In our new series, three Christians with the gift of the gab share how you can grow in sharing your faith. Here’s Efrem Buckle’s answers to our questions on evangelism
Place of birth: South London
Day job: Deputy CEO / Director of training at London City Mission
Complete the sentence: “If I wasn’t a Christian I’d probably be…”
“…deeply insecure and very empty, looking to fill my life with money and pleasure.”
How would you sum up the gospel in one sentence?
God expressed his love for humanity by giving his unique Son, Jesus, so all who believe in him wouldn’t perish but have everlasting life.
Tell us the short version of your own testimony.
I was born and raised by my grandmother in south London, having brief periods in care when she was unwell. This resulted in deep insecurity which meant I was easily filled with envy, jealousy and even anger, as I resented others who had simple things I deeply desired. Things like a mum and dad, shop-bought clothes rather than hand-me-downs, money to buy takeaway food or to take the bus instead of having to walk.
My gran was a godly woman who took me to church from as early as I can remember. Having been to church all my life I was glad to get away from it all when I went to live with my dad, an atheist at the time…until he became a Christian. He was the last person I expected to surrender to Jesus and I realised, at the age of 14, that going to church wasn’t enough; I needed to get my life right with God. I wasn’t a wild child by any means but I knew my proud, deceitful and lying ways were not acceptable to God. Feeling deeply haunted by God, I called out to Jesus to forgive and accept me. I remember feeling so relieved, and so much lighter, after I was baptised.
Where was the last place you shared the gospel?
Last week at a funeral.
Funerals can be such challenging places to share the gospel, especially if you want to allow the challenge of the gospel to be freely felt. People are mourning, crying, maybe even fearing for the destiny of their loved one. Do I just comfort them with the love of Christ and not mention judgement, giving an incomplete picture of the gospel, or worse, offer false hope as if everyone goes to a better place? Or do I come down like a cold shower, insensitively and repulsively causing offence and possibly closing the door to any future opportunity for Jesus conversations?
As I stood over the freshly closed grave, I declared that their loved one had finished their journey in this life, but what will happen to us when we finish ours? When we stand before God, will he accept or reject us? Christian parents, family, education, money, social status, or even church attendance cannot save us from the judgment we deserve. The Bible says that Jesus died for sinners and if we will only admit we are one, turning from our own ways and putting our complete trust in him, God will save us, and make us his own. God proved this by raising Jesus from a closed grave.
What’s your favourite Bible verse about evangelism?
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
What would you say to someone who wants to grow in sharing their faith?
What an exciting adventure it is to be used by God to bring light to people he is already preparing to hear his word and receive Jesus. Nothing we do for God depends on us; he simply delights in bringing us along for the ride, giving opportunity for us to grow closer to him.
On a practical level, no one can contest what God has done for you, so I encourage you to practise sharing your story of how God changed your life with your Christian friends. First focus on the short ‘the bus is coming in three minutes’ version. You can work on the medium ‘ten minutes at the school gate’ and full-length ‘with director’s commentary’ versions after.
While practising, I would encourage you to get used to sharing gospel leaflets, aka tracts. If you are scared to put them into people’s hands you can leave them in conspicuous places. Maybe also put a link to a good YouTube video, like the short animation The Good Person Test in your social media status. There’s no need to explain what the link is for; it will provoke curiosity. This will soon lead to people asking what it’s about. To which you can answer with your story of what God has done for you.
No one can contest what God has done for you, so practise sharing your story of how God changed your life
What would you say to someone who doesn’t want to grow in sharing their faith and is petrified at the thought?
Firstly, rest assured God’s grace is so great that sharing your faith isn’t a prerequisite to his acceptance. We are accepted because Jesus shared himself for us and with us. So, my prayer is that you would be so overwhelmed with the love Jesus has for you that you would not feel like you have got to share your faith (even though we must) but you would celebrate that you get to share your faith; that Jesus would be so overwhelmingly amazing to you that you would not be able to help yourself. As a Christian you will appreciate that God’s word, properly understood in context, is his will for us. This means that 1 Peter 3:15 is for you and not just ‘professional Christians’. I would encourage you to persist in prayer, not merely to become an evangelistic energiser bunny, but more so that Jesus would reveal himself to you in all his beauty. This will undoubtedly result in a deeper love for and submission to Christ, and compassion for those who are lost in sin.
What’s your most embarrassing evangelism-related story?
The time I told some Muslims outside Brixton tube station that Abraham was the first man God created. They asked me if I was sure, and I insisted yes, of course. They looked very confused as even they knew better. I only realised after I walked away that I completely flopped, as I meant to say Adam. A proper face palm moment.
What’s the best book on evangelism you’ve read?
Right now, I have four. Out of the Saltshaker and into the World by Becky Manley Pippert ignited my passion. Hell’s Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort changed my view of the gospel and changed my life! Tactics by Greg Koukl completely turns the tables and relieves the stress from evangelistic conversations. Making Faith Magnetic by Dan Strange reveals the heart behind objections and how to speak to it.
Do you have a favourite quote or quip about evangelism?
“We are all mere beggars telling other beggars where to find bread” – Martin Luther.
Do you ever get discouraged after an evangelistic encounter? If so, how do you deal with that?
All the time. I lament that I never pray enough. Then I rejoice that it’s not by might or eloquence, or the power to win arguments, but that results come by the Spirit of the Lord. I remind myself that sometimes we see fruit but most times we won’t, sometimes what we feel are the worst encounters God uses most mightily, and at all times we trust that the Lord is able to take our little and make it much.
The evangelist dead or alive who most inspires me is…
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about how the Church is doing when it comes to evangelism?
I am more than optimistic; I am expectant that the Lord will fulfil his purposes. As a result, I can’t be pessimistic about ‘how the Church is doing’, as the advancement of the gospel and the furtherance of the kingdom is not dependent on us. Jesus said: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV). Jesus can’t lie. So, we’re on the winning team. Yet I often lament that it seems Christians have lost faith and confidence in God’s word. Evangelistic energy is derived from the Holy Spirit acting upon biblical interaction.
What do you do to relax?
I like to swim, enjoy listening to and creating music, sometimes DJing. I am fascinated with technology, watch YouTube and other streaming platforms, read and occasionally I cycle.