Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Share Your Faith without Annoying People

Christian Life is Proclamation

Jesus started his ministry by saying "The Kingdom of God is near!" (Mark 1)  Jesus teaches the 12 disciples (Mathew 10) and then later on 70 more (Luke 10) to do what he does and they report back some great stories.  The disciples then proclaim the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection at Pentecost (Acts 2).   The Apostle Paul travels around the Mediterranean proclaiming and building up communities of proclaimers.  (The largest part of the book of Acts, Romans 10)  Christian life is proclamation.

What Christian Proclamation is Not 

Somewhere along the way some believers reduced the Christian life to a series of accepted facts. Evangelism was also thereby reduced to getting others to accept these facts.   So some believers became argumentative and annoying so the world stopped listening. The real tragedy is that a relationship with the living God of Jesus Christ was lost to countless people.

This summer while on vacation in Virginia Beach as my 8 year old son and I were walking from our hotel to get some ice cream we encountered a group of believers who were trying to get patrons of a local bar "to accept the facts".   They were doing this primarily by yelling condemnations through a bullhorn to try to get people to see that they were wrong.    My son whose experience with Christianity is overwhelmingly positive and nurturing was quite bewildered at this circus.   As we ate our ice cream, we talked about what was going on.   I tried to be as gracious as I could about these street preachers and told him that they really thought they could help people.   He said simply "I don't think it's working."

When I speak about evangelism or faith proclamation this is unfortunately is what most people have in mind.  They actually think that when the church sends people out, it is to annoy other people, argue, and get them to submit to what we think.  No wonder people don't want to evangelize.  Who in their right mind would want to do this?   Fortunately this is not what we are called to do when the Bible speaks about proclamation. Real faith sharing is much more meaningful and life giving.

Real Proclamation has Real Stories

Let me show you another picture by talking about how anyone can share the Good News of Jesus Christ in 5 steps without becoming another person's burden and without feeling guilt or shame.

Step 1. Just share your good news! 

The word evangelism originally meant "good news sharing".   So we talk about the good things God is doing in our lives and in the world.   Biblical evangelism should always be positive.   So we talk about what God has done for us, how we came to know God, why a life in Christ is important for us.  We can also share how we have witnessed what good things God has done for others.  So we keep the "good" in the Good News.

Step 2. Just talk about your experience!

No need to give a history lesson, or talk about someone else.   We start with our own encounter of God. We might also include how we we encounter Christ anew through our community of faith.  The most powerful witnesses are where our stories meet God's story in Jesus Christ.

Step 3. Just relax!

Lutherans confess that it is the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith.    You are not responsible for the outcome.  Christians are called to share what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future.   Whether another accepts this is not up to us.   We just want to share some good news that might inspire or help people.   We are not called to argue, convince, persuade or manipulate anybody.  We can bless and help people no matter what they believe.

4. Just listen! 

This is where many times our proclamation breaks down.   Effective faith sharing often involves more listening than speaking.   When people are called to faith they are called out of their isolation into a relationship with God and other people.    Effective relationships always involve both speaking and listening.   One of the joys of faith sharing is that you begin to heat the stories of other people, you will get to know them, and build friendships with them.

5. Just pray!

Our faith sharing must have its source in our own living relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit.    If it does not than it is not really evangelism or genuine proclamation.   We talk about God they way would would talk of others whom we are in meaningful relationships with.  Prayer will help us see with eyes of faith where and how God is working in our life.  Prayer can also frame our witness so that we are not hurting or injuring others through our words.  Prayer is the most essential component of faith sharing.

My own prayer is that this clarification can help you have the wonderful blessing of being able to share God's story for your life with others.  May God bless you as you share your story of the Good News.

Be blessed

Pastor Knecht

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