For all of you cricket fans out there, I have an unfortunate confession: I didn’t used to enjoy watching the game of cricket. It’s a shocking thing to admit to, I know.
A few years ago, I was trying to land my first teaching job and I was eager to impress every headmaster or headmistress who interviewed me. So, when one of them asked, “Would you be prepared to take a cricket team during the summer?” I answered in the affirmative and added a little proviso: “Cricket isn’t really my strong point. I might need some help with learning to umpire and things like that…”
I’m happy to say, I got the job and so did several other newly qualified teachers. As we got to know each other, we realised that all of us were ‘in the same boat’ as far as the cricket was concerned: we’d all been asked for help by the headmaster; we’d all said yes to helping; and we all had a very shaky grasp of the game.
Clive was an elderly Australian cricket coach who was spending a summer in the UK and making himself available for some freelance work in schools. Clive was the headmaster’s solution to his ill educated new tranche of teachers – a bunch of blokes who really couldn’t tell a ‘googly’ from a ‘yorker’. Clive was one of the most passionate and entertaining cricket aficionados that I have ever met. It was as if he was an evangelist for cricket.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Clive ‘whipped’ us into shape. Rather, he laughed and joked and demonstrated and wowed us all into shape. I really will never forget the summer evenings spent in his company as he gave us our foolproof umpiring training. Before very long and, mercifully, before the cricket season began, we felt like we knew it all: what could be more lovely than walking the boundary prior to every game, accompanied by one’s fellow umpire? How simple the complex score sheets now looked. And, if one of the fielders caught a ball in his hat, giving five runs to the opposition now seemed like the only logical response.
When Clive returned to Australia, he left half a dozen teaching staff who were well equipped to enthuse a new generation with a love of cricket.
The story I’ve just told illustrates a simple point: passion for something (or Someone!) is infectious. Sharing information and knowledge is one thing; sharing information and knowledge about the love of your life is very different.
Like Clive, we should actively seek opportunities to share our passion for the love of our lives: Jesus. We should also seek to share our passion for His Bride: the Church. It’s interesting that we often feel like we need a special occasion to invite a friend, colleague, neighbour or family member along to church.
As St Peter said, ‘…in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…'(1 Peter 3:15 ESV). As we give our explanation, may the intensity of our love be evident.
As far as sharing our passion for Church goes, perhaps these quotations (gathered on the National Back To Church Sunday website) will prove to be an inspiration…
- ‘Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.’ – Dr. Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
- ‘Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eight percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.’ – Dr Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
- ‘A study including more than 15,000 adults revealed that about two-thirds are willing to receive information about a local church from a family member and 56 percent from a friend or neighbour. The message is clear that the unchurched are open to conversations about church.’ – Philip Nation, LifeWay Research
- ‘Four percent of formerly churched adults are actively looking for a church to attend regularly (other than their previous church). Six percent would prefer to resume attending regularly in the same church they had attended. The largest group, 62 percent, is not actively looking but is open to the idea of attending church regularly again.’ – Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
- ‘Clearly we can encourage Christians to pray that the unchurched would sense God calling them back, but God works through His people.” “The survey showed that many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).’ – Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research