RealityBites blog

How Evangelism can be Fun

Very encouraged that my article 'How Evangelism can be Fun' is featured on the front of the Baptist Times. To date 15 people have made comments about my article.

So delighted that an old friend, Jeffrey Dudiak, Professor of Philosophy, The King’s University, Edmonton, Canada wrote this:

Behind the engaging silliness of Mark Roques' carefully targeted stories opens up a vista upon profound and crucial questions, an invitation to think through cultural assumptions that we often don't think about at all. His is not an evangelism with a hammer, but with a welcoming smile. Mark's stories set the stage upon which God's Word can be heard in non-threatening but still utterly challenging ways. His is an inspired, and inspiring, ministry. Thanks, mate!

Teenagers are intrigued by Mafiosi and the gospel!

       

Thanks to everyone who prayed for me yesterday. I really need this prayer support. RB is a ministry that is committed to reaching out to British teenagers and during this conference there was some serious bespoke evangelism going on. Please look at previous postings if you don't understand this way of talking about mission.

I spoke to forty young people at a school in Thorne. I have not been to this school before and I had agreed to do the Human Trafficking conference in 90 minutes and then the Mafia and Evil conference in 100 minutes. It was exciting but intense! Holding the attention of teenagers for 2 ½ hours is never easy - even with a 30 minute break. The group work went very well with great comments and questions from the young people.

Here are some of the highlights of the morning. I was able to present the gospel by contrasting the consumerist worldview with the Christian faith. I told the stories of mafia hit-men, the 'beast' and the 'weasel' etc and contrasted the materialist belief that murderers and rapists are just machines with biblical teaching. I explained how CS Lewis understood evil and satan and how this contrasts with materialist, Hindu and Buddhist teachings. The students were alert, attentive and responsive, although one student did tell me off slightly for mentioning rape. She did add that she had really enjoyed the presentations.

I was then grilled by the students!

During the discussion I was asked by a very articulate student if it was fair that evil people could go straight to heaven just by repenting at the last moment. He believed that this was unjust. I reframed the question in terms of the biblical hope of the resurrection (Acts 23:6). I pointed out that those who love the Lord Jesus will be raised from the dead and live in a new heaven and a new earth. This good news could even surprise a mafia hitman if he repented at the last moment. The student was disarmed by my answer but seeds were being sown in young lives.

I was also asked to comment on my belief in the devil and I explained that when I examined all the alternative perspectives on evil - Materialism, Neoplatonism, Hinduism and Buddhism I found biblical teaching compelling, realistic and convincing. Some agreed with me. Some didn't!

The teacher who had invited me into the school told me: "It had been amazing."

It was a very encouraging morning's work. The words of Jesus in Matthew 28 kept running through my mind as I drove back to Leeds. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

 Please continue to pray for RealityBites and Thinking Faith Network.

         

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Bespoke Evangelism and Fish and Chips

 

Bespoke evangelism begins with everyday conversation. This might involve chatting about vegetarian cooking, fish and chips, the royal family, detective dramas, sport, social events, photography, poetry, travel in exotic locations, gangster films and Hollywood stars. We find out what people naturally enjoy talking about and then we build bridges into this enjoyable chat zone. We seamlessly connect Christian faith to garlic, diamond rings, the royal family and fish and chips. It's relevant, imaginative and fun!

This is how a conversation about fish and chips could help you share your faith.

What's the best chippie near you? Do you go for cod or haddock? Did you know that Plato, the Greek philosopher, taught that lazy, stupid, bad people are reborn in fish? What a contrast with Christian teaching! People live only once (Hebrews 9:27) and then are judged by how they have responded to Jesus. Those who love and follow Jesus are given wonderful resurrection bodies and will live in a new heavens and a new earth. Plato was a very clever boffin but he was lost in pagan darkness.
 

 

 

Bespoke Evangelism: Vinnie Jones prays to his granddad!

 In 2003 football hard man and actor Vinnie Jones admitted assaulting an airline passenger and drunkenly claiming he could have a flight crew "murdered for £3,000". Jones became incandescent with rage when a fellow passenger, Stephen Driscoll told him he was being "annoying", sparking a tirade of aggressive threats from the celebrity. Jones was given 80 hours community service and fined £800.

Despite this, Vinnie is a man of prayer. Surprised? In Vinnie the Autobiography, Vinnie explained his faith like this:

"Yes, granddad was special. So special that, since we lost him, I've always believed he was still in touch. I am convinced he is my spiritual guide. I remember saying out loud: I'd love to be a professional footballer, granddad. A footballer. One chance. Anything, anywhere. If you can help....."

In 1986, Vinnie scored a goal against Manchester United. This is how he prayed during the game:

"It might seem strange, but at that moment I said another little prayer: 'Come on granddad, come on, please let it stay at 1-0.' And he did. United did bring on 'Pop' Robson, but there was nothing Captain Marvel could do to spoil my incredible day.

How would a committed materialist respond to this story?

            "Superstitious nonsense. Spirits do not exist because everything is physical."

How would a relativist respond?

            "If you believe it, it is true for you."

How would a pagan respond?

            "There are many spirits, including granddads, which respond to prayer....so carry on             Vincent."

And a Christian response would be:

            "Vinnie you need to repent of both your violent, uncouth behaviour and praying to a dead person. Unlike Jesus, your granddad, Arthur, did not come back from the dead!"

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Bespoke Evangelism and the Duke of Edinburgh

Gareth Jones, our TFN director and I have recently started talking about bespoke evangelism. Gareth is quite good at this but not as good as me!

The heart of bespoke evangelism is to find out what a person enjoys talking about and then to build bridges into this enjoyable chat zone. This method of 'witnessing' is to be contrasted with bible bashing that both ignores contemporary culture and often alienates people.

Here is an illustration of bespoke evangelism that seemed to work very well:

I was talking to a young non-Christian woman and it turned out that she enjoys talking about the royal family. I said to her -

"Have you heard what they are saying about the Duke of Edinburgh?"

She was intrigued and asked me to continue. I explained thus. "There's an island, called Tanna in the South Pacific where they worship Phil the Greek."

She looked alert, attentive and engaged!

I continued my creative spiel - "Years ago missionaries turned up and told the locals to repent of their cannibalism and knock it on the head with eating their neighbours. They turned to Christ in droves! They stopped snacking on each other and strangling widows!"

"Am I boring you?" I asked her. "No, carry on this is fascinating", she replied.

"So the islanders forsook their cannibal gods and turned to Jesus. Tragically all this great work has stopped. You see the locals spot the Duke with the Queen on a trip to their island and they start to believe he is a god. They write to Phil and he sends them lovely photos to help them build a shrine to the consort of Queen Elizabeth!!

She was enjoying this cheeky but evangelistic spiel.

"He is so bang out of order," I continued. "He should have told his wife and his worshippers - 'Don't worship me! Worship Christ the Lord!'"

The woman was absolutely enthralled and delighted with my parable. This led me to my final speech act.

"Do you think the Duke of Edinburgh can save people from their sins and help them out on the day of final judgment?"

She didn't respond to my question but gospel seeds had been planted and it's all thanks to bespoke evangelism.

To find out more about bespoke evangelism, read my new book and become a more imaginative disciple of King Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Fantastic reviews of my new book by a scholar and a vicar

I was incredibly chuffed by these two reviews of my new book. Richard Middleton is a superb Old Testament scholar who is a seminal thinker in both worldview and eschatology. Recently Richard came to the UK and delivered some riveting, brilliant and edifying lectures on a new heavens and a new earth and the psalms. Richard is not only a scholar and a gent. He is also a very warm and witty follower of Jesus who hails from Jamaica. I love his accent!

I have not met Steve Divall. He is the vicar of St Helen's in North Kensington.  

Mark Roques is an astute philosopher and storyteller; and he is very funny, to boot. I found The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails to be a brilliant introduction to the rationale and art of storytelling in a postmodern world as an entrée to communicating the gospel.

Richard Middleton

What do George Cadbury, Simeon Stylites and Imelda Marcos have in common?  Gripping stories that are waiting to be told, as they are with humour and imagination by Mark Roques.  Stories that get under the radar of cultural cynicism, that provoke response and that lead naturally to conversation about Jesus and His Kingdom.  Mark not only shares many examples of stories that he has told, he also opens up how stories engage with their hearers to challenge, suggest, inspire and provoke and so how we might best tell them ourselves.  In his words: ‘Telling stories and asking questions is natural, disarming and fun. This approach has liberated me to talk about the incredible hope I have in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Steve Divall

Can evangelism be fun?

Thanks to wordsmith, poet and great friend Rachel Lawrence for this review of The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails.

The theme of James Bond that runs throughout this book, provides a universal, cultural reference point which is woven into the whole text of this book and acts as a touchstone for a wide variety of worldviews which are succinctly, humorously and skilfully illustrated by the use of real life stories. The whole book lives and breathes storytelling and fully immerses the reader in this technique as well as pointing to the fundamental importance of Jesus the teller of stories and God the creator of the story we currently inhabit.

This is a user-friendly, accessible book where the author’s enthusiasm for stories and storytelling is infectious. It makes you want to rush out into the street and engage people in conversations about belief, provoking such questions as, ‘What is my neighbour’s story? How does it make them engage with the world around them? How can I imaginatively share my story of a loving God who loves us and wants us to follow in God’s way and bring blessing to the world and my neighbour without sounding like a ‘Bible basher’?’

Mark Roques, as well as unmasking the beliefs behind some of the motivating ideologies of our times, equips us with the materials to talk about faith in creative and imaginative ways through a plethora of exciting, funny and moving stories and inspires us to think of our own. A refreshing approach to evangelism, the author provides us with a thoroughly worthwhile, practical and uplifting read.

Virtual Lifeworlds and Mission

I was delighted with this excellent and very insightful review of my new book by Australian friend Geoff Beech.

We live in an age and culture where belief in the God of the Bible, and knowledge of the Bible, are at a particularly low level. Within a secular humanist, individualistic, consumerist culture Christians often struggle to find an apologetic that will be appropriate. Mark Roques has studied philosophy and understands the power of the worldview assumptions that underlie our systems of belief and action. The development of our worldviews depends so much on the lifeworld environments that surround us and that we take on board to develop an understanding of what is “normal” for us. Through the use of stories, Mark, a consummate story teller, provides us with a wide range of “virtual lifeworlds” that may be entered. Stories, and the understanding of what is “normal” in them, challenge our own sense of “normal” and therefore challenge our beliefs about the world and the meaning for us of living in it. But Mark does not leave us only with stories. In The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails, Mark encourages us through practical examples, to use stories in our engagement with others and shows us how they may be used effectively. This book, therefore provides a practical guide to sharing our faith in Jesus Christ. As well as its practical application, Mark’s easy-going narrative style, as well as his selection of stories and illustrations, make this work an engaging read.

Geoff Beech, Education Consultant, Lifeworld Education

Delighted to be photographed with Bishop Nick with my new book

It was really good to meet the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines yesterday. He was very welcoming and gracious and we spent a good hour talking about creative communication of the Christian faith. He is a gifted and seasoned broadcaster and his thoughts and pauses are often to be heard on Radio 4 and Radio 2.

I was delighted that Bishop Nick was willing to be photographed receiving a copy of my new book The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith. Colleagues at Thinking Faith have informed me that my handsome good looks have faded in my twilight years. It is a painful and disturbing reality.

Bishop Nick asked me about my background and I told him about growing up in sunny, sophisticated Hertfordshire and how I became a Christian at university while studying Philosophy. He then asked me about storytelling and I explained how RealityBites works. Tell stories and ask questions. Get people thinking about worldviews and hidden belief systems. Bishop Nick agreed with me that storytelling is a vital skill in talking meaningfully and relevantly about the Christian faith. Without doubt he is an excellent communicator and his broadcasts are peppered with vignettes, humour and universal, cultural reference points.

We also talked about football and the bishop was visibly relieved when I admitted that I do not support Manchester United. He is a keen Liverpool supporter. I did not mention that I have a soft spot for Bristol Rovers!

We then had an absorbing conversation that touched on militant secularism, Brian Cox, Brexit and his work as a bishop. He is passionate about equipping confident clergy to enable confident Christians to live and tell the good news of the Christian faith. In the final moments of our conversation the bishop promised me that he would read my book and I then gave him a leaflet about some of the RealityBites sermons, workshops and courses that we provide.

It's not everyday that you have the opportunity to tell a bishop all about your new book on creative, storytelling evangelism. Thank you so much Bishop Nick for your time, your kindness and the photo opportunity.

Death of a Roman Legion

Last Sunday I preached a sermon in Cragg Baptist church in Horsforth about Roman soldiers living and dying for Christ. Here is that story.

In 286 AD an entire Roman legion of 6600 men was put to death by the emperor Maximian because of their stubborn refusal to give up the Christian faith. The pagan emperor Maximian commanded his army to swear that they would persecute and kill Christians in Gaul (France). All the soldiers of the Theban Legion refused to do this. The emperor became enraged and he ordered the legion to be decimated, that is, every tenth soldier to be selected from the rest, and put to the sword. The survivors persisted in declaring their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the butchery continued; the blood of another 660 was shed.  Again the remaining soldiers refused to obey Maximian and so the entire legion was put to the sword.

Before dying, the Theban legion sent this letter to Maximian in order to explain its conduct.

"Emperor, we are your soldiers but also the soldiers of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours even though you reject Him. In all things which are not against His law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto. We readily oppose your enemies whoever they are, but we cannot stain our hands with the blood of innocent people (Christians). We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you, you cannot place any confidence in our second oath if we violate the other (the first). You commanded us to execute Christians, behold we are such. We confess God the Father the creator of all things and His Son Jesus Christ, God."

Questions

1) Why did these Christian soldiers refuse to obey the emperor?

2) How should modern Christian people subvert the consumerist empire?

3) Where are Christians being persecuted today?

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