WANT TO SHARE YOUR FAITH MORE RESPECTFULLY?
Many Christians want to share their faith or what they believe about God, but aren’t sure how. Many want to tell their stories about how Christ has changed their lives because they really want others to benefit like they have. Yet in our culture today, it is not always conducive to do this. Many people feel intimidated and threatened in today’s politically correct climate. Many feel as though they haven’t earned the right to share their faith. Others feel like they will be accused of being “hyper-religious”, insensitive or “preachy.” So many Christians just don’t say anything to anybody. Perhaps this describes you.
On the other hand, other Christians rise up and make it clear they will exercise their right to “free speech” or their right to express their religious beliefs. Sometimes they can come across as obnoxious, insensitive-no-it-all’s. They appear to many to simply be pressing their agenda and will be heard regardless of whether the other person wants to hear what they have to say or not. Most of these people really aren’t trying to be rude; they sincerely are trying to keep other people out of hell by sharing the gospel with them. Does this describe you?
So is there an in-between ground? Is there a way to share your Christian faith about Jesus Christ without bullying others or without coming across as being defensive? I want to help you in this brief article address this issue so that you can become a more effective and respectful communicator of the gospel truth. I want to give you four thoughts to help you the next time an opportunity arises to share your faith or address the questions of others about Christ, church or Christianity.
Understand the Culture of Today
Understanding the environment in which you live is key to sharing your faith today. It is true we no longer, in the twenty-first century, live in a culture that is centered around the church, the bible or even God. More and more people today are skeptical of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Some of this skepticism is well-founded. Those who know church history know that the church has done a lot of bad things in the name of God and “truth.” People were threatened, killed and burned at the stake in the name of religion. Wars have been started and many people have been killed fighting over God. There have been many a scandal in the church which has caused people to have many doubts about the church and even worse, God. Sadly many women and children have been abused and molested in the name of religion, which has driven many people away from the church. And it has caused many more to have a skeptical view at best of the church and those who attend church.
In addition to this, partly because of science and partly because of the internet (where more information is available to more people at a higher rate than ever before; and where people can learn about other alternatives to Christianity; and through social media find out what other people’s views are on religion) many people today have lost faith in God and are trusting more in science, the ability of the human race or simply believe the bible to be a nice, but nonetheless, fairy-tale or myth.
People today are more sensitive about other people forcing their view on them than ever before. So it is not as easy as it used to be to openly talk about one’s faith.
It is equally true that many people see Christians as judgmental, defensive, angry and hypocritical. This is a stereotype that is very difficult to get beyond until someone can get to know you personally and not just “lump” you in with all the Christians they know that they would characterize this way.
And because most people don’t read the bible anymore and church isn’t a mainstream event for most, people are happiest coming up with their own belief system. They are very opposed to being “converted” to your religion or your “brand” of Christianity.
While this seems to paint a very grim picture of having an opportunity to share your faith; that is not the point here. The point here is to understand the days in which you are living. Just because it is a hard environment to reach, doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to press in and work toward achieving the command Christ gave to us to “go into the world and make disciples.” The power of Christ hasn’t been weakened! We just need to know what we are up against in the culture. And the more we are aware of this, the more it will make us dependent upon the power of Christ to reach people. It is true, in the days we are living, we can’t reach people in our own power. But the good news of the gospel is just that – it is the power of Christ working in us to reach people who will be transformed and made new in His power!
So the point of this first section wasn’t to discourage you; just make you aware of the reality of the days in which we are living.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) that “God has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us…”
Ambassadors go into a foreign land in the name of another as they represent them. This is what we are to be doing as ambassadors of Christ in our families, churches, neighborhoods, work places, schools and wherever we are. This is our calling. So what can we do to help us fulfill this calling? As stated above, we need to get familiar with the culture in which we live, just as missionaries do when going into a foreign country. But the next thing is to always be in a state of “preparation” or “readiness.” What does this look like?
First, we need to prepare by praying. We may have many things and many people with needs on our prayer list, but we must also intentionally take some time to pray on a regular basis that God would prepare us for when people come across our path who are searching for answers or searching with someone to connect with that will genuinely take the time to talk with them, help them and encourage them. It is not important to have all the answers or to tell others what to do or think. What is important is to have a heart that loves people. It isn’t always easy to love other people. This is why we need to pray and ask God to give us a supernatural “soft spot” for other people. When this becomes a natural and normal part of our life, when people in need seek us out to help them or answer their questions, we won’t appear anxious, judgmental or over-bearing. Rather what will seep through will be our authentic love and empathy for them. We won’t have any need to tell them what to do. Rather, we will simply be there for them. We will answer the questions (the best we can) that they are asking. We won’t preach sermons they aren’t asking to hear. And they will feel us feeling their pain of loneliness or lostness.
This is a far different approach than a “canned” approach or giving people tracts answering questions they aren’t asking. Can you begin to imagine how this approach will develop trust in the other person for you? Can you see how another person would be drawn to you because you are there for them rather than trying to “convert” them? Can you see how your calmness, rather than being anxious, will appeal to their anxious spirit; and that you would become the type of person they would want to spend time with and even want to learn from?
How does this all happen? Not by going around preaching and bashing people with a bible. But rather by preparing quietly in prayer before the Lord, asking Him to change your heart and give you a deep love and empathy for other people.
Going door-to-door and knocking on the door in hopes of confronting someone with the gospel are pretty much gone, except in a few areas. There are several issues about this approach. One, most people don’t want anyone knocking on their door and interrupting their lives. People are too busy for these interruptions. People also have limited family time, so they don’t want to spend it with someone at the door when they are home. Second, knocking on someone’s door and entering their personal space comes across to people today as intrusive, confrontational and insensitive. Third, you are there with a prepared script giving answers to questions they may not be asking.
While it is true that everyone has a desperate need for the gospel whether they realize it or not; it is important to wait for people to be prepared to receive the gospel. To confront people or shove the gospel down someone’s throat only makes them more defensive about receiving the good news of Christ. To put it Biblically, we want people to be “fertile” ground – so when the seeds of the gospel are sown, they will fall on good ground and be received.
This happens most effectively when we trust God to bring us to people or cross-paths with people who are ready to hear and receive. This could be a person who has some curious questions. It could be someone who is going through a devastating circumstance or someone who is entering a new stage of life, such as getting married, having children, or retiring.
When you find yourself in these situations, you want to remember the first two aspects r we covered – to understand your culture and to be prepared. As the conversation unfolds, you will want to stay calm and gather information from the other person so you can be a good listener first, so you can empathize with their life, and then – and only after you have done the previous two things (listen and empathize), be ready to give a response. Here are some simple ways to gather information as you listen and empathize:
People might say such things as:
- Everything is relative…there is no one truth to base life on…
- I don’t think I really believe in God
- I think God is just a made-up fairy-tale to make people feel better
- I don’t want you to force your views on me
- Where is God when I am hurting?
- Don’t all religions lead to the same God?
These are just some of the statements and questions may pose to you when you are talking with them. Your goal is to gather information so you can better know the person. One response or answer doesn’t fit all in this situation. In the end, you may be taking people to same place (introducing them to Jesus), but how you get them is quite different because everyone is in a different place on their own personal journey.
One simple thing you can say to each of the above and almost anything else that is posed to you is this:
What do you mean by that?
People make all kinds of statements and even accusations about God. And that is okay. Our goal is to give people space to vent and work out what they are thinking and feeling. It is not our goal to get angry with them or win an argument or show them how wrong they are. Rather, we want to help them clarify, both for themselves and us, what they are saying. This simple question, “What do you mean by that?” is powerful in helping people to become less defensive and begin to clarify what they are really saying. And once you have a handle on this, you will be able share with them a more customized approach to understanding who and what Jesus has done for them. And isn’t this your real goal when you meet anxious and hurting people?
Burden of Proof for What They Believe is on Them
The final thing to keep in mind is that you can’t change anybody’s mind or opinion. But what you can do is listen and be a sounding board for what they are saying. In other words, you can be a part of the process (even if it is a minimum part) of them working out what they really believe and think.
Also, it isn’t your job to refute their statements about why they believe what they do or what they don’t believe. This is their job. The burden of proof is on them. One of the best questions to use when you are feeling like you need to refute what they are saying or prove what you are saying is to ask:
How did you come to that conclusion?
The stories you will hear from this question might amaze you. And most importantly, they will give you insight about where the person is, how they think, how they see the world, and what they are feeling. You talk about a powerful question!
This question will help take the stress off of you (if you feel you have to have all the answers) and allow you to listen. When you are able to listen, you will best be able to generate responses that will be most helpful to the other person. Further, it will best help you know the path to take the other person down that will help them most find a relationship with Christ.
If you will follow these four simple principles when crossing paths with other people who don’t know Christ, you will be able to be someone whom others can connect with because they will find your calmness trustworthy, and perhaps overtime, you will gain their trust enough to hear you talk about both the faith found in the bible as well as your own faith story – thus leading them to Christ!
By: Jack Guyler