Even as we emerge from lockdown, the Church is having to find new and creative ways of reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ. In an era of social distancing, how can we take the gospel to people? And should these methods be here to stay?
“People sometimes say to me, ‘how should we doing evangelism now?’ And I say to them, ‘exactly how we should have been doing it before!”
This was the advice that renowned author and evangelist Canon J.John gave on our most recent Church Unlocked livestream, ‘What has Covid meant for evangelism?’
“We should always be more intentional about praying. My wife and I are currently praying for 42 people that we know personally, that the Lord will open their eyes and their hearts. It’s something we can always be doing: we can pray for them.”
Yet there’s no denying that the pandemic has certainly produced a spark of change in how we reach people with the gospel message.
‘God has been shaking the land’
J.John shared with us some verses from Psalm 60, where it talks about the Lord shaking the land and splitting it open. “I think something like that has happened in the last year. The land has been trembling.”
Evangelist and trained midwife Laura Brett, who now runs various women’s ministries and Harrogate Filling Station, agreed: “The old has gone, the new has come. God is changing us. We have to join in with what he’s doing.”
But despite this truth, the gospel is still good news for everyone. Preacher and evangelist Dominic Muir, who runs the ministry Jesus Fields, reminded us: “The gospel message hasn’t changed. We’re not ashamed of the gospel, because it’s the power of salvation.”
“The gospel is never locked down,” J.John commented. “Nothing can lock the gospel down. And that’s very important; if we want to share the gospel with confidence, we have to have confidence in the gospel.
“The gospel offers us forgiveness for the past, new life for today and a hope for the future. It’s our reference point, our anchor and the solid rock on which we stand.”
Evangelism has changed
But while the gospel remains the same, the way we reach people with it has had to adapt. We asked our followers on Instagram if they agreed: “Covid has made people more open to conversations about the big issues, like death and loneliness.” 66% agreed.
We asked how this had led people to more opportunities to share the gospel. One follower told us: “Ultimately, people are afraid of death, so instead of talking about the virus, I share the gospel.” Another said: “When people are scared or lonely they need community, so I invite them to church to hear the gospel.”
Our evangelists also shared how Covid had changed the way they were evangelising.
J.John shared how within two days of lockdown, he’d had 9 months’ worth of ministry cancelled. “We had 14 carol services, in pretty large venues, all cancelled, so instead, I thought why don’t we produce a Christmas evangelistic resource and we’ll just give it away and see who uses it. And 1,398 churches ended up using our Christmas resource. So instead of going to 14 different towns, I ended up preaching the gospel at 1,398 churches!
“I was also invited on Easter Day last year to preach to 120 prisons simultaneously, by the prison service. They gave me 20 minutes to preach the gospel, and they liked it so much that they asked me to do it again on Christmas Day. They’re almost certain that 80,000 prisoners tuned in!”
“Before Covid, these opportunities did not exist – these opportunities only came about because of lockdown.”
Meanwhile, Laura Brett shared how her ministry had become more one-to-one: “My ministry became a lot more doorstep evangelism. I bought a blackboard and put it at the end of my driveway with a different verse from Scripture on it every day. I had a basket, I put tracts in it, I used books… I left them and let people take them. That was a way in.
“We got used to lots of walks, so there was that opportunity to talk to people one-to-one and have that deep conversation.
“My ministry online went up a gear as well, and I started to do vlogs, which I’d never done before. And I think that really connected people in my network and beyond.
“I think God’s doing a new thing and I don’t think we need to worry what that’s going to look like.”
More opportunities coming?
Laura encouraged us, “I think there’s going to be more opportunities on the way, more signs and wonders – that comes with repentance.”
Similarly, Dominic Muir encouraged us to keep preaching the message of salvation: “Lockdown has led to all sorts of messages of activism going out, when really, what everyone is crying out for is salvation. Let’s keep going! The gospel never returns void, so I encourage people to keep doing it!”