Last week I was a guest on a secular radio talk show. The topic the host, a bunch of callers and I debated was: What are the appropriate ways to share your Christian faith?
Phrasing the question another way, we might ask: How can we explain our beliefs to those who aren’t Christians without turning into overbearing zealots and chasing them away from God?
I learned during my hour on that radio that other Christians don’t necessarily share my views. Still, I’ll offer these six tips:
1) Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses.” A central purpose of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to speak wisely, graciously and, at times, boldly about the Lord. We need to follow the Spirit’s guidance. He can show us when it’s time to tell someone about our faith and when it’s time to shut up.
2) Live in a real, honest way. Don’t try to be a Christian, whatever your idea of a Christian is. You already are a Christian, just the way you are now. So be who you are. Never pretend to be anyone you’re not.
God has someone waiting out there who will respond to the genuine you. If you like scrapbooking, be a scrapbooker. If you love softball, join a softball team. If you’re neurotic, realize that maybe God has allowed you to be neurotic so you can understand and reach out to other neurotic people.
But never join a softball team just so you can bludgeon the other players with your six-pound family Bible. There are few things more off-putting than finding out someone was only acting as if he was your friend so he could sell you life insurance. It’s equally off-putting for people to realize you only became their softball teammate so you could sell them an eternal fire-insurance policy. Just play softball to play softball. Period. If and when God wants you to talk to the shortstop about your faith, he’s fully capable of providing that opportunity without your assistance.
3) Remain humble. Remember that you don’t have the answers to all of life’s mysteries. You wouldn’t know God yourself if it weren’t for his mercy and grace. You’re not in a position to lecture anybody, much less to condescend toward them.
4) Yet always be ready to give a defense of your faith. I don’t mean to imply we should be defensive or combative about our faith. What I mean is, if we just walk through our days allowing the Spirit to guide us, sooner or later someone’s going to notice. Maybe it’ll happen because we don’t gossip about the boss in the break-room when everybody else is gossiping. At some point, somebody’s going to say, “Hey, Bob, how come you’re different?” Often these moments will arise when we least expect them. We should always be prepared to explain our hope.
5) Walk in love. Jesus said people would recognize us as his disciples because of our love. The apostle Paul said love is the virtue that never fails; I understand Paul to mean that love is the one attribute that will break down the hardest heart, win over the nastiest scoffer. Be the person who volunteers to cover a co-worker’s shift so she can go visit her dying mother. Mow the yard of a neighbor who’s in bed with the flu.
6) Tell your story. You don’t need to know a ton of theology, or for that matter, a lot of scripture, to be an effective witness. When people ask about your faith, tell them what the Lord has done for you. Your story might be, “I was going through a nasty divorce, and drinking too much, and even thinking of killing myself, but then the Lord intervened and gave me peace. I survived the divorce, and eventually I was able to forgive my ex.”