SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH MARGINALISED PEOPLE

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1 SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH MARGINALISED PEOPLE

2 2 HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED HOW TO TALK ABOUT JESUS WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE MARGINALISED? ARE YOU KEEN TO SHARE JESUS LOVE WITH THE MAN WHO BEGS OUTSIDE YOUR LOCAL SUPERMARKET? MAYBE YOU VE HAD SOME EXPERIENCE AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE. WHAT ARE WISE WAYS TO REACH OUT TO PEOPLE ON THE EDGES OF SOCIETY?

3 WHO IS A MARGINALISED PERSON? There s no such thing as a typical marginalised person but people s stories may include: Experience of homelessness They could be living in a hostel, sofa surfing - staying with whomever they can for as long as they can - or sleeping rough on the streets. They may have a flat but hang out with people who are homeless. People often move between these situations. Issues with drug or alcohol use This is often a way of numbing painful emotions or memories, or coping with the harshness of street life. Poor mental health This could range from anxiety and depression to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Schizophrenia. It may have developed before or during their experience of marginalisation. Difficulties making good choices Often they tend to form damaging relationships and find it hard to keep healthy ones. Experience of extreme and repeated rejection from people and from society in general They may be experiencing one or more of these things but one thing is for sure: their life is very painful. Involvement in illegal activities, possibly having spent time in prison 3

4 WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? Throughout Scripture, God is clear that he is for the marginalised and the outcast (Deuteronomy 10:18, Hosea 14:3, Psalm 68:5-6). In Luke 4, Jesus said he came to preach good news to the poor and he continually lived this out. He even said that whatever we do for the least, we do for him (Matthew 25:31-46). James 1:27 says pure and faultless religion is to care for the orphan and the widow in their distress. There can be no doubt God loves those on the margins of society. So the most loving thing we can do for them is to introduce them to their Saviour. WHAT ATTITUDES NEED TO BE IN OUR HEART? Often, one of the biggest obstacles to sharing the gospel is us! Sometimes we are reluctant, but even when we are keen, behind our good intentions there can be an attitude that says, If the person plays their cards right they can become just like us sorted! This is not necessarily an appealing or accurate message. Humility Unless we have an attitude like the apostle Paul, that we are the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:16), we will always risk being somewhat patronising. It s worth asking ourselves the question, Do we really believe that we re as sinful and as in need of grace - as the woman selling herself on the street corner? Recognising the huge amount that we have been forgiven is essential. This takes true humility and the Spirit s work in us through prayer, but if we can see ourselves as one beggar showing another where to find bread, we ll avoid this trap. Compassion As well as humility, we will need compassion. The person is an individual, but may have been robbed of this by their experiences. The person may be tired, stressed, scared, feeling unwell, be numb from drugs or medication, they may have had bad experiences with church or Christians or have been abused. They may be used to people dismissing and rejecting them or making them feel insignificant. Getting alongside them may take time and perseverance Patience We ll need patience too because change is often slow. It s easier to be patient when you realise there is more to recovery than just snapping out of it. Significant factors bind people in their lifestyles and take a lot of work to break. While we would love to see people totally transformed the most important change is for them to come to know Jesus. 4

5 Overall, they re likely to see the world as a harsh and hostile place. They may have hardened themselves as a way of coping. They may struggle to trust people and consequently act in ways that make it hard to trust them. They may believe that God exists but feel that he is distant or uncaring. Why not take some time to think through how this may impact how you treat them? HOW CAN WE GET STARTED? Take an interest The first step is to take an interest and learn about that person, though it s best to avoid asking too many questions - you don t want to come across too much like an authority figure. When meeting anyone for the first time, e.g. in church, it can be best to avoid the, What do you do? question. Someone might be well-presented, but be on benefits or get by financially in a way they might not want to share. This question immediately creates an unnecessary barrier. Instead, follow up, How are you? with How are things going? to show that we really want to know. It s best not to ask where they live, but instead ask if they re local or if they ve come far that day. If they re begging, we can ask how it s going. Offering to buy them something to eat or drink gets you into conversation, shows we care and gives us the chance to introduce ourselves. (We can leave it up to them if they want to share their name.) People may have abused this person s vulnerability. Love them by allowing them some control over where the conversation goes. Gauge their level of interest and don t push it. Put spiritual things in the conversation and see if they are interested. If they don t go for it that time, respect that and move on. You can always pray for open doors another time. HOW DO WE INTRODUCE THE GOSPEL? The best way to introduce the gospel is by getting to know that person s heart and discerning where the gospel applies specifically to them, taking opportunities as they arise. Tell them a story Where possible, it s good to tell stories to illustrate a biblical truth rather than trying to teach concepts. Stories are more effective in communicating what s important, more easily remembered and less combative than bare statements. 5

6 As we talk we can look out for recurring themes for that person and then pick a Bible story that addresses those themes. For example, if they keep mentioning that they don t feel like they re good enough for God, we could tell the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18. Make the story as real and relevant as possible - be creative, but faithful - involving the person as you go along, e.g. asking them who they think God accepts. It s more powerful to let them tease out the answer with our help rather than just quickly telling them what s right. Many gospel themes are relevant and paint a picture. A marginalised person may well feel like an outcast, perhaps a bit like a leper. Jesus touched lepers (when no one else would) and made them whole, which meant they could re-join their community, like the man Jesus healed of leprosy in Matthew 8. The woman at the well in John 4 is another great example. Do they feel judged by people who seem to have it all sorted? In John 8, Jesus defends the woman caught in adultery from the so-called righteous. Then there s the woman who anoints Jesus feet (to the outrage of righteous Simon) in Luke 7. Perhaps they feel like they are wandering lost, suffering alone in a harsh wilderness? In Luke 15, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 (i.e. everyone else who is doing just fine!) to come and get the one who is lost. Do they feel like they ve utterly blown it with God, that they could never be good enough? If so, this is a crucial first step for us all as we approach God. However, the Bible says our main problem is that we have all walked away from God and put ourselves at the centre of our lives. It s always good to try to direct our conversation to their heart and relationship with God (grace) rather than the tyranny of what a so-called good Christian should do (law). How much do they really want it? In addition, we can ask if they really want to get spiritually well. In Mark 2, Jesus said that he came for those who recognised that they are sick and need help. There s also the prodigal son in Luke 15. At all times it s important to be real, relevant and visual as we talk. For example, we could encourage the person to imagine their heart as having a throne on it where the ruler sits. Ask them, Who is on that throne? If they do recognise that they ve blown it with God and want to put him back on the throne you could explain how Jesus has made this possible for them through his death on the cross. Perhaps you could guide them in using the confession of the prodigal son to his father to ask and receive God s forgiveness and acceptance. If they take this step make sure to follow up and try to find a supportive Christian community for them to grow in. Finally, people are often open to being prayed for and with. And why not encourage them to pray for themselves? It gets them relating to God directly. 6

7 STAYING SAFE Most homeless people are more likely to be a danger to themselves, than to us, but it s best to not be naïve. They might find relationships hard and may actually feel safer in the long term with some good boundaries. Often marginalised people have had troubled childhoods which can lead to struggles in expressing difficult emotions. A comment or event that may seem harmless to us, might tap into something very painful for them. It s best to try not to judge. It helps to realise that if we understood their whole life, their reaction (although possibly sinful) may be totally understandable. The aim here is for each of us to work out how to be as wise as a serpent but as innocent as a dove (Matthew 10:16). These suggestions may help: Avoid giving cash it s unlikely to be helpful overall. Always meet in a public place, e.g. café, fast food restaurant. Think carefully before exchanging mobile phone numbers. Don t offer to be available 24/7. Do be realistic about what you can offer. Help the person access support locally if that would be helpful. You can find out about services for homeless people on the internet. Avoid meeting up with someone of the opposite sex. If it looks like there s a potential for friendship-building, bring another wise Christian into the friendship. If you think your church would receive them well, invite them along but be aware your experience of church may change if they start coming regularly. If they re coming to your church try to introduce them to other wise Christians so they don t become dependent on you (and look out for others who you can support in this way). So why not give it a go? If we go in an attitude of prayer, love and respect for the person, marginalised people will be able to tell we genuinely care for them. And in the power of the Spirit, our words about Jesus may become fruitful seeds. 7

8 SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH THE LEAST REACHED SINCE London City Mission exist to serve the church of London in sharing the love of God and the good news of Jesus Christ with the least reached of London. Our staff go to those least reached those living in poverty, on the margins of society or from other cultures. We show God s love in practical ways, continuously seeking opportunities to share the life-changing gospel message. We work in partnership with churches, to ensure that individuals who make a commitment to follow Christ are embraced by a loving church family. The gospel is at the heart of all we do. BECAUSE LONDON NEEDS JESUS. London City Mission, Nasmith House, 175 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 2AH lcm.org.uk facebook.com/londoncm twitter.com/londoncm The London City Mission is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England and Wales, No Registered Charity No

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