RealityBites blog

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?

RealityBites in Doncaster

Yesterday I delivered my Celebrity Culture and Human Trafficking conference to about 100 sixth formers in a school in Doncaster. I was delighted with how it went. I had a great conversation with a teacher who taught Classical Civilisation. I told her some rat stories, the Glenn Hoddle routine and we had a very enjoyable chat about the difference between Hindu teaching and the biblical hope in the resurrection of the body. She told me that she would really enjoy hearing my talk but she had to go and teach a class.

I began talking to the students individually and was very encouraged when a student told me he had really enjoyed the Mafia conference which I had delivered in 2015. This cheered me greatly!

The conference went very well and I was able to explain the difference between the western religion (consumerism) and the Christian faith. This provoked some cut-diamond questions. One student asked me a question about Buddhism and I was able to clearly articulate how materialism and eastern religions contrast with Christian faith. You could hear a pin drop.

The most encouraging feature of the session was a wonderful conversation with 8 sixth form boys who stayed behind to ask me questions. I was amazed by the spiritual depth of their questions. Our discussion touched on the moral bankruptcy of secularism, the uniqueness of Jesus, His resurrection and the incarnation. I explained the incarnation by an ant parable and this seemed to go down well. I was also asked why I believed in Jesus. One of these lads wrote me this:

"Thank you for your speech today. I'd say it was the best enrichment session we've had so far. The topic/discussion was very intriguing and engaging."

The very delightful Geography teacher was very positive about the session and told me it had been 'fantastic'. A very encouraging time for RealityBites.

Summary and Endorsements for James Bond and the Great Commission

Summary of James Bond and the Great Commission: Creative Ways of Talking about Faith by Mark Roques, Thinking Faith Network, 2017

Why is it so easy to talk about James Bond but so hard to talk about God and Jesus? Is it possible to introduce the Christian faith to our friends and work colleagues in ways that aren’t cringeworthy and emotionally harrowing? Can we find a fresh, more imaginative and less embarrassing way of talking about the gospel? Can we rediscover boldness and confidence in our God-talk?

In this book we will show you how to begin a conversation that goes from something non-threatening and enjoyable like a Bond film and takes you and your listener on a journey where you can talk naturally and engagingly about your Christian faith. Here is an example of one of these creative ‘spiels’:

“Rats scuttle happily in a temple in India, where they are worshipped, fed and adored. They have the best buffalo milk in town and full-time chefs produce superb food for them. There are four ways of looking at rat worship. Some say the rat worshipper is a lunatic and he should pack it in and go shopping. Others deeply admire the authentic faith of the rat worshipper. Some believe it is totally right to worship rats and appease the rat goddess. Some say - don’t worship rats! Worship Christ the Lord. He made rats in the beginning (Col 1:16).”

So we go from stories about rat worship, footballers, James Bond and the Duke of Edinburgh etc and we lead people to Jesus the Lord and Saviour.

In the final chapter of the book we will lay out 32 spiels which will help you to talk credibly, confidently and creatively about Jesus and His kingdom.

Endorsements

"Mark is one of the most brilliant gospel communicators I know. He challenges, provokes and inspires us to find creative ways to share with others. I loved this book and you will too!"

Mark Russell, CE, Church Army

"This is a great little book that gives creative insight into how to go about sharing your faith. If you struggle to talk about your faith, then I totally commend it to you."

Barry Woodward, Director of Proclaim Trust

"Storytelling is a vital part of communication - especially in evangelism. Mark’s book goes further and blends story with persuasion and insight. This will be a real resource for many."

Elaine Storkey, Sociologist, Author and Journalist

"Was Jesus' storytelling as zany as Mark Roques? I think maybe it was. Mark is so good at helping us to recapture the storytelling method. It might mean people will enjoy listening to us when we talk about Jesus."

Geoff King, Leader, South Parade Baptist Church, Leeds

Talking to a Mexican in Morocco about RealityBites

Anne and I had a wonderful time in Morocco over the Christmas break. The hotels were excellent and Casablanca didn't disappoint although Humphrey Bogart did not show up and mumble - "Play it again Sam."

RealityBites is all about creative and non-cheesy communication of the Christian faith and I had some fantastic conversations with Muslims, atheists and agnostics about Jesus. The highlight of the holiday was talking to a delightful and charming young Mexican man who was interested in business and claimed to be an agnostic. We got on like a house on fire! I told him about Randy Lewis and George Cadbury and then we talked about Jesus, the kingdom and the resurrection. I went through some of my best routines and we ended up comparing Nietzsche with Jesus. What a wonderful chat we had.

The Mexican asked me if I believed in 'destiny'. I said that I did if, by that, he meant 'divine appointments'. He told me that meeting me was destined to happen and that the conversation had been 'very enriching'. He wanted to stay in contact and he has emailed me to say hello.

His final comment during our one hour chat was intriguing. He told me that he had met many Christians and that they were all rather crazy and loco. In other words they were 'nutters'. He found my form of Christian outreach very different, thoughtful and intelligent.

Isn't it tragic that evangelism is perceived in this light? Tragically many Christians do sound odd and strange as they struggle to talk about their faith. Many sensitive Christian people stop talking about Jesus because it can sound so embarrassing and cringeworthy.

Please pray for RealityBites this year. We are struggling to take the yuk and the cheese out of talking about faith. We believe that the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection can be communicated in winsome, intelligent and imaginative ways. 

Nico Rosberg's materialist faith

Nico Rosberg, the current Formula 1 World Champion was educated in an international school in Monaco and it was here that he was indoctrinated into the insidious, dark and brooding materialism that pervades our culture. Life boils down to matter in motion.

'I was always thinking in school, "What the hell am I doing this physics for?",' Rosberg confessed to a journalist. 'But now I know the answer because I benefit from it every single day in my job. Everything relates to physics and maths: what is the car doing and how do we change it?'

It's fascinating that the articulate Rosberg seems oblivious to the dark implications of his materialist worldview and he, cheerfully and incoherently, adds in some Hollywood 'feel-good' slogans to his secular faith.

“I’m following my heart,” he said when breaking the news of his retirement. “My heart is telling me this.”

How could we begin a conversation about the Christian faith with Nico? You could do a lot worse than tell him the Eric Harris story.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School, Colorado, USA, on 20th April 1999. Eric wrote in his diary:

just because your mommy and daddy tell you blood and violence is bad, you think it’s a f—g law of nature? wrong, only science and math are true, everything else, and I mean every f—g thing else is man made.

The belief that only the natural sciences hook onto reality is a key article of faith for many materialist believers. If only ‘nature’ exists then the only things we can believe in are those things that can be measured by scientific equipment. This leads to the conclusion that moral statements such as ‘murder is wrong’ are human constructs and empty of any genuine truth.

So do we agree with Eric Harris that only maths and physics tell us about the world? Press home the point. Where exactly did he go wrong?

I'd love to ask Nico how he would respond to this tragic story?

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