Writing Your Own Story

Not for Nutters
Evangelistic leaflets (what used to be called ‘tracts’) have seriously fallen out of favour over the last thirty or forty years. For many Christians the very word ‘tract’ conjures up images of nutters on street corners shouting at passers-by or holding up boards which warn of Coming Doom! Those attracting attention by doing such things presumably also press little explanatory leaflets into the palm of any hapless shopper who shows the tiniest glimmer of interest. Later the tracts will be collected by street cleaners.

Well OK. But I am enthusiastic about tracts not because I fit that personality type. What I’m suggesting is a different type of tract – it’s a personal one. Something written by you. And the kind of encounter in which you would offer someone your own personal tract is not impersonal or forced but friendly.

Brief Encounters
I’m speaking about those brief moments where you meet someone – a complete stranger – and a few words might be exchanged, perhaps of thanks, and off you go into the rest of your day: you purchase something at a store; you pay for your meal at a restaurant; you speak with a teller at the bank.

I concede that these moments of friendly encounter don’t strike every follower of Christ as a potential opportunity to share the gospel. In fact an attempt to merely speak about your faith then and there would usually feel awkward.

We meet several of these strangers every day. They are usually serving us and yet don’t feel the need to serve them. Why?

An Opportunity for Light to Break in
A young woman in our church in Missouri asked Jo and I to pray for her. She was genuinely distraught. She told us that she works in MacDonald’s and that it was wearing her down. She felt that customers had no respect for her, they were rude and impatient. Added to that, they were hungry and irritable and if she made any mistakes they were utterly unforgiving. Customer after customer, hour after hour, day after day. It was soul-destroying. Obviously we prayed for her, but I thought to myself, what a difference Christians could make! Instead of moaning about how slowly they were being served they could serve the person with a smile and a simple word of encouragement. What a difference that might make to a discouraged person’s day. And then if they were able to add to that encouragement by giving the person their own story of how God’s grace has impacted their lives they certainly would be ‘making the most of every opportunity’ (Eph 5.16).

Personal Tracts
Lex’s Personal Tract

That’s what personal tracts are about. They’re not for your work colleagues or those who are already your friends. They’re for those chance encounters, where your willingness to serve might be the only moment of light breaking into someone’s darkness.

Check out this amusing 18 minute video to find out how you can write and produce your own.
And please feel free to leave a comment on your own adventures.

©2015 Lex Loizides

 

 

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The First Steps Towards Mission

Getting alone with God

The young Hudson Taylor, newly converted, began to feel, as all new believers do, the desire to serve God in some practical way.

Finding that he had a spare afternoon, young Hudson decided to spend it in prayer. That is an immediate challenge to any young man today, who might, instead, spend the afternoon on the PlayStation or with friends at the mall. Who spends a whole afternoon in prayer?

Even those who are committed to the idea of mission may find that their initial impulse is not necessarily Godward. Research is good, valuable, helpful. Planning is critical. Advice from key leaders, seasoned professionals, may prove foundational. But, if you are seeking to impact a town or region with the gospel then let Hudson Taylor’s first lesson speak to you.

If you’re going to be a leader you need to turn aside and spend time with God. Did this simple spiritual truth get quietly relegated to the second division while the Premiership players published their runaway bestsellers?  Hudson Taylor’s testimony could strike us as simplistic. Well, let’s risk it…

HT: ‘Well do I remember that occasion. How in the gladness of my heart I poured out my soul before God; and again and again confessing my grateful love to Him who had done everything for me – who had saved me when I had given up all hope and even desire for salvation…’

‘Some self-denying Service
He continues, ‘I besought Him to give me some work to do for Him, as an outlet for love and gratitude; some self-denying service, no matter what it might be, however trying or however trivial; something with which He would be pleased, and that I might do for Him who had done so much for me.

Well do I remember, as an unreserved consecration I put myself, my life, my friends, my all, upon the altar, the deep solemnity that came over my soul with the assurance that my offering was accepted.

The presence of God became unutterably real and blessed…I remember stretching myself on the ground, and lying there silent before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.’

‘I was no longer my own
HT: ‘For what service I was accepted I knew not; but a deep consciousness that I was no longer my own took possession of me, which has never been effaced [has never been erased, has never faded].’

Speaking of an exciting opportunity to become an apprentice to a medical doctor a couple of years later he wrote of how he felt it would take him off course in terms of his calling to serve God: ‘I felt I dared not accept any binding engagement such as was suggested.

‘I was not my own to give myself away; for I knew not when or how He whose alone I was, and for whose disposal I felt I must ever keep myself free, might call for service.

‘Within a few months of this time of consecration the impression was wrought into my soul that it was in China the Lord wanted me…’[i]

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] All quotes from James Hudson Taylor, A Retrospect. Also published as ‘To China with Love’ (Bethany House, Minneapolis)

A brief glimpse at those dynamic 18th Century Christian Leaders

John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley (large centre) and Howell Harris
John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley (large centre) and Howell Harris

Before we approach the momentous prayer meeting of January 1st 1739 let’s enjoy a glimpse into the highly charismatic and evangelistic nature of some key players in the Great Awakening of the 18th century.

What were these men really like? Were they as reserved as we sometimes imagine? Or were they on fire for God and eager to create evangelistic opportunities?

Of course, by inference, I am asking the question: ‘How ‘normal’ are we in comparison?’

Below are merely snippets without background info, but we still gain some insight into the freedom and power they enjoyed.

Charles Wesley

‘In the coach to London I preached faith in Christ. A lady was extremely offended; avowed her merits in plain terms; asked if I was not a Methodist; threatened to beat me.

I declared I deserved nothing but hell; so did she; and must confess it before she could have a title to heaven. This was most intolerable to her.’ (Charles Wesley Journal Vol 1, quoted by Dallimore, Charles Wesley, A heart set free, Crossway, p.68)

‘My inward temptations are, in a manner, uninterrupted. I never knew the energy of sin, till now that I experience the superior strength of Christ.’ (ibid, p.69)

‘In riding to Blenton, I was full of delight, and seemed in new heavens and new earth. We prayed and sang, and shouted all the way!’ (ibid, p.69)

Howell Harris

‘My food and drink was praising my God. A fire was kindled in my soul, and I was clothed with power, and made altogether dead to earthly things…

‘I lifted up my voice with authority, and fear and terror would be seen on all faces…I thundered greatly, denouncing the gentry, the carnal clergy and everybody!’ (ibid, p.77)

George Whitefield

‘[January 1738 At] Deal I preached to a weeping and thronged congregation…the Clerk pronounced a loud ‘Amen’ to every person who received either bread or wine, an excellent custom, and worthy in my opinon to be imitated in all churches. After this, I and my friends went on our way rejoicing….

‘In the afternoon preached at Upper Deal. The church was quite crowded and many went away for want of room; some stood on the leads of the church outside, and looked in at the top windows, and all seemed eager to hear the Word of God.’ (GW Journal, Banner of Truth edition, p.117)

‘In the evening, such numbers came to hear me that I was obliged to divide them into four companies, and God enabled me to expound to them from six till ten [that’s four hours of preaching on the trot!].

Some would have persuaded me to have dismissed the last company [who had been waiting 3 hours!!] without expounding, but I could not bear to let so many go empty away. I find the more we do for God, the more we may. My strength held out surprisingly, and I was but little, if at all fatigued.’ (GW Journal, p.118)

John Wesley

(In a letter responding to a critic of the sometimes uncontrolled behaviour of those who were converted in the evangelistic meetings)

‘’You deny that God does now work these effects: at least, that he works them in this manner. I affirm both; because I have herd those things with my own ears, and have seen them with my eyes.

I have seen (as far as a thing of this kind can be seen) very many persons changed in a moment from the spirit of fear, horror, despair, to the spirit of love, joy and peace; and from sinful desire, till then reigning over them, to a pure desire of doing the will of God…

I have known several persons in whom this great change was wrought in a dream, or during a strong representation to the eye of their mind, of Christ either on the cross, or in glory…

And that such a change was then wrought, appears (not from their shedding tears only, or falling into fits, or crying out: these are not the fruits, as you seem to suppose, whereby I judge, but) from the whole tenor of their life, till then, many ways wicked; from that time, holy, just and good.’ (JW Journals Vol 1, p.195 Baker Edition)

This response, incidentally, is remarkably similar to Jonathan Edwards when he was also called upon to account for the highly emotional or demonstrative aspects of his meetings. See here for more information.

© 2009 Lex Loizides