If you’re anything like me, witnessing comes super-easily. It seems I can winsomely turn every conversation I have back to the foundations of the gospel, have people laughing, nodding their head in agreement, crying, and saying, “Amen!” within just a few minutes. I quote a verse, and people cry out, “Please, more truth, Ben!” I sing a hymn while walking down the sidewalk, and people never look at me like I’m a freak … nay, they begin singing along, raising their hands in worship. I just have to encourage them not to close their eyes while they’re walking!
I carry tracts in my pocket, because every time I meet an unbeliever and give them one, they ask me if I’ll baptize them on the spot. I say, “It seems you need to hear about Jesus …” and they immediately respond, saying, “Yes, I’ve been waiting all my life! Please tell me more…” I always have the perfect word to say, the perfect prayer to pray, the perfect timing, and the perfect closing.
No?!? Yeah, me neither. To me, witnessing is tough. It often feels stilted, forced, and unnatural. I never seem to have the right timing. And trying to perfectly remember each point about the gospel, combined with the fact that I’m nervous – that I feel like the other person hates me for bringing it up, that I feel woefully inadequate to share, that I feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I just know that the other person has to be somewhere else and do something else – makes sharing my faith one of the most difficult activities I ever do.
I think we make it too difficult, though. I know I do. When it comes to sharing the gospel, let me offer you three steps to think through.
1. Follow Christ. That’s what He calls each of you to do, right? You, living the life God has called you to live and being the person God has uniquely gifted you to be – that’s a great testimony to God. Each of us is a walking billboard for the goodness of God and a testimony that God can redeem, right, and set straight a person’s life. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody expects you to be flawless. (Gasp!) And if you try to portray that to people, you’ll come across as arrogant and fake. You don’t have to have a perfect testimony, but you do have to follow a perfect Savior. That’s essential.
2. Share your story. Your story is compelling. Riveting. Life-changing (assuming you actually have been changed). And sharing your faith involves sharing your story. Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People will connect with your brokenness more quickly and fully than they ever will your “awesomeness.” Share the junk God’s redeeming you from, the junk you’re done with, the bigger picture He’s inviting you into, and the ways His grace is sufficient and His love is captivating.
3. Invite other people into your story. Build relationships with people. And not just so that you can “get them saved.” Genuinely love people. Invest in them. Be their friend. Listen to their story. Value them as God’s crowning creation. Look for ways to serve them, expecting nothing in return and with no strings attached. In so doing, you’re inviting them into the story that God’s writing through you. I’m convinced that people want to plug into something that’s bigger than themselves. Inviting people into your story, showing how your story fits into the broader story of God’s redemption of His people, does just that.
That’s it. Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we (church leaders) often make it. But it’s also much more difficult. Much more engaging. Much more demanding of your time and effort. Much more challenging of your life.
The goal of evangelism isn’t for the person to walk away with the “right” doctrine. Though doctrine is important, it’s not an end in itself. Right doctrine should drive us to love others more, not less. Right doctrine should move us toward people, not away from them. Right doctrine should move us to condemn less, and love more. It should propel us toward kindness and patience, breaking our hearts for those far from Christ. Right doctrine should drive us to serve others, looking for nothing in return.
“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21, ESV). All. Day. Long. God’s hands are full of hope, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and blessing. He sent His Son to earth to have a relationship with us. Let’s not reduce the beauty and power of that to mere words. To do so rips the truth of its love, grace, and mercy.
Follow Christ. Share your story. Invite people in.
It’s that simple.
Without love, truth is …
Ben Reed serves as Small Groups pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. He writes regularly at www.BenReed.net.