Most people I know are able to share stories of good news. If they are football fans, they will talk freely to others about their favorite team, especially if it is having a winning season. Gardeners are more than happy to share gardening tips with fellow horticulturalists. Some avid Democrats and Republicans will share the benefits of their party without anyone asking them to. When a grandchild is born most grandparents can’t keep from sharing the news. Recently someone shared in the Christian small group I’m part of the benefits of their new pressure cooker. We talked more about that pressure cooker than we talked about the Bible that day! You would have thought this pressure cooker was a sign of Jesus’s return! And you know what, I went out and bought one!
In this short piece I discuss a fourth practice of evangelism in a religiously plural world. The acronym I use for evangelism today is REVEAL. (For previous posts in this series, see here, here, and here.) The “A” in REVEAL is to “Articulate or Announce” the story of God in Christ. The essence of the NT terminology around “evangelism” is that the story of God in Christ must be told. The story is not intuited. Christians are not born. They are formed. Every Christian learns the story of God in Christ. Some will read about it from the Bible on their own while a few will learn about Jesus through the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, perhaps in a dream. But in my experience, the vast majority of people who become Christians hear the story of Jesus from numerous people and in a variety of ways, often over a number of years before they commit to him through repentance and faith. The question for us is: How do we share the story of Christ in ways that people can truly encounter him?
Some Christians share their faith quite easily and in ways that build community and friendships. Typically Christian who share their faith well are nurtured in churches that encourage faith sharing through regular testimonies in worship and small group and by encouraging people to practice how they would share their faith. If your church does not have regular times of testimony this is a good place to start. But most Christians I encounter, especially those from mainline denominations in Western countries, have difficulty sharing the story of Jesus, at least on a regular basis. They long to share the story of Jesus as they have grown to love him, but they are also fearful of sharing.
Our fears are multifaceted. We fear we will come off as “holier than thou” or that our words will seem canned. We fear those who know us best will know how our lives don’t match up to the gospel we share and that we will be known as hypocrites. We fear our words will offend and that we might lose close friendships or offend family members. We might feel we’re inadequate in terms of knowledge and that someone may ask questions we can’t answer. I’m sure you can name other fears. People who share their faith well acknowledge these fears but let the joy they have found in Jesus drive their articulation of his goodness.
People who share their faith well have learned to open up conversations with friends and family by saying things like, “I hesitate to ask you about your faith because some people get so nervous and even take offense. If you don’t want to share, I certainly understand, but I’d love to hear your story.” Or, “We’ve been good friends for a long time and the last thing I’d want to do is to bring any kind of wedge between us, but I’d love to share my story of faith with you if you are open to it. But first I’d love to hear your thoughts on faith.” These kinds of questions leave it up to the other person. If she says “no” then we honor it and pray she may ask about Jesus in the future. But most of the time, if someone shared their story first, as discussed in the previous session, then the person is open to hearing your story as well.
In the end, every Christian must make a fundamental decision; Is the gospel worth overcoming with our fears regarding sharing it? If your answer is yes, if you have a conviction that this story of Jesus is true, and good, and full of grace, and the greatest hope for the world, then take time to practice, pray, and think about ways to articulate the story of Jesus. You just may be the best person to tell the story of Jesus to someone you love dearly.