Evangelism – BLEAAARRRGHHH!

What is your first reaction when it comes to talking about Jesus?

 or 

Does your mind race?
Do you get cold sweats?
Do you just clam up?

Or do you do a “drive-by theological throw-up session” where you spew out
every idea that you have ever heard about Jesus?

I think this is how most of us feel when we think about sharing our faith. We get so tangled up in not knowing what to say, how to say it, knowing when the time is “right.” We get so caught up in an internal dialogue: Am I gonna say the right thing? Will I offend them? I don’t know enough about the Bible to answer any of their questions, etc. We start to hyperventilate, and more often than not we choose to not do anything at all. 

We get so caught up thinking about ourselves, we forget that our first call is to love the person who is right in front of us.

I totally get it. Completely. Even as a pastor, fear boils up in my heart when I decide to bring Jesus into a conversation, especially around family members. There is something about them knowing the worst about me that makes me question how I can possibly tell them how to live their lives. But the question I need to ask myself is: Do I need to lead out of my strength or weakness?

Take heart – it is possible to overcome these feelings. Here are a couple of things that have helped me learn to share my faith with another person.

1) Becoming Comfortable in Your Own Skin
We need to learn to be comfortable in our own skin. What I mean is that we need to have our identity in Christ rooted in our hearts. We need to develop a “God confidence” in who we are in Christ. We need to allow our faith to develop in such a way that spiritual conversations do not cause us to hyperventilate but naturally flow out of who we are: a follower of Jesus. We need to know in our bones that he has transfomed our lives with his goodness. When we experience Jesus in this light, it becomes very natural to speak good things about him. (Shameless plug: “The Journey” will help you develop this. The open house is August 17th, 9 a.m. in the WRCC Discovery Room.) 

“God Confidence” is not “God Arrogance.” We get a lot further with people when we lead with our weakness instead of presenting a false picture of ourselves as someone who has it all together. And frankly, they already know that you don’t have it all together. As D.T. Niles wisely said, “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” So it’s from our need that we share our stories of how God rescued us and transformed our lives.

2) This Person is Part of God’s Good Creation; God Has a Hope and a Future for Them 
We need to capture a fresh vision for the inherent worth of each person who walks the earth. They (we) are his children, created in his image, for his purpose and for his glory. Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” Here is a simple rule of thumb: If God touched it, it is good. In this text, we see that God’s breath and life imparts dignity and bestows worth. A good definition for dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it.

Another way of thinking about this is that each person you come across, if you look closely, has the fingerprints of God on him or her. He has shaped and formed you and me and everyone we meet. So instead of disgracing the work that God has done, we extend grace and love that person, because they are worthy to receive love. So, do we primarily see others as sinners or as God’s children who simply need to be awakened to a life committed to Jesus’s message and mission?

3) You Have Been Sent Into the World 
Simply put, God has called us to be his change agents in this world. He has done this work in your life, yes, to bless you, but just as important, so that you would be a blessing to others. So we need to move beyond thinking about this life of faith as simply waiting around “to get to heaven” and reimagine the ways God is wanting to use us to see his Kingdom come through your life. Read the words of Henri Nouwen, and reimagine God’s call on your life to be his people in the Earth:

Think of yourself as having been sent into the world…
As long as you live in the world, yielding to its enormous pressures
to prove yourself to yourself and to others that you are somebody
and knowing from the beginning that you will lose in the end,
your life can scarcely be more than a long struggle for survival.

If, however, you really want to live in the world,
you cannot look to the world itself as the source of that life.
The world and its strategies may help you survive for a long time,
but they cannot help you live because the world is not the source even of its own life,
let alone yours.
Spiritually, you do not belong to the world.
And this is precisely why you are sent into the world.
Your family and your friends, your colleagues and your competitors
and all the people you may meet on your journey through life
are all searching for more than survival.
Your presence among them as the one who is sent
will allow them to catch a glimpse of the real life. 

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

2 comments

  1. “But the question I need to ask myself is: Do I need to lead out of my strength or weakness?” This quote really got me thinking for a couple different reasons. First, I think leading from literal places of weakness is something Jesus calls us to do. But it seems that oftentimes I don’t take Jesus at his word, and try to finagle his instruction to mean, “Lead from where you’re strongest. Just try and be humble about it, mkay?” Your point about how family seems to know our weaknesses and dirt better than anyone is maybe the sharpest example of where it’s hard to truly lead from our weak places. What gets in the way? Self-preservation? Pride? Lots of different things, I guess.

    Second, your quote got me thinking about this – Where and when SHOULD we lead out of our places of strength? We talk a lot about spiritual gifts, talents, skills, etc. Plenty of “christian” books read like corporate strategy manuals. It seems I spend a lot more time asking WHAT are my strengths (assuming, wrongly, that acting out of those places will happen naturally after I identify them), rather than asking HOW and WHEN should I lead in my places of weakness. But still, my question remains – When is it the right time to lead from places of strength? Surely the answer isn’t “never.” Or is it?

    I tried to think of a maxim to unite these two ideas, trying to find an answer. What I came up with was, “LEAD from places of weakness. WORK from places of strength.” The idea here is that leadership requires openness, transparency, vulnerability, and honesty in our interactions with others, i.e. consciously putting ourselves into a position of “weakness”, whereas work is something more about individual effort. But then, people often speak of how performing one’s job excellently, from a place of strength, is a good example to others and therefore a form of leadership in itself. So it appears that maxim does not consistently apply……

    Also, what about people whose spiritual gift is Evangelism; apostolic types? Aren’t these folks supposed to be leaders in sharing the gospel? If so, doesn’t that imply that they are leading from a place of strength rather than a place of weakness, therefore, sharing the gospel from a place of strength?

    Anyways, like I said, it got me thinking. Not trying to pick apart your words, just trying to sort my own thoughts out 🙂

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