Anyone who’s saved wants to tell other beggars where to find the bread, right? But sometimes people struggle with how to do that.
When I was growing up, it was popular to give people a tract or go door-to-door with a set of questions. I’m sure God blessed these tools, but they’re just tools and they probably aren’t as effective today when people are used to sales calls and Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses showing up at the door. We don’t want to sour more people than we actually have a chance to share the gospel with.
But here’s the thing. People who really know what they believe and why they believe it are in a great position to share their faith in all sorts of normal circumstances of daily life. Peter reminds us, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”(1 Pet 3:15).
A lot of Christians I talk to are nervous about sharing their faith because although they trust in Christ, they don’t know enough or they’re worried that they won’t be able to explain it well enough. But the more we know it ourselves and can put it in our own words, the more easily communication comes to us.
Where do you start? It all depends on the person and the conversation. Sometimes I begin by talking about my own struggles and why I need a Savior to rescue me. But this is just to strike up the conversation. Sometimes when Christians think of “giving their testimony,” they think first of their own experience of becoming a Christian and the difference that Jesus has made in their life. OK, like I said, that may be a good opener. But the gospel is not me and my experience, that’s the impact, but not the gospel itself.
The gospel is what happened to Jesus, not what happens in or to me. It's interesting that the apostles—who knew Jesus intimately—never talked about their own experience much. For them, "giving their testimony" or "witnessing" meant telling people what they had seen and heard concerning Jesus of Nazareth: his life, death, and resurrection for sinners.
Paul "reasoned" with those in the marketplace and the synagogue. Of course, his arguments were different, depending on the audience. Paul could start right off with Jesus as the Messiah, but the Greeks needed more context for that claim. If we know the basic story-line, with Jesus as he's clothed in his gospel, and we're armed with good arguments and evidence for Christ's resurrection and claims about himself, then we'll know what to say and when to say it in the conversation.
Then, finally, you have to let the other person talk. That’s key. We’re not know-it-alls. Remember, Peter says that we should be ready to defend the faith, “but with gentleness and respect,” not as if we have a spiel to get out and have to close the deal.
Finally, it’s not only liberating to evangelize others when you know your own convictions and how to share them. It’s also liberating to know that you don’t have to convert them. In fact, you can’t convert them. Only the Holy Spirit can do this and he does it not only through your witness but that of others.
So, he might use you to plant a seed and someone else to water it. You may never see that person on the plane you talked to come to faith, but maybe the Lord let you plant the seed. Rejoice in that! And be ready for the next person the Lord sends to you!
It can sometimes be overwhelming when we think of how America's religious landscape has changed in a relatively short period of time.