All things to all (wo)men

Recently, a friend and I were chatting about whether there is anything different, or any special skill involved in talking to our female friends about Jesus. I confidently declared ‘no’ at the same time as she exclaimed ‘yes’! We then stared at one another bewildered, wondering how we reached such different conclusions! My logic was quite simple; it seems to me that I know Jesus, and I know women, and all I have to do is to share one with the other. My friend countered that the relationship you have with another woman is important; it takes time for a woman to get to know you, to see how you live and to learn to trust you – it’s easier to share Jesus if those ingredients are in place.

That conversation got me thinking. Is there a distinctly ‘female’ way to share the gospel? Can women be equipped with skills that will help them make Jesus known to other women? Does the Bible have anything to say to shed light on the matter?

As I’ve pondered, I’ve come back to the apostle Paul’s words: ‘I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some’ (1 Corinthians 9:22). The Bible doesn’t give women a ten-point strategy for sharing Jesus with others with an XX chromosome. The Bible’s wisdom is, as always, more far-reaching and all-encompassing. Our challenge is not to think in crude categories, but to think about every individual we interact with, and how we can best make Jesus known to them.

So, where does this leave us when it comes to sharing the gospel with other women? It seems that both my friend and I are partly right.

Just share the gospel!

I’m not sure that there is a distinctly ‘female’ way to share the gospel. Whether we’re male or female we will each have our own way of relating to others. Maybe you’re comfortable talking about Jesus in a big group where the conversations are loud, fun and direct; maybe your style is quieter, with a strong preference for 1:1 chats. Whatever we are like, if we know Jesus then we will want to make him known to those around us. The challenge for most of us is to just get on and do that! There might be a fear factor to overcome, or awkwardness to get past. We might have had bad experiences previously, or we might wonder what someone else will think of us. Or it might be that we prefer to talk about church and morality rather than get stuck in talking about Jesus.

I have found that praying for opportunities really helps and can open up conversations in unexpected directions. Some years back, when I worked for the civil service, a colleague rang me up first thing one morning and asked ‘Sarah, are you born again?’. I said yes, and then had about 30 seconds to explain what I meant by that before the conversation ended. I’m quite sure I didn’t do a great job of explaining Jesus’ atoning death, but I did my best. In that moment their gender didn’t feature on my radar; it didn’t matter that I hadn’t accumulated bucket loads of relational capital to spend; it didn’t matter that we’d never warmed up to that conversation (and as far as I can remember we never spoke about it again either). All that mattered was that at that moment the Lord had given me an opportunity to speak to someone of my saviour, Jesus. Let’s not shy away from doing that for fear that we lack some magic formula that makes sharing Jesus easier or more effective. If the opportunity comes, just share the gospel!

Do whatever it takes to share the gospel!

Having said all that, it seems that there are things we can do to help us to gain a hearing for the gospel. The apostle Paul was willing to do whatever it took to reach unbelievers for Christ. We’re told that to the Jews he became as a Jew in order to win Jews. To those outside of the law he became as one outside of the law. To the weak he became weak to win the weak. He was clearly willing to flex for the sake of others.

I think this is what my friend had in mind when she referred to sharing the gospel as highly relational. Our normal, everyday lives are a web of relationships. It’s as we invest in those friendships that gospel opportunities arise. Our ‘mums and tots’ group has taught me the value of being intentional about friendships among women. To promote intentional, evangelistic friendships we follow a few principles that can seem very odd at first:

  • We limit numbers. We don’t involve more ‘guest’ mums than the church mums can meaningfully get to know. So, it’s a small group with a waiting list.
  • We limit attendance to just mums. We have had many awkward conversations turning away dads and nannies. But experience has shown us that the best gospel opportunities have come from mums making real, lasting, intimate friendships with other mums.
  • We ask for commitment. We’re not a drop in, drop out group. If mums don’t come regularly we may ask them to leave so that we can offer their place to another. Consistent attendance really helps with forming good friendships.
  • We pursue gospel friendships. There’s very little input ‘from the front’; the hard work is done by mums who love Jesus and make every effort to share him with these friends. We sometimes put on socials or evangelistic events that serve those friendships, but we’re not driven by those events.
  • We pray. We do this week by week, and at termly meet-ups. For all our strategies, it’s ultimately the Lord’s work to bring these precious ladies to new life in Christ.

Over the years we have seen friendships blossom, gospel opportunities arise and women investigating Jesus. There’s no magic formula but by God’s grace, as the months (or even years!) go by we have had the privilege of seeing some of these precious friends become sisters in Christ.

Sarah Hall works to pastor, disciple and reach out to women at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon. If you’re interested in finding out more about practical ways to reach women with the gospel today, do come and join us at the Evangelism Conference 2018 and sign up for Sarah’s seminar.

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