Sharing our Faith
In the Church of England, we are blessed by so much hard work and support given to the Vicar by members of the congregation. Lots of people volunteer to work with the Vicar to do God’s work in a Parish. We have two sorts of priesthood – the Sacramental Priesthood, and the Royal Priesthood. God calls or invites every single person to be a part of His Royal Priesthood.
The Vicar is a Sacramental Priest. By sacramental, we mean that the priest is consecrated or set aside by God to serve Him, through the Church, in the world. Sacramental Priests are ministers of the sacraments – The Eucharist, Baptism, Marriage, Healing, Confession, Confirmation and Ordained Ministry. A Priest is usually put in charge of a parish or group of parishes. The serve ‘vicariously’ or on behalf of their Bishop, who oversees the diocese – an area where many parishes are gathered into a single group. The Bishop is the father-in-God of a diocese and its chief ecclesiastical (Church) officer. A parish is an area where the people who live there have certain rights under the law relating to their parish church.
By our baptism, we become members of the Church and are made part of the royal priesthood of all believers. The opening sentences of the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that we are called to continue the mission and ministry begun by Jesus. Every member of the Church is called by God to serve Him in the world. Many parishes signify this entry into the royal priesthood by anointing the baptism candidate with special oil, the oil of chrism. Chrism oil is also used when people are made deacons, ordained priests or consecrated bishops, and when kings or queens are enthroned, at baptism, the two are linked priesthood and royalty – the royal priesthood. When the sacrament of Confirmation is administered, those who are being Confirmed promise to give part of their lives – their time, energy and money – to serving God in the Church and in the world. This contribution of each Christian person is very important to God and His Church.
Each person’s contribution to the worship, work and witness of the Church is important to the success of the Church. We can all pray by ourselves but we worship together. Priest and people come together to worship God as a community – the Church. And a priest cannot exercise his or her sacramental ministry alone, there must be a congregation to celebrate the Eucharist, there must be a candidate for Baptism or Confirmation. Confession needs the penitent (the one confessing their sins and failings.) Marriage requires the bride and groom, along with two witnesses, a Bishop needs people to ordain and at the sacrament of healing there must be someone who is sick.
Again, the work of the Church is enriched by the generosity of so many people, both those who minister (share God’s work in the world) and those whom we minster to. An element of this work is witnessing. Jesus called all who belong to Him in faith to tell others about God and His love for all people. We are called to do this in several ways.
This sounds like we mean saying sorry for our faith! It actually means talking about what we believe and why we believe this.
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) website says,
Apologetics is the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Christian Apologetics is something every true believer should be involved in even if it is only a little.
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (1 Peter 3:15).
So, apologetics is simply about talking about what we believe and why to the people we meet – sharing our faith story, in the same way we might share a good film, restaurant or anything else that’s excited us. And it’s about sharing Jesus’ story, what is good news to you in the Gospels? What is Jesus all about? Which bible stories particularly touch you and where do you fit into Jesus’ story?
Alister McGrath in Mere Apologetics discusses how these conversations, signposting people to Jesus, can also help them to think about, and discuss, any barriers that they may have which prevent them from coming to faith.
Apologetics is not primarily about converting people and making new disciples. It’s just about sharing what you believe and what Jesus is doing in your life, and helping people to think through any barriers they may have.
You could say that evangelism picks up where apologetics leaves off. It’s about inviting others to come to faith. Having shared your story, you might feel it appropriate to invite someone to come along with you to church. Evangelism is about spreading the good news of Jesus, and helping others enter into a relationship with Him.
The CARM website says
Evangelism, the communication of the gospel message, includes a warning, an explanation, and a call. Evangelism includes warning people about sin and the consequences of sin (John 16:8; Acts 24:25; Revelation 20:11-15). It includes an explanation of God’s remedy for sin—the gospel (Acts 8:29-35; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And it includes the clear call to repent (to turn from sin and to turn toward God) and believe the gospel, by faith (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:1-5; Acts 17:29-31; Romans 1:17; Romans 10:9-13).
Evangelism is the preaching of the gospel, the call to repentance and a personal faith in Christ.
When we speak of mission, we really mean God’s mission – He invites us to share with Him in His work for His creation.
The Church of England website describes mission this way:
“Mission goes out from God. Mission is God’s way of loving and saving the world…”
(Lambeth Conference 1998, Section II p121).
As Christians, we follow Jesus who said “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20.21). We are called to serve God’s mission by living and proclaiming the good news. “It’s not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church”.
For Anglican Christians God’s mission is about transformation – transforming individual lives, transforming communities and transforming the world. As we follow Jesus Christ, we believe that God’s mission is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in three ways:
- through the Bible
- through the tradition and life of the Church
- through our own listening, praying, thinking and sharing as we respond to our own context.
Through mission, Christians seek to work with God in putting right all the problems of life which we create for ourselves, making the world a better place for all people to live in.
More than just the Vicar…
Each one of us has a vital role to play. The Church and its members – Christian Disciples in our generation, share in God’s mission in the world. We are His tools, His hands, His voice. We do this by talking about our faith (apologetics) and by encouraging others to come to faith and take their place within the life and worship of the Church. We don’t just use words, we give ourselves to God and He uses us both as examples of those who try to live His way, but also to help make the lives of those whose lives are diminished in any way better.
What might God be calling you to do for Him? Who will He bring into your life today who you can share your faith story with? Are there people you know, who are searching for meaning and answers in their lives, who might just need inviting to come along to church with you? What can you do to transform the world?
We don’t need to be serve God in big, dramatic ways. But we do need to trust God, and pray that He will give us the strength and confidence to respond when the Holy Spirit stirs within us, nudging us to say or do something. Making new disciples is not just the work of those in the Sacramental Priesthood, it’s the work of the Royal Priesthood of God – that’s you and I together. You probably meet far more people than I do each week, at home, at work, in your leisure time. And we can all pray that He will draw from among us apologists, evangelists and missionaries, and grow our congregation spiritually, numerically and as a faithful, God-centred and outward looking worshipping community.
If you’ve been feeling that God might be calling you to do things for Him, please do contact me if you wish to talk this through.
With my love, prayers and every blessing,