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Archbishop: Evangelism a responsibility for all of us

Most Revd Justin Welby has been exclusively speaking to Premier as he launches a series of Lambeth Palace lectures.

Evangelism is one his three main priorities for his ministry and is calling on believers to realise we're all witnesses and need to be ready to answer questions that come our way.

"I think there are lots of people who can communicate the Gospel clearly. But, we need to recognise that we're all witnesses, and we need all to be equipped to be witnesses," he said

"One of the problems with it is, I think we professionalised evangelism, clericalised it, in some places, but professionalised it.

"You know, unless you're one of those folks who does this for a living, you can't do it. And that's exactly the opposite of the pattern you'll find in the scriptures, and at the best points of the tradition. And, it's nonsense.

"I don't think that's the case at the moment, that every Christian knows how to communicate the Gospel clearly, but I know every Christian can, because I was taught to.

Archbishop Justin was speaking just weeks after a YouGov poll for the Times suggested 22% of UK Christians struggle with the idea of sharing their faith.

During his interview with Premier he explained how a course he was involved in while a parish priest helped him understand that witnessing didn't necessarily mean converting people there and then.

"One of the things we learned together, and I found it transforming, as a vicar, was, that the role of a witness to Jesus Christ is to take someone they're talking to or listening to, the next appropriate step for that person," he said.

"What's normally appropriate is to listen very carefully for the questions you're being asked, and answer them, not the questions you're not being asked."

He also addressed the fears that Christians often have in sharing their faith. He went on to explain why it's important to remember the reasons why we evangelise.

"I think for quite a lot of people, and I include myself from time to time, we lose sight of how wonderful the good news is," he said.

"We share the good news, not because it's a duty and we have to go home just before we go to bed, and think, okay, tick box, did share good news today. But because we're so consumed with knowing how wonderful Jesus is, that we want to talk to others about that. Answering their questions, not just pushing our solution."

The Church of England previously led a 'Decade of Evangelism' throughout the 1990s but church attendance has continued to fall.

But Archbishop Justin claims church growth isn't necessarily a sign of evangelism working. He said: "God sends us out with seed to sow. He causes the seed to grow. He sends us or others to reap a harvest.

"This going out, and bringing in, this motion, this cycle of going out and bringing in, Jesus born among us, going out, bringing in. The Holy Spirit, sending the disciples out, bringing people in. It's a pattern of God's action, this is intrinsic to the nature of God.

"If we're going to be a church that reflects the nature of God, we will be a church that goes out, and brings in. Growth is a collateral benefit, but it's not a sign we're doing it right."

The Anglican Church leader called on Christians not to see atheists as the enemy and instead show them love. He also had advice for Christians who wish to share their faith in the workplace.

Quoting Peter, he said: "Always be ready to give an explanation, a reason for the hope that is within you. But with respect, and gentleness, depending on your translation.

"Answer the questions you are asked, not the ones you are not asked. Pray, and you will be astonished at what happens."

Listen to Archbishop Justin Welby speaking with Premier's Dave Rose:

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