Written by James Bunyan, England
James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life; he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Teddington (London), where he is training to be a vicar in the Church of England. For James and his wife Lois, lockdown in London was improved by the arrival of their daughter, Galilee.
Sharing our faith often feels scary. Whilst many of us would love to be the kind of Christian who introduces other people to Jesus, we can sometimes get stuck in a vicious cycle like this:
We love Jesus but perhaps we just don’t know where to start a gospel conversation.
We love our colleagues and friends, but we also fear their rejection, and so we stay silent.
Then, over time, the natural opportunities to share Jesus as you get to know people seem to be slipping away. How do I begin a conversation so urgent when I’ve been silent about it for so long? So we continue to avoid mentioning church or our convictions, as if we have a shameful secret…
How can we break this cycle and share boldly again?
Wonderfully, Jesus in His grace had plenty to say to weak-feeling Christians like you and me, and all of it gentle and kind. After teaching kindness and humility to a less-than-kind-and-humble crowd, Jesus tells this parable in Luke 14:15-24 over a dinner party at a religious guy’s house—
‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.”
‘But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.”
‘Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.”
‘Still another said, “I have just got married, so I can’t come.”
‘The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
‘“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”
‘Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”’
This story contains loads of great truths. Let’s dig into five of them:
1. The gospel is an invitation to a banquet
It can be fun to imagine the banquet—a nice roast, wine, live music too, perhaps, and a chocolate fountain to finish? All ready and waiting for the guests.
Jesus is saying here that being a Christian—knowing God and His immense love for you in Christ—is like sitting at a brilliant banquet. One you wish would never end, where the company is wonderful, every course is greater than the last, and every moment is worth a lifetime.
This is the gospel. And to share the gospel is simply to invite someone to this banquet.
Too often, we find evangelism hard because we forget the goodness of knowing God. We become distracted from the brilliance of the gospel by the pressures of everyday life. We gradually stop feeling excited by Jesus’s Good News and drift into believing He’s boring, He’s mean; He squashes my life and makes it worse, not saves my life and makes it whole. And it’s hard to share something we’re not wholly convinced is good.
Being a Christian is an incredible privilege. Let’s remind ourselves of that every day, thinking often of the love that drove Jesus to the cross on your behalf, the glory He won in rising again, the joy He offers you in having your future guaranteed.
And as we remind ourselves of these things, the Holy Spirit will be working to shape and grow our love till it overflows. Starting a discussion about these things will become much easier when we can’t stop thinking about the Jesus we love.
2. The gospel is not yours
Notice that, in the story, the man prepares the feast, so it belongs to him. The servant is just sent to get the guests.
So it is with evangelism. The feast of the gospel belongs to the Lord, and He is the one making the invitation. Everything that had to happen for our salvation has been achieved in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Nothing more needs to be done, and no detail of the story should be changed. Our job is just to deliver His invitation.
This is such a helpful truth—it is Jesus Himself who created the gospel and it is Jesus who is most determined to see it carried everywhere. He is responsible for how it will be received; our job is just to carry that message. We don’t need to fear personal rejection; if the hearers don’t like it, they’re not rejecting us but Jesus.
3. The gospel is for everybody
It must be a big banquet because the man is pretty careless with his invitations! He invites all his original guests, then sends his servant to the beggars and lowlifes of the town, before finally ordering the servant to comb the countryside for bodies. The man won’t stop until his banquet is enjoyed by a full house.
The gospel is just like that—for everybody! We may feel like there are some out there who are easier to reach, that some might respond more positively, but that is not really for us to decide. Whatever stage of life someone is at, this news is for them!
We do not need to wait until we know someone really well before passing on the invite; nor should we only invite strangers! We are not really being faithful to the master of the banquet unless we are handing out invites to our family members, neighbours, colleagues, shop assistants, medical staff, security guards—anybody and everybody we come across.
4. Some people will say no, but don’t be discouraged
The saddest part of this story is when the original guests say no. And they all have terrible excuses. Imagine buying a field without having seen it before. Or missing this party to push some cows. Or skipping because you just got married, as if married people hated banquets.
The sad part of evangelism is knowing that some will turn down the offer of eternal life. And sometimes, the people who say no are the people who should know better, who have heard of the gospel’s beauty and are familiar with humanity’s need. It can be so frustrating! The gospel is the best offer this broken world could imagine and the excuses for turning away can feel so banal.
Yet it is a kindness of Jesus that he is realistic about this and has told us what to expect. He is preparing us to persevere, because there is also good news…
5. Be encouraged—some people will say yes
The master of the banquet is not to be stopped by rejection; he just gathers different people. He’s almost aggressive about it, telling his servant to ‘compel them to come in.’ This banquet will be celebrated, and many will be thrilled to be there, most especially people who have very little to offer in return.
And this is not only true in this little story. The world is genuinely filled with people who want to experience the feast of knowing Jesus. Who would be intrigued by an offer to church or a chance to have a conversation about the big things of life, if only they are asked. It may be surprising who they are!
More than clever techniques and conversational hooks, when Jesus wants to teach His people about evangelism, He gives them convictions—truths we can trust about His own goodness in preparing the banquet, His power to see people respond to His invite, His understanding about who is ready to hear and when. We don’t need to fear when we trust the Master’s plan and work.
The Lord will have His banquet house filled with all kinds of people. Let’s go out joyfully and find them.