Tuesday, March 13, 2012

That awkward discomfort of sharing faith.

“I don’t like it when you talk like that.”

I had an eye-opening experience a year or so ago. I had taken my son with me to preach at a church we had never been to. Now, when speakers go to a church they do not know very well, they really try to gauge the formality of the church and make themselves fit. That’s what I did.

I was wearing a suit and looked the part of a traditional pastor. After being called on to share the message from God’s word, I stood up in the pulpit and introduced myself and my family. I then slipped into that preachy rhythm of inflection and pause as I made my way through the text and the message. It was a good message, and I was as close to my radio voice as I could get.

When the service was over, I went over to see my son. He had a somewhat sad, somewhat frightened look on his face. I asked him what was wrong.

“I don’t like it when you talk like that,” came his reply.

I had unconsciously changed my tone and style so much, my son didn’t recognize me. While it has seemed appropriate for the context, it was a big enough change that it made my son, who had just turned four, uncomfortable.

They don’t like it when you talk like that either.

This might be a good picture of why many feel such awkwardness in personal evangelism. People often change their tone when they bring up spiritual matters, especially when they are hoping to convert someone. It may be subtle or pronounced, but this change is often enough that the hearer doesn’t feel like he recognizes his friend anymore. Sometimes the would-be soul winner doesn’t recognize himself either. When this happens, faith sharing becomes and uncomfortable experience for all involved.

One of the most effective things about Jesus was that He didn’t switch into another mode to talk about God. Whether standing in the synagogue or picking wheat along the path, his purpose was consistent, and so was his conversation and style.

I mentioned in a previous post (daily evangelism), that the most effective soul winners are those whose daily speech is so full of God, that there is no distinguishing line between general conversation and “making a gospel presentation.” They don’t have to switch modes or change their tone.

Awkwardness will happen for everyone who is just getting started (or just getting started again) sharing their faith. It should not be an excuse to remain quiet. It is something, however, we should be aware of and work towards eliminating.

Daily Practices

Here are three ways to help turn sharing Christ into a regular habit.

  • Give away Bibles. Invest in ten nice Bibles in the ten to twenty dollar range. Have them ready to give away at every appropriate opportunity. Keep a few in the trunk of your car. Wrap up a few as presents for any unexpected occasion. Put one or two in your office desk. Give them away as the Holy Spirit leads. Set a goal to give away at least one a week.
  • Mention your devotional. Take a key thought with you from your daily bible reading. Find at least five opportunities each day to say. “I learned something about God today.” If anyone asks what you learned, share the scripture and the insight. If they show more interest, set a time to talk more at their home.
  • Offer to pray. There are a thousand opportunities every day to commit things to the Father or to ask for help. Prayer doesn’t need to be a private personal practice. Anytime there is an opportunity offer to pray for that person and pray with that person. Show how your faith is not just “in theory.”

3 comments:

Andrew Leon said...

I'm not sure the mentioning of the devotional is a good way to go. That often comes off as more than a little arrogant. Like "I have ice cream and you don't." People don't want to hear about what you read; they want to know about actual ways being a Christian has improved your life.

Stephen M. Young II said...

I see what you are saying, Andy. Maybe I could have written better. I don't think the idea is bad though. Maybe you could suggest a better lead sentence. The point is, instead of going into unsolicited religious dialogs (or monologues), you put out a general statement at an appropriate moment.

If that statement gets a response, like "Oh yeah? What was that?" You are free to share, and the person wants to hear. If there is no response or if the response is negative, just let it go.

This was my modus operandi in China. I could not distribute religious propaganda, or go about speaking publicly with respect to Christianity. That was in the agreement we had to sign for our student visa. I could, however, answer any questions someone asked of me.

So I couldn't say. "Can I tell you about Jesus?" But I could say, "I know a story about a man who came back to life after they killed him and buried him." I could not tell the story unless someone asked me to, though.

The key is you are looking for receptivity. If it is there, walk forward, if it is not, let it go. No arrogance in that, especially if you are careful not to be.

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I was thinking more along the lines of evangelism in the US. What I'm talking about may not be an issue out of the US. In the US, though, the Bible really has no authority with non-Christians. Non-Christians, on the whole, don't view the Bible as factual; they view it in the same way that they would view any book in the fiction area of a bookstore. Trying to come at people here with "well, the Bible says" is a sure way to have them stop listening, no matter what the context is. If you can't demonstrate actual changes in your life, tangible effects, people in the US just don't care.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...