‘2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ Colossians 4:2-6 (NIV)
‘What can an ordinary group of believing people do to make sure that outsiders hear of Christ?’ This is a question that may be on our hearts as we approach our mission week as a church. We long for those we know and love to hear about Jesus and put their faith in Him. But we are just ordinary people. There’s nothing special about us. What can we do?
I recently read someone suggest that Colossians 4:2-6 realistically answers this very question, and so I hope this will be an encouragement to you as you get ready for mission week.
This will be a week where we particularly focus on telling people about Jesus. That is brilliant! But in Colossians 4:2-6, Paul urges us to do something else before this. Before we speak to people about God, we must speak to God about people.
- Speak to God about people
Paul urges the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer (v2). Prayer is hard. It requires discipline, perseverance and determination. But it is essential. Commenting on these verses, Dick Lucas writes, ‘effective evangelism begins with persevering prayer.’ Back in November’s prayer diary, we were reminded that God is sovereign in salvation. He is wonderfully in charge of people becoming Christians. It is not down to us. And so we must devote ourselves to prayer, to ask God to be at work through our evangelism. Without God working, it will never be effective.
Paul specifically asks the Colossians to pray for himself and his fellow workers.
- Firstly he asks that they pray for an open door for the message, which he calls ‘the mystery of Christ’. Even though Paul is behind a closed prison door, in chains for proclaiming the gospel, he knows that the gospel is never chained. God can still provide opportunities for gospel proclamation even in the most unlikely circumstances.
- Secondly he asks that they pray for clarity. ‘The mystery of Christ’ has now been made known, and it is Paul’s task to proclaim it clearly and accurately so that it can be heard, understood and believed.
As we prepare for mission week, let’s be praying these two things for those who will be proclaiming the gospel at dialogue suppers and other events. It is a weighty task to proclaim the mystery of Christ. So let’s pray that God will open doors for the message and that the gospel will be proclaimed clearly.
- Speak to people about God
In verses 5-6, Paul’s focus shifts as he addresses the Colossians’ personal evangelism. He instructs them to be both visible and verbal witnesses for Christ.
- Firstly, he commands them to be wise in their behaviour, making the most of every opportunity. We are to live consistent Christian lives before outsiders, and think of every interaction with unbelievers as opportunities to act wisely, demonstrating what it is like to live God’s way.
- This will prompt questions and so Paul wants the Colossians to be ready to answer everyone with gracious and salty words. Gracious, as we humbly remember it is only by God’s grace that we believe. Salty, as we carefully consider how to speak effectively and persuasively to each individual. Not all Christians are Bible teachers, but all Christians can be Bible sharers. We can ‘season’ our everyday conversations with truth about Jesus.
As we invite people to events during this mission week, let’s pray for one another that we would be living lives that prompt questions, and that we would speak with grace and saltiness as we respond.
So, let’s return to the question we asked at the beginning. What can an ordinary group of believing people do to make sure that outsiders hear of Christ? Colossians 4:2-6 would tell us to speak to God about people, and then speak to people about God. Let’s be praying that these two things would characterise each one of us during mission week and beyond.