Campaign for Jesus helps the church fulfil its calling
In last month’s Insights, reflecting on Billy Graham’s 1959 visit to Australia, I indicated that I believed that in 21st century Australia effective evangelism has to be on the ground in one-to-one relationships.
This year The Uniting Church is participating in a Bible Society initiative, the Jesus. All about life media campaign. The idea is that, over a six-week period in September-October, an advertising campaign will be conducted on prime time TV with the goal of connecting with people in the context of their life-experiences.
Research carried out by the Bible Society has shown that in our society there is wide acceptance of Jesus as a person but that “ Christianity is widely rejected by most non-Christians as an anachronistic and undesirably rigid set of doctrines‚ while the Church is widely regarded as an old-fashioned organisation that is guilty of failing to live up to its own ideals of tolerance‚ forgiveness and humility.”
That research in itself should be enough to call us to action.
The purpose of the TV ads is to encourage people to engage and to talk about Jesus, to be the catalyst for conversations.
Ultimately it will be individual Christians and congregations who will have the responsibility for bearing the gospel message on the ground in face-to-face conversations.
There are resources available to prepare congregations and for follow-up should people seek information as a result of the ads.
Of course if people should find their way into a church the critical concern will be whether they discover communities of grace able to embrace them in their context or, as they might expect, communities that fail to live up to the ideals they profess to live by.
I would like to encourage congregations to get on board and register as participating congregations on www.jesusallaboutlife.com.au.
At the time of writing there are about 50 Uniting Church congregations registered.
This is campaign in which all congregations of the Uniting Church can participate, whatever their theological persuasion, because the congregation and its members determine what their response will be to those who speak to them or make contact with them.
Because the ads will be viewed by millions of Australians over a six-week period, there is the real possibility that congregations and their members will find themselves involved whether or not their congregation is registered.
So it would be better to be involved, to be prepared, use or adapt the training materials and prepare members of our congregations to respond and share their faith.
In many of the activities of our congregations we engage with people who are not members of our church or any church, but for whom we offer our care and service unconditionally.
While the Jesus. All about lif campaign should not be seen as a way to ensnare a captive audience, it may be the catalyst for some of the people with whom we engage to ask questions they have not felt confident to ask before. We need to be prepared to respond to their questions.
It is really important that we know our own story of faith because it is apparent that in our time the most effective means of imparting the gospel is through sharing our own personal story, being able to answer questions such as: How and why did you become a Christian? How has being a Christian changed your life? What does it mean for you to live daily as a Christian?
So, why would we be involved?
For me it is simply this: the relationship with God that I have come to experience through Jesus has changed my life and continues to change it for the better.
It is a relationship that sustains me, guides me, alleviates my fears, offers me forgiveness and hope; it makes me whole.
Although my life does not give full expression to that experience, I know that every time I offer forgiveness, seek forgiveness, act out of grace, shun violence and revenge, the world is just that little bit closer to the world God intends it to be.
As more people embrace the message of Jesus for themselves and for the world the Church fulfils its call to serve the “coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation” (Basis of Union paragraph 3).