Literally two minutes on youth evangelism: an uncalled speech from the General Synod, February 2019.
Words from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address yesterday: “There is an eternal struggle in each of us and among all of us to speak love fluently…”
I strongly support this motion as amended and I commend it to the Synod. It was my privilege to serve on the Archbishops’ task group on evangelism which made this area of work a priority as Mark Russell has said.
When Archbishop Justin invited us to give our testimonies early in the life of that group, we found that everyone had come to faith in their teenage years or as students at college.
Mark has pinpointed the critical importance of this age group for our evangelism. Because it is at this age we learn to think, and we learn to love. There is an eternal struggle in each of us and among all of us to speak love fluently.
I concur with Mark when he says that young people respond not to institutions but to people. This I hope will be the focus of our debate as we see it discussed beyond this chamber.
I want to say that the key thing about evangelism for all ages, but especially for this age group, is the moment of invitation, and that this is a people moment, a moment of love and a moment for everyone. In our First Peter bible study yesterday we saw the human dynamic – a falling for the beauty and love of God in Christ, and an indescribable and glorious joy. From this flows the engagement with holiness to which Angus Macleay referred in his speech in yesterday’s debate.
Mark said that evangelism is knowing that God thinks you’re fantastic. I am in love with Jesus. Jesus found me as an older teenager with a nervous breakdown, and showed me his love and restored me, and since then I’ve tried to live a life of holiness. Why? Because Jesus is lovely.
The moment of evangelism is a moment of openness to the living, loving God. It is God who gives life to the dying. It is the living spark, rather than a treatise on light, which will prevent people from stumbling. It is the living bread that nourishes; and though menus of argument can look lovely with their paper and card and print, no one would want to eat one. As St Paul sharply and correctly said, ‘Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up’.
Evangelism is about the love a person, Jesus, has for us, and about the love we offer in return. It starts there. Love, not argument. We could do worse.
‘There is an eternal struggle in each of us and among all of us to speak love fluently.’ Some have testified today to what happens among young people when we lose that struggle. We may stammer love; but for all ages, and especially for this age, at least let’s aim to speak the language of love, when we speak.