How Directly Should We Share Our Faith?
A few years ago, I was confronted with that question while I was speaking to the International Mission Board media team in Richmond, Virginia. They’re the men and women responsible for documenting, filming, and creating media for and about the more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries in the field throughout the world. They also have the significant responsibility of creating media that local churches can use to generate financial support for the cooperative missions program of the denomination.
I was talking about branding, perception, and similar issues, and I had mentioned that in a media-driven culture we’ve discovered that there are multiple steps people take toward becoming a believer. Therefore, not everything has to have an invitation for salvation, or an “altar call moment.” We also discussed that sometimes, it’s just important to “be” a Christian rather than “proclaim” your faith. Let your “deeds” draw people – not just your words. As Rick Warren said, “We live in an age of “deeds” not just “creeds.”
It was a great time, but during one of the breaks, one of the producers asked me a question: “How do you let people know the reason you are the way you are? Do you let them know it’s Jesus?”
While we don’t always have that opportunity, whenever you can, it is important in business, artistic, social, or other situations to let people know why you’re different. For an earlier generation, the drive was to tell them about Jesus FIRST. But today, in an age where the perception of Christianity is at one of it’s lowest points in our history, we often feel we need to speak softly – or at the very least, sensitivity.
But truth is, we still need to speak.
Nonchristians already know who the practicing Christians around them are. They pay attention to minute clues, and treat us differently.
Amusingly enough, it's a certain brand of Christian who can't seem to figure out who his fellow Christians are. They figure all the Christians go to their church, punctuate every sentence with PTL, and stalk the unwary with oddly scripted dialogs designed to create instant faith. They don't discriminate. They'll terrorize their fellow Christians right along with the rest of humanity. God loves these folks, which is a really good thing. The rest of humanity struggles not to loathe 'em.
If we want to draw people to Christ, just be ourselves. If just being ourselves doesn't attract people to Christ, then get to work on ourselves. If we're a Christians and it shows, conversation and behavior will be more circumspect around us. People will come to us for respite from difficult relationships and awkward situations. Sometimes individuals engaged in unethical behavior will decide to desist, because of our effect on corporate climate.
We need to be consistent. I once bought a used car from a guy whose conversation was peppered with devout sounding remarks. Unfortunately, he had devised an elaborate scheme to cheat the state out of some property and sales taxes. As he explained it, I'd save money too. It was the least he could do for a sister in Christ, he justified. Great witness…not! He was a classic example of a Christian who had confused "nice" with "good". Collectively as well as individually, Christians can't afford that error.
The brand of Christianity that simultaneously insists that everyone should get on board the train, but ignores ethics and boundaries, is toxic to evangelism. It needs to stop. We need to act our age, not our shoe size. If we walk the walk, people seeking answers about faith will feel comfortable talking about Christ with us.
I think you must always, at some point in your encounter with someone, let a person know the Gospel clearly. That Jesus died & rose again, to forgive our sins & heal our world, and we can accept new life in him. When souls are at stake that can’t be left in any degree of doubt.
The other 99% of our time with people, should be simply living it.