FEUER Network - Evangelising Students in Europe

by Giovanni Donato

 

 

In Italian we have a saying, 'l'unione fa la forza', which means 'there's strength in numbers'. This saying is definitely true when it comes to the public proclamation of the gospel. I work in Italy as a staff worker with Gruppi Biblici Universitari (GBU), the Italian Christian Union movement, which is part of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). My responsibility within theGBUinvolves evangelism in a university setting.

 

I love to stand in front of people who don't know Jesus of Nazareth as their personal Lord and Saviour, to defend my faith, share the message of the gospel and explain what it means. To remind people that now is the time of grace, as God offers forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Him. This is the good news that changed my life 16 years ago. The Bible tells me that this gospel is powerful enough to transform the lives of people who choose to believe today. This is why I persist in preaching the gospel to students, even when I meet with derisive responses for identifying myself with Christ.

 

Thankfully there are a number of people in Europe who are now involved in a similar ministry and who publicly preach the gospel with passion, boldness and perseverance, in some of the main universities across Europe. At the beginning I shared the Italian saying that there is strength in numbers and I can personally affirm this. To meet and to remain in touch with other evangelists doing a similar work, and who are facing comparable challenges in their ministry, has been a source of encouragement and strength. A few years ago I became part of FEUER (Fellowship of Evangelists in the Universities of Europe), a network of people who are involved in the public proclamation of the gospel in universities. In 2010, I received an email from Lindsay Brown, one of the coordinators, asking if I wanted to be part of this network as I could benefit in three ways: fellowship, training and sharing resources. At first, I wasn't sure what it meant to be a part of FEUER, but after attending the annual meeting I understood and, above all, realised the potential of such a project.

 

FEUER's annual meeting seeks to bring people together from every country in Europe, in a conference which lasts just a few days. Here I was given the opportunity to get to know colleagues in similiar ministries, to be inspired by some of their tried and tested ideas, and to discuss with them the possibility of working together. Another important aspect of these meetings is the time dedicated to training and consideration of topics, such as the use of film in the proclamation of the gospel, the reliability of the New Testament, the non-existent conflict between faith and science and much more.

 

At FEUER meetings, significant time is given to practical exercises. Participants are divided into small groups, where each person shares a 15-minute evangelistic talk. Feedback and constructive criticism is then given by the rest of the group. Criticism is given in love and with the purpose of improving the work done for the Lord, it is a real joy to have mistakes highlighted. Some of the criteria used to evaluate an evangelistic talk are the following:

 

-The general structure of the talk - the introduction is important because that's the point from which the speaker tries to catch people's attention. There needs to be a logical progression and the main point must come across clearly. It is important to consider the structure of an evangelistic talk.

 

-Identification with the listeners - it is important that we try to identify in some way with those who are listening: to consider and try to understand how they think, and to use language that is appropriate for them.

 

-Persuasiveness - the most important persuasion is that given by the Holy Spirit. However, this shouldn't stop us being persuasive when we preach. It is important to have a good balance between the spontaneity of someone who wants to see sinners come to Christ and the well-thought-through argument of someone who believes in the rationality of the gospel message.

 

-The closing challenge - we mustn't forget that the gates of Heaven are wide open, awaiting sinners who repent, so it is fundamental that we invite people to consider for themselves the gospel message and to make their own decision about it. A good message, without a good closing invitation, is not a good evangelistic talk! We must pay close attention to the conclusion of the message, the moment in which we draw everything together and ask people to take a step towards God.

 

Since joining the FEUER network I've been able to evaluate my work of public evangelism to students, together with others who are doing a similar ministry. I've started to re-evaluate and examine my attitude towards the public proclamation of the gospel. It is not just a case of putting together some interesting thoughts in order to construct a talk on the Christian faith. I need to be mindful in my preparation as the message, which is the power of God to bring salvation, must reach not just the minds of those listening, but also their hearts - where God longs to bring the joy of salvation. It is important that the message does not become an academic exercise, that won't even scratch the surface of the hardened hearts of students and professors who don't know Jesus. Rather, through fervent prayer, thorough preparation and God's enabling by the Holy Spirit, it must be a message that challenges heart, mind and soul. FEUER is, in effect, a workshop where people sharpen each other's gifts, so as to improve their gospel service in their particular university setting.

 

I have benefited so much from the help given through FEUER and so, together with some other ItalianGBUstaff members, I have started a similar project in Italy. A short time ago thePROCLAMA (Proclaim) project was born as an Italian network for university evangelists. The purpose and objectives are exactly the same as those of FEUER. Last February we had our first meeting together in Siena, where we put together some foundations of the network, enjoyed fellowship together and had a time of practical training. As with the FEUER network, we gave considerable time to practising our evangelistic talks and receiving feedback.

 

Sometimes, taking time to stop and reflect on those things you've been doing for a while helps to improve what you do in the future.PROCLAMAwants to be a platform for Italian university evangelists, enabling them to more effectively share the most glorious message we can ever know, by preaching the gospel for the eternal salvation of lost sinners.

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