The following is an excerpt from a message, part of a sermon series addressing issues of the Christian faith. This message was addressing the Alpha Film Series question "How & Why should I share my faith?"
For some folks the word “evangelism” makes their hearts flutter. They are excited and delighted by the mission to go and make disciples in all the earth. For others, the word “evangelism” causes their heart to almost stop. They have a trigger response to the mention of the word, fearing that they will become like those unpopular ones, who stand on street corners, wearing a sandwich board and meeting the gaze of people busily dashing by, desperate to avoid eye contact.
When evangelism is flowing naturally in and out of relationship, fear need not be our response to our mission – rather joy becomes the overwhelming presence in our hearts. Still, even when evangelism is naturally flowing in and out of the context of genuine relationship, we can always benefit from a few pointers.
John Ortberg implores Christians to ask ourselves “is the life I am inviting others to, the life I am living myself?” We all know the expression “He is talking the talk, but not walking the walk.” As evangelism flows in and out of relationship, so the quality of our relationship with Jesus will have a significant impact on the quality of our evangelistic outcomes.
You wanna know one of the best ways to ensure you're walking the walk? Invite a foreigner to live among you. For the last 14 years, Darren and I have opened our family home to foreign students through homestay. I am painfully aware that everything we do is under the watchful eye of those who have not grown up knowing who Jesus is – and for whom we are the single most significant influence on their understanding of the Christian Faith. No pressure or anything, especially while raising teens. But in truth, the presence of students from abroad have been such a gift to us in our faith. I am continuously mindful that evangelism flows in and out of relationship – and as I am in relationship with these students, I genuinely desire the love of Jesus to overflow from me.
Effective Evangelism requires that I am walking in accordance to the life I am inviting others to. There is, and must be, a potency to my faith that fuels the potency of my message.
We do not gain brownie points each time we share our testimony. We do not gather notches in our Bibles for each person we pray across the line of faith. We are not “better Christians” than anyone else because we have more evangelistic success. Love is the only motivation for sharing the good news of Jesus. And let me assure you of this – any other motivation will become painfully clear. Trying to impress God with your devotion through evangelism is never going to happen. God is not impressed anyway – He is already totally in love with you. When anything other than love motivates evangelism we lose relational ground with the people we long to see in God's Kingdom. As much as our desire to share flows out of our relationship with God – our desire to share must also flow out of our genuine relationship with others.
We do not need to manufacture other reasons to share good news – it is good news. Genuine love is the only motivation for evangelism.
Geographically. Relationally. Culturally. Sharing our faith with others will require close proximity. Whether I am sharing my faith with my neighbour across the street, or with a young girl across the globe, the impact of my sharing is magnified by the closeness of my voice. We need to be intentional about drawing near to people. Jesus left the throne-room of God to walk among us – and for us to adequately share His story, we will in all likelihood be required to leave our couches.
Bill Hybels talks about this willingness to become close to others as the power of simply walking across a room – to take ten steps to speak with someone you don't know yet. To leave whatever your zone of comfort is to step toward another person, even if it opens you up to all kinds of uncertainty. We need to see ourselves as dwellers among those God loves. Our church cliques and holy huddles have a place for encouragement and correction and support – but they are not the full expression of our faith. Walk across the room. Meet someone new on your street. Offer kindness to a stranger on the bus.
Take seriously the call to go and make disciples. Go and be with. Go and dwell among others. Evangelism will require close proximity.
I'm not sure if this ever happens in your life, but my husband and I sometimes have these encounters where it becomes obvious that he believes we have discussed something – but really all that has happened is he had a conversation with me in his head. While it may seem an efficient method of communication, I assure you it is not an effective one.
Every one of us is unique. We each will discover our own style of evangelism along the way. I know some people who just seem to be able to befriend anyone, anywhere, anytime and quickly end up in a spiritual discussion. I know some people who are invitational in style. They have a way of always bringing new people to sit in church with them, or to come to Alpha with them. They host parties in their home and make folks feel instantly at ease. I know some people who serve their neighbourhood through shoveling snow-covered walks, raking leaves, taking soup to the sick and helping with odd jobs here and there. Whenever they do these acts of service, they are reflecting the love of Christ in the homes of others. And I know some folks who always seem ready to answer tough questions. They have a logical and reasoned approach to understanding roadblocks to faith, and they just seem to know all the right things to say.
Regardless of the kind of style God has placed in you, the reality is that at some point someone somewhere is going to ask you why. Why do you live the way you do? Why are you so full of joy? Why do you serve with endless patience? Why did you walk across the room to sit with me? Why do you know the things you know?
1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” While its true that actions speak loudly, at some point the Gospel requires words.
Now we can make this easier on ourselves. And we should. We can learn ways to simply explain the gospel story. We can take the time to write out our own testimony – the story of what our life was before Jesus, the events leading up to trusting Jesus, and what our life is like now. It is actually much easier than you might think to prepare and practice the words the Gospel will one day require. Usually the hard part is accepting that words will be required. But remember, evangelism flows in and out of relationship. Your words will be shared with those you love and hopefully have grown to love you or at the very least to trust you. Your actions and your love – they speak very loudly. For the rest, we will need to embrace a few words.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
God has made Himself known. Let us joyfully join Him in the mission. Making Jesus Known – among us, around us, beyond us.
You can listen to Pastor Kyla's full message here.