work. Most days, there was little time before or after working hours to meet with my coworkers.
Coming home from work one day, I went to God in prayer and asked what he was already doing in my workplace and how I could participate in his work. Over the course of the next few weeks, I received growing clarity about what God was doing. He was leading me to engage with my colleagues’ spiritual questions. I thought of The Alpha Course.
I was initially disappointed when I learned from our Human Resources representative that I would not be able to hold meetings for Alpha in the boardroom at work. Yet, shortly afterward, I was drawn into several fruitful conversations about faith at the staff Christmas party. Eventually, God made a space for me to host Alpha at St. Andrews Church, located next to my office. The group met weekly and consisted of, on average, six or seven people who work in and around the downtown area. We worked through the twelve sessions of Alpha, replacing the Alpha Weekend with an Alpha Lunch.
They actually came back.
What I learned throughout this experience is that questions can be left unanswered. In fact, having all the answers all of the time can be suspicious. How can we expect people to be open and vulnerable with us if we are not open and vulnerable about our own questions and doubts? Despite the many questions I did not answer (or could not answer), I found people coming back.
What came as no surprise, but is worth emphasizing here, is the absolute centrality of relationship when it comes to evangelism. Relationship with those we are reaching out to, yes, but even more importantly, our relationship with Jesus and his body, the Church. We will not be effective participants in God’s work in the world around us if we are not daily resting in our relationship with Jesus and persistently pursuing maturity in Christ through prayer, community and studying God’s Word. Notably, the further and more dependently I leaned into prayer, the more I saw God moving in people at our Alpha gatherings.
Two individuals stayed after the Holy Spirit session and expressed desires to be filled by the Holy Spirit. One individual, a good friend, had been slowly growing in his faith throughout Alpha. The other individual, a newer friend, was long familiar with the concept of Jesus but had no faith of his own.
While only time will tell how they move forward with this commitment, God certainly used this workplace Alpha course to begin stirring up faith in the people who attended. After Alpha, God brought together a group of about ten people working in the downtown area who expressed interest in meeting once a month to pray for our various workplaces. God is not done drawing people to himself and he invites us to partner with him in this work!
How well do you know the people around you?
How well do you know the people around you? Right now, select either your workplace or your neighbourhood before you continue reading. Think of the two or three coworkers or neighbours that are in closest proximity to you. Do you know their names? The name of their significant other or their children? Do you know a bit of their story or their interests? Are you regularly praying for them?
For those of you who were able to do this easily, praise God. You are loving your immediate neighbours well. Now try to do this for five or six of your closest neighbours or coworkers. For those who could not do this easily, praise God. He is working in the lives of these people and it is not too late to begin partnering with him.
In either case, in the next week put aside twenty minutes and make a map outlining what you do know about your coworkers or neighbours. Begin spending a few moments each day praying about each of these people, that God would reveal opportunities for you to begin getting to know them, loving them and bearing witness to the hope you have in Christ. Then, put this map somewhere you will see it each day. Update this map, add details, include more people. For those of us humans who are inclined to forgetfulness, this is a powerful way of reminding us to pray for those around us. It also has the encouraging effect of tracking what God has been doing in the lives of the people around us.
A tension in evangelism that I still wrestle with is how to balance between the extremes of living out our faith without words, so that others see genuine faith in action, versus only using words to express our faith. There is a saying I have heard several times while growing up in the church that says, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” While I readily acknowledge the importance of having our lives align with the words we say and the centrality of loving our neighbours well, it is naïve to think that words are not necessary in preaching the Gospel. We know God through his words revealed to us through the Bible. God spoke the universe into creation. We as members of the church exist to know and enjoy God and to participate in his redeeming work in the world. This will require words. I would prefer the familiar statement be revised to read, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words too, they’re necessary.” In fact, using words was crucial in getting to know my coworkers and answering their questions.
So, what is God doing in your workplace? In your school? In your neighborhood? How can you participate in that? Ask. Seriously. Take a few minutes now and ask God what he is already doing in the people around you. Ask him how you can participate in his redeeming work in your spheres of influence. Then, ask again tomorrow, and the next day. Patiently and persistently pursue God in prayer. Ask him to make clear to you what he wants to do in and through you for the sake of the people around you. Get together with some others and ask, search Scripture for wisdom, and pray. Then take the bold step of asking your non-Christian coworkers to explore their spiritual questions and the answers offered by Christianity. I am not expecting that your next step will or even should be running Alpha (this may be inappropriate or ineffective in many contexts), but I do expect that God will use you to make the mystery of Christ known among the people you do life with. I felt God was asking me to trust him in this way, by running Alpha. When you sense something, faithfully try it, and watch for how God uses it. Take seriously God’s promise in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”