If you’re a Christian, you know that God wants you to share your faith and be a witness to people around you. But what if you’re not really the preacher or evangelist type? What if traditional “outreach” gifts aren’t quite your gifts? How do you begin sharing your faith about Jesus with my friends? Where should you start?
Here are some suggestions:
- Be a good friend.
- Demonstrate the love of God by being kind and going out of your way to help others. Jesus showed people that he cared about them first, and then invited them to follow him. (Matt 5:13-16, Luke 19:1-10, John 9:1-41)
- Don’t treat a person as a project, but actually learn to care. (Romans 12:9-21) Build relationships with people so that they trust you. When people trust you, you can share how your faith helps you without it offending them. They may even accept you praying for or with them if they don’t feel forced or manipulated.
- Be honest and stick to what you know.
- Tell the story of how you were converted.
- Be patient! Don’t try to convert everyone immediately.
- Use resources made by people who know more than you.
- Between articles, books, music, and videos, there is a lot of material available that can help you express things clearly if you can’t explain something yourself!
- Be curious about what your friends believe.
- Other religions and philosophies are very interesting. If you show a genuine interest in what your friends believe, they will be interested in how you live your life too. This is not offensive, helps you understand other people better, helps you become better friends with the people around you, and naturally opens up conversations in safe, non-threatening ways. Doing this will help you come across as a nice and interesting person. Not only will people like you and possibly want to talk to you again, but you might actually learn something too! (Acts 17:16-34)
These suggestions are just that - suggestions. There will always be variations in how people approach evangelizing, just like there will always been a need for good old fashioned preaching. These suggestions are not meant to be the only things you do. Rather, these ideas should help you to learn how to start having religious conversations in a way that doesn't make you or others feel uncomfortable.
There will also be exceptions to all of these. Sometimes, it may be inappropriate to suddenly strike up conversations about someone's religious background. And there may be times when people are not willing to listen to a long telling of your life story. With all of this, you have to use your own judgment to decide what approach suits each situation.
Still, we believe that all Christians should at least start working on their conversation skills and learn how to have conversations about religion. Whether that means learning new ways to open people up to that topic, or simply becoming more familiar with the core ideas that form the basis of Christian beliefs, there's always some part of our evangelistic approach that can probably be improved.
What areas will you work on first?
- Read Matt 5:13-16. What does Jesus say in this passage about how our actions and behaviors can affect the way people see God? What are some ways you have done (or could do) this in your own life?
- Read Luke 19:1-10.
- What did Jesus do for Zacchaeus that benefitted him? Keep in mind that among the Jewish people of the first century, Tax Collectors were rejected by their own people because they were seen as traitors who worked for the enemy (the Romans).
- What caused Zacchaeus to have a change of heart? Did he change before or after he received compassion?
- Read John 9:1-41 and pay attention to the journey of the blind man. When in the story does he seem to decide he would become a disciple of Jesus?
- This healing miracle takes place on the Sabbath, and Jesus faces some criticism for this. What does this story tell us about doing good work like healing and helping on the Sabbath?
- Look specifically at 9:24-34. Do you think this man would have defended Jesus so passionately against the religious leaders if he had not personally been helped and transformed by an encounter with Jesus?
- The section from 9:13-41 sees the religious leaders and influencers of the day - the Pharisees - investigating Jesus' healing miracle. Both the Pharisees and Jesus' own disciples have strongly held and deeply rooted prejudices about why people suffer, and who they should consider "sinners." What does this passage teach you about how Jesus wants us to treat people who are rejected or maligned by religious establishments?
- Read Romans 12:9-21. This passage is mostly about how Paul wants the members of the church to treat each other.
- If the Christian church were to fully live out the lifestyle described in this passage, what effect might that have on the non-Christian world around them? Would people find that community attractive?
- Which of the instructions in this passage do you think you would find the easiest to follow? The most difficult?
- Look at the section on revenge in 12:19-21. What does the part about "heaping burning coals on their heads" mean?
- Do you think this passage only applies to Christian communities, or can we live out these instructions among other people too? Why or why not?
- Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and pay special attention to verses 26-31.
- Do you have to be a theological expert to have a genuine journey with God? How does Paul describe the Corinthians in their early Christian experience?
- What do you think it means for God to use "weak" and "foolish" things to "shame the wise and strong?" Are there any indications in this passage as to what it means?
- Paul continues this argument in the next chapter, 1 Corinthians 2. While we know that Paul was very educated, literate, and intelligent, what does he say in 2:1-5 about his own preaching?
- In 2:6-16, where does Paul say true wisdom comes from? What is the nature of wisdom?
- What can this passage teach us about conversations with people who are not believers? Should we expect people to immediately accept anything we say?
- Compare what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1-2 to what you read in John 9. What is the importance of having a personal experience with God? Have you had that kind of personal encounter? Is it possible to experience God through the influence of other people?
- In Acts 26:1-32, Paul tells the story of how he was converted to the king Herod Agrippa II.
- How does Arippa respond to Paul's testimony? Does he seem to accept it as true or not? What about the other members of the coucil?
- How does this encounter compare to what Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians about the gospel being "foolishness" to powerful people?
- In 26:27, Paul appeals to Agrippa's own background knowledge. Do you think this is a good strategy for communicating the gospel to people? Think of how doing this might work, or not work.
- Paul does something similar in Acts 17:22-34. How does Paul use an appeal to people's background knowledge here to help them understand the gospel story?
- In 1 Peter 3:13-16, we are told to "always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us." Do you feel that you are always ready to give that kind of defense? If someone asked you to explain your own spirituality, what would you say? What are the most important parts of your spiritual journey? What ideas do you understand the best?
- Do you know why you believe what you believe? What is the reason for the hope you have?
- In the famous passage of John 3:1-21, Jesus talks to Nicodemus, a curious member of the Pharisees, who normally opposed Jesus. What words would you use to describe the conversation between these two?
- Look at 3:8, where Jesus compares the Spirit and the wind. Can we always understand how God moves in people's lives? Is theological understanding enough, or is there more?
- Can you cause someone to be "born again" by simply explaining Christianity to them? Why or why not? Who is able to give "new birth?"
- Is it possible to win someone over to the gospel only with your lifestyle, attitude, and kindness, without preaching at all? Can you fully lead someone to Jesus without talking about Jesus? Why or why not? Keep in mind the things discussed above about having a personal experience with God.