image credit: CreationSwap user Douglas Shelton
If you’re anything like me, witnessing comes super-easily. It seems I can winsomely turn every conversation I have back to the foundations of the gospel, have people laughing, nodding their head in agreement, crying, and saying, “Amen!” within just a few minutes. I quote a verse, and people cry out, “Please, more truth, Ben!” I sing a hymn while walking down the sidewalk, and people never look at me like I’m a freak … nay, they begin singing along, raising their hands in worship. I just have to encourage them not to close their eyes while they’re walking!
I carry tracts in my pocket, because every time I meet an unbeliever and give them one, they ask me if I’ll baptize them on the spot. I say, “It seems you need to hear about Jesus …” and they immediately respond, saying, “Yes, I’ve been waiting all my life! Please tell me more…” I always have the perfect word to say, the perfect prayer to pray, the perfect timing, and the perfect closing.
No?!? Yeah, me neither. To me, witnessing is tough. It often feels stilted, forced, and unnatural. I never seem to have the right timing. And trying to perfectly remember each point about the gospel, combined with the fact that I’m nervous — that I feel like the other person hates me for bringing it up, that I feel woefully inadequate to share, that I feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I just know that the other person has to be somewhere else and do something else — makes sharing my faith one of the most difficult activities I ever do.
I think we make it too difficult, though. I know I do.
When it comes to sharing the gospel, let me offer you three steps to think through.
3 Steps to Sharing the Gospel
Follow Christ. That’s what He calls each of you to do, right? You, living the life God has called you to live and being the person God has uniquely gifted you to be — that’s a great testimony to God. Each of us is a walking billboard for the goodness of God and a testimony that God can redeem, right, and set straight a person’s life. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody expects you to be flawless. (Gasp!) And if you try to portray that to people, you’ll come across as arrogant and fake. You don’t have to have a perfect testimony, but you do have to follow a perfect Savior. That’s essential.
Share your story. Your story is compelling. Riveting. Life-changing (assuming you actually have been changed). And sharing your faith involves sharing your story. Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People will connect with your brokenness more quickly and fully than they ever will your “awesomeness.” Share the junk God’s redeeming you from, the junk you’re done with, the bigger picture He’s inviting you into, and the ways His grace is sufficient and His love is captivating.
Invite other people into your story. Build relationships with people. And not just so that you can “get them saved.” Genuinely love people. Invest in them. Be their
￼friend. Listen to their story. Value them as God’s crowning creation. Look for ways to serve them, expecting nothing in return and with no strings attached. In so doing, you’re inviting them into the story that God’s writing through you. I’m convinced that people want to plug into something that’s bigger than themselves. Inviting people into your story, showing how your story fits into the broader story of God’s redemption of His people, does just that.
That’s it. Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we (church leaders) often make it. But it’s also much more difficult. Much more engaging. Much more demanding of your time and effort. Much more challenging of your life.
The goal of evangelism isn’t for the person to walk away with the “right” doctrine. Though doctrine is important, it’s not an end in itself.
Right doctrine should
- drive us to love others more, not less.
- move us toward people, not away from them.
- move us to condemn less, and love more. It should propel us toward kindness and patience, breaking our hearts for those far from Christ.
- drive us to serve others, looking for nothing in return.
“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21, ESV). All. Day. Long. God’s hands are full of hope, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and blessing. He sent His Son to earth to have a relationship with us. Let’s not reduce the beauty and power of that to mere words. To do so rips the truth of its love, grace, and mercy.
Follow Christ. Share your story. Invite people in. It’s that simple.
￼￼Without love, truth is …
Have you ever given someone a tract, and seen the heavens instantly open up?
* I originally had this article published in the Fall 2011 edition of Collegiate Magazine (with a couple of minor tweaks here to fit it in as a blog post. To read more, pick up the magazine HERE.
** Image credit: CreationSwap user Douglas Shelton
Michael McKinley wrote this on the 9Marks Blog:
So in our church, non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the public services of the church. We are happy to have them in our Sunday morning gathering, our Sunday evening gathering, and our fellowship meals.
But we don’t let people attend small groups…until they are members.
This statement shocks me, and runs countercultural to what we, as a church are trying to accomplish. We never want to exclude new folks from being a part of our small groups, because we believe that the best way to get connected, grow in your faith, and become a disciple of Christ is in the context of small groups.
If we were to exclude visitors from linking up with small groups, we would, in effect, be saying that we value church membership over discipleship.
I’m not ready to make a statement like that.
Discipleship doesn’t start when you become a church member.
But maybe I’m wrong.
What do you think?
Should visitors be excluded from small groups, until they become members?
The way I was brought up to share my faith doesn’t work.
I was told that, in order to rightly share your faith, all you needed to do was walk someone down the “Romans Road.” Ever heard of it?
The progression goes from Romans 3:23 to 6:23 to 5:8 to 10:13, and finally to 10:9-10.
I’m so thankful the book of Romans was written so that we would have a “road” to walk. Aren’t you? (*insert sarcastic smile*)
I mean, the road is “right” theologically. It’s an airtight, albeit brief, presentation of the Gospel. Methodologically, though, it is based on a superficial understanding of the Gospel, that the Gospel is really just about having the right knowledge. And that if you can clearly and succinctly communicate those points to a nonbeliever (without looking at your notes…because apparently nonbelievers hate notes. Unless, of course, you’re sharing the Truth via the EvangeCube, which gives you a slick prop to use), you’ve done your job. Check that off your spiritual to-do list for the day.
Frankly, I don’t think that could be further from the Truth.
We are often looking for a simplified, step-by-step plan to sharing our faith. But utilizing a plan that encourages you to parrot the “right” answer to random passersby doesn’t give you much hope of a positive response.
I think that you spell evangelism r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p-s.
To rip the relational side of evangelism out of sharing your faith makes the Truth that you share hollow and empty.
But to build your evangelism on the foundation of relationships that you’re forming with your family, friends, coworkers, barista, small group member, mechanic, waitress, barber, tour guide, workout buddy, and neighbor…that’s where evangelism moves from mere cold, hollow words to a message of hope. From a message of judgment and condemnation to a pronouncement of freedom. From shallow platitudes to The Good News.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:2
Have you ever led someone to Christ?
Was a relationship involved?
Ever had someone come up to you at a stoplight and offer to wash your windshield?
I remember when I was a kid, and it happened to us when my dad was driving. He politely declined the offer. I said, “What?!? A guy just offered to clean your windshield, Dad! Why didn’t you let him?” His response: “Because he was going to charge us.”
My cousin, Tyler, had a similar experience the other day. While walking the streets of Rome, a guy approached him and made him a bracelet, making polite and engaging conversation the whole time. My cousin, being a naive teenager, thought the guy was just being nice. When he was done, the bracelet-making street guy said, “I did you a favor, now you do me a favor. Give me 5 Euros.” He pulled a 10 out, to which the guy said, “I’ll take 10!”
A gift quickly loses its appeal when the generosity is removed.
In fact, a gift isn’t a gift if there’s no generosity. When a gift is attached with an expectation, it’s not a gift. It’s a transaction. Which is fine if I’m buying something. But not if I’m receiving a gift.
When you serve your community, do you do so expecting nothing in return? Or do you expect that, after you serve somebody, they’re going to come to your church?
When you give “selflessly” of your time and resources, do you secretly expect that there will be a return on your investment? That, because you gave, they are obligated to give something back to you (in the form of a person visiting (or giving money to) your church, your organization, or your small group)?
It’s okay to hope that the love and generosity you show others will be reciprocated. But making it an expectation strips a gift of its beauty.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. -Luke 6:35
I’m reading through The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Halter and Smay. Thought this quote might challenge some folks:
Advertisements by their very nature are intended to coerce thinking and behavior. They are neded when there is no personal relationship between the seller and the potential buyer. This type of coercion is expected when you’re trying to decide what beer to drink or car to buy, but it’s highly offensive when people try to tell you important truths without any tangible relationship.
[…] Paul shares his insights on posture [the nonverbal forms of communication that accompany what we say] with those who were coming to faith in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, “But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We love you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” An expanded paraphrase might be, “Because we found ourselves emotionally attached to you all, we couldn’t just preach at you. We knew you needed time to process your faith, and the only way to help you understand the big picture was to stay with you longer. We knew the message would make more sense if you saw it lived out in our lives.” –pp. 40-41
When you think of “sharing your faith,” does your mind immediately go towards speaking? Or do you think about doing life together with people?