I have been trying to broaden my reading in recent months to try and learn from other Christian traditions older than my own. After all it is a huge assumption to suppose that my own, which only goes back about 500 years, has all the answers when others had been busy going about the business of being Christian for much longer. Here for example is an extract from a book from the Eastern Orthodox Church founded AD 33:
"Do you remember what Christ said to the apostles just after His Resurrection? Go and sit in Jerusalem quietly doing nothing and wait until the Holy Spirit comes to you. It came on the Pentecost. It was only after their enlightenment through the descent of the Holy Spirit that they were instructed to go into the world as shakers and teachers. Christ showed them the way. He shows us that we are not to get on the road and become self-appointed missionaries. His example indicates that we must wait in silence and obscurity and focus our hearts and minds exclusively on our personal relationship with God. It is in this way that if and when we are called by God to go out into the world for a particular task, then we will be ready for it."
I was very struck about the priority of waiting upon God and the need to deepen the relationship we have with Him before assuming the task of evangelism and outreach. Every car has to be filled with fuel before it sets out on a journey. Every student has to learn before attempting to apply for a job. Every apprentice has to become familiar with the tools of his/her trade before being given an assignment. If we are to share God, it is important, first, that we know Him and know Him well, otherwise we will be sharing ignorance and asking others to share it too!
Bible study has overtaken prayer and self-discipline in the preparation for evangelism. But it is not enough to throw texts at people or even be familiar with their meaning so as to answer every awkward question. The emphasis on knowledge is mis-directed. It is the personal knowledge of God which is important as we are sharing Good News about a person not a movement. We are to share Christ not Christianity. "Did we not prophesy in your name, or caste out demons in your names etc.. To which Jesus replied "Depart from me you evildoers - I never knew you (nor you me!). Matthew 7:21-23
To know Christ is to know the Gospel not the other way round. I did not get to know and love my wife by what others said of her or by studying her life and personality from afar. It got to know and love her by meeting and getting to know her. As our relationship developed then I got to know her fully and so could speak about her with authority.
Makes sense and maybe answers the questions some of us have about the superficiality of much that passes for Church nowadays?