We know from Matthew 28:19 that we are to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. But while some people find that sharing their faith comes naturally, for others of us it may even be something we dread. We asked Dean Eaton, from the LCA’s Local Mission office, for some tips, strategies and words of encouragement.
by Dean Eaton
How do I share my faith with others in a way that feels natural and meaningfully contributes to them coming to know God through Jesus Christ? Here are a few ways to gain the confidence and skills required.
1. Go share your faith
We often think about sharing our faith as sharing a testimony. Many resources get you to learn how to ‘tell your story’, your testimony of Christ. For some this is helpful. For many Christians however, it is precisely where we get stuck. Why? Because we don’t have one clear, linear story to tell.
I know how this feels. I am a church kid. I grew up in the church. You may have been ‘saved’ as a child when you were baptised, but when it comes to your personal testimony or ‘conversion story’, like me, you may feel you don’t really have one.
I can remember at the age of five having a clear realisation that all of my sins were forgiven because Christ died for me. So what’s the backstory to that? I struggled with potty training and realised I was a sinner in need of salvation?
Since the age of five, my story of ‘conversion’ is more like a broken jigsaw puzzle of experiences with God. Many times of realisation (or revelation) about who God is and who I am. Some very emotional experiences but an equal number of joy-filled ones and remorseful ones.
What liberated me to witness? What was it that changed me from being stuck without a ‘testimony’, to someone who could be used by God to reap the harvest, seeing many hundreds of people become Christians over my lifetime? It was the realisation that we are not asked essentially to testify about our faith but rather about Christ’s faith.
In practical terms, I am suggesting that we confess our faith journey to people as one of many failed attempts to be the faithful person God wants us to be. This goes alongside the moments in which we’ve experienced a great capacity to love others with a love that seemed to come from the gracious hand of God himself. That we experience God as present but often discreet, sometimes even hidden in the shadows of our lives.
Therefore, we are exhorted to go and share honestly about our experience of being on a faith journey, but our testimony is not about us but about Jesus Christ.
2. Go find your third spaces
If Jesus is the content of what I share, what is the context?
In one word, relationships.
Jesus spent a lot of time at street level sharing his invitation to come to him for forgiveness and new life with God. John 1:14 says, ‘The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood’ (The Message).
In your life you spend time in three main spaces. The first space is where you live, your home. The second space is your work (volunteer or paid), or place of study.
Third spaces are usually local to you and are the places in which you participate in recreation and commerce, such as your shopping mall, dog-walking park, sporting or hobby club, cafe, playgroup, library, and so on.
Why do we spend so much time, energy and effort as Christians setting up third spaces – meaning community outreach programs or events, usually in our church facilities – rather than doing what Jesus did?
3. Go with attitude
If Jesus is the content and third spaces in the community are the best context, what are some of the attitudes and skills I will need to be able to share my faith in a way that pleases God?
• Be a humble co-learner. Jesus did witnessing with not to people. This is witnessing as a mutually transformative, co-learning endeavour. Be a co-discoverer of God’s grace rather than a religious expert. Jesus didn’t come across as the sage on the stage but rather as a guide on the side. He had real conversations, in which he humbly listened as well as spoke.
• Have a listening ear. Jesus had two-way dialogue with people and the Holy Spirit to discern where a person was on their journey. Are they apathetic or antagonistic (stage 1), merely interested (stage 2), curious (stage 3), investigating (stage 4) or converting (stage 5)? Which stepping stone – resource, biblical information, help – do they need to progress their understanding and experience of God’s grace?
• Ask good questions. Memorise at least these basic questions to ask people when you are in conversations.
Were you raised in a particular religion?
What do you believe in?
Why do you believe that?
Did you know that Jesus once told a story about …?
There is a helpful section on asking good questions in the book SENT Seeking the Orphans of God (p 93,94).
4. Go with a clear invitation
How do you find the right words to be able invite people to experience salvation?
Study the Bible.
A good gospel sharer needs to study the word of God in both an accurate translation as well as a good paraphrase such as The Message. This is because Romans 12:1–3 in The Message’s paraphrase describes in everyday common language the outcomes of ‘turning around’ – repentance. However, to describe the experience of salvation, one must go to Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32. Here we see the invitation is about coming home, being forgiven, being celebrated, being embraced by our Father. We not only didn’t deserve this grace, we had acted in ways that completely disqualified us from it. Therefore retelling the parables of Jesus is a rich way of sharing with people about Jesus’ faithful relationship with God, his vision for life, his ethics, and his way of discovering the full meaning of our lives (John 17:3).
In summary, the Bible tells us:
• That in Jesus God has said yes to us long before we even gave him a thought!
• Jesus died that we may experience life with the God who is always there, always forgiving, always present, always faithful, and nothing can separate us from God’s love.
• Our response doesn’t add to our salvation, it confesses it! Faith is a gift.
• Therefore to experience God’s transforming love, we don’t invite God into our lives, rather God invites us into his shared life.
So, go share the faith!
Dean Eaton is the LCA’s Church Planting Mentor and Mission Facilitator. His most recent publications are SENT Seeking the Orphans of God and Lighthouses Christian Coaching in a Post-Christian World, which are available at www.lca.org.au/sent