EVANGELISM IN AN APATHETIC WORLD
"Take a piece of coloured paper, write down one thing that hinders you from Evangelism. Now fold it up; put it aside for now."
WHAT IS APATHY?
"The group on the left, please name this object ; the group on the right, please name the other object!"
It wasn't long till realisation dawned upon the faces of the attendees. Realisation turned into groans when they realised what a 'Ji-Heng-level' pun this was. Yes, you've guessed it - they were saying APPLE TEA (APATHY).
APATHY can be defined as a disposition of dismissal towards a particular idea, person of group. One very helpful way to understand it is using this example: Person 1 : "What is apathy?"
Person 2 : "I don't know, and I don't care." (From Urban Dictionary)
A pictorial representation of Apathy.
THE FOUR ROOTS OF APATHY
If apathy were a flower (something observable), then the four 'roots' are:
1. Naive Apathy
2. Preoccupied Apathy
3. Cynical Apathy
4. Committed Apathy
We went through case studies of CHRIS, TIAN, 'I' & TY; drawing out each of their profiles. After categorising certain observations under a particular type of apathy, we then turned to look at how to approach those with each type of apathy. Our discussion is summarised in the table below!
One striking point that the members brought up is that we should love our friends as people first, rather than only focusing on just evangelism. That's so true isn't it? LOVE is at the heart of evangelism and the reason that we can even love others is because he first loved us (1 John 4:19; our theme verse for this year!).
In the next section of the talk, we talked through some key points to consider when evangelising.
The full worksheet is inserted at the end of this article (for those interested), but to summarise briefly: We should be aware that the gospel is powerful; it belongs to God. Hence, we are not responsible for people's reaction to it, but we ARE responsible for the way in which we tell people about it. If that is the case, we must prepare ourselves (1 Peter 3:15) for any moment when we can share the hope that we have. Importantly, evangelism is explicit! While we can point others to God by the way we live, we should also actively engage people in the gospel (Romans 10:14-17). To walk with Jesus and emulate him, we must pray for a heart that desires to seek and save the lost (Matthew 9:36). People are not projects and evangelism isn't about the number of people we tell. Therefore, we should never compare or feel discouraged when our evangelistical efforts don't appear to pay off! We do work as part of a team, and we may actually play a different role at a different point in someone's life (1 Cor 3: 5-9).
So let us also not be afraid to begin; we shouldn't wait until we are 'ready'. Our weaknesses can only demonstrate God's power- his Holy Spirit at work. God's plans and purposes will prevail, so what do we have fear? The only thing left to address then, is our own apathy. Are we ourselves apathetic to the people God placed in our lives who live without knowing Jesus? They carry out their days, going through the struggles of life without a stable, loving, all-powerful God in whom they can cast their burdens upon. Will you and I continue to live comfortably, just for ourselves?
The members were then asked to take out the coloured paper on which they wrote the number one hindrance to their personal evangelism. In light of what we had heard that night, will we allow it to let it continue being a hindrance to our personal evangelism?
We concluded with a song by Steve Green entitled 'People Need the Lord'.
Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes.
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?
On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.
People need the Lord,
people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams,
He's the open door.
People need the Lord,
people need the Lord.
When will we realize,
people need the Lord?
We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right.
What could be too great a cost
For sharing Life with one who's lost?
Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear.
They must hear the Words of Life
Only we can share." "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36.
Reflections from members : "I never really thought about my friends being apathetic about the gospel. Now when I think about it, I can recognise profiles of apathy in my friends." "When we were going through the profiles, I can't help but assign my friends to a particular profile. There are some overlaps, though."
"I realised that I must first address the apathy in my heart towards evangelism."
To Seek and Save the Lost : Take home 'Lost Sheep Bookmark' for the attendees. Each sheep represents a person that God has placed on their hearts, of whom they want to reach out to.
1. Book recommendation : Know and Tell the Gospel - John Chapman.
2. Learn how to share the gospel in 5 minutes.
3. Read up on the common questions people ask about Christianity.
4. Prepare your personal testimony.
5. Start praying for and loving the 'lost sheep' God has placed on your heart.
6. Start! You'll improve with practice.
7. Encourage each other in evangelism! You are all on the same team.
Appendix : Worksheet with answers filled in; key summary points and reflection questions included along with space for key take-home messages and thoughts.
If you have any questions regarding this talk, do not hesitate to contact Isabel Chew. (crsid: ihsc2) Special thanks for the material that goes into the talk goes to 1. Word Alive 2017 2. John Chapman - Know and Tell the Gospel 3. Ruby Lu