Thursday, 24 June 2010

No substitute for meeting Jesus

Recently came across this account of Mark Ashton's conversion. Mark was vicar of St. Andrew the Great in Cambridge before he died in April this year. The following is excerpted from Wycliffe Hall's magazine which I receive:

"By the time Mark left school in 1966, he had already attended over 3000 church services, but had deliberately rejected this 'churchianity'. During gis 'gap year' in Pakistan, he read the Koran from cover to cover and worshipped in the school mosque, but then decided he should also read the Bible because of its influence on British culture. In October 1967 he came up to Christ Church, Oxford, where he formed friendships with a number of Christian undergraduates. Mark continued to argue with them about the gospel message.

One day however, he was introduced to a young ordinand, Jonathan Fletcher, who invited him up to Wycliffe. Mark recalled:
"On February 7th 1968 I came round to his room in Wycliffe latish in the evening, ostensibly to discuss my many objections to Christianity. As I remember, Jonathan made me a cup of coffeee, offered me some of his mum's fruit cake, and then said, 'Would it help you, Mark, if I explained to you how to become a Christian?' and, to my astonishment, I said, 'Yes'."

Jonathan then led Mark through some key passages (such as Romans 3:23 and 6:23 and Isaiah 53:6). When we looked at Revelation 3:20, Mark recounts "I had the sensation that there was someone, or something, outside my life, whom I had never let into my life, but who was addressing me through these Bible verses. Jonathan asked me if I wanted to invite Jesus into my life. And, once more to my own astonishment, I heard myslef say, 'Yes'".

The account goes on to say that he and Jonathan went to the college chapel where, late in the night, in the back pew, Mark invited Christ into his life. Later he recalled: "It is a long time ago, although I remember the evening vividly. It was so clearly the start of my Christian life."
(Wycliffe Hall Newsletter Trinity Term 2010)

Reflecting on this a few things struck me:
First, the potentially damaging effect of 'churchianity' where attending church is seen to be sufficient in and of itself. But if the gospel is not preached and practiced, how can merely attending a religious service have any other effect than innoculating you against the real thing?
Second, the value of personal relationships and friendship. I remember years ago some important advice about evangelism, that we have to earn the right to share our faith with someone. In other words it will not do to throw texts, tracts or sermons at someone in the hope that somehow something will stick. We have to be personally available to that person in order for them to ask questions or to argue back.
Third, at the end of it all it is only an encounter with the Risen Christ that will ultimately convince a person of His reality. "Come to me.." Jesus says over and over, and the text from Revelation is a personal challenge from Jesus Himself to open the door of our hearts and lives to let Him in to reign.
Last, it is our calling then as Christians to bring a person to Christ and through our love patience and prayer, bring Christ to that person.

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