This week's topic: How and when should we share the gospel with others?
What a great topic! It's a great one for new Christians, but especially good for those of us who've grown up in the church as well. As an Anglican, we aren't really encouraged to evangelize. We're taught to show our Christianity in our actions. I'm completely cool with this, but I also think that sometimes we should be able to just talk about Jesus with someone. I think they teach this better in other churches? I guess too, that being raised a Christian, I was never formally introduced to Jesus. He was just there from the beginning - my own little John 1:1 experience! You know, I never had anyone say, "Hey, let me tell you about Jesus", so I don't necessarily think of doing that for others. Or maybe it's just that I don't know how? Or maybe that I'm scared to?
Nicky Gumbel started by talking about the two biggest dangers in sharing the gospel with others - fear and insensitivity. Fear of bringing up the name of Jesus in a public place. Fear of making other people uncomfortable. Or, perhaps, fear of embarrassment. What if I share my intimate feelings of faith to another and my feelings are rejected? Mocked? Degraded?
And insensitivity - Not realizing that someone doesn't want to hear the gospel. Being disrespectful of a person's existing beliefs or faith. Or just being pushy.
I remember once I was at a Canada Day celebration and the Jews For Jesus were handing out pamphlets. I was really curious about how you could be Jewish and for Jesus, so I approached one of the women and asked her about it. She explained how they were a group of Jewish-raised, or culturally Jewish, people who have accepted Jesus as their savior. Great! I had my answer. I thanked her and was ready to leave, when she started her pitch - "You like you're at the age to be thinking about your faith...". I thanked her again and told her I was already a Christian. But then, she started getting pushy. I remained polite for as long as I could, but I finally had to tell her to leave me alone. First of all, I'm not Jewish in any way, so to this day, I can't understand how I could ever be a Jew For Jesus. But more importantly, she was being insensitive to my pre-existing faith. I was already a Christian, and yet she was trying to recruit me. She wasn't looking to add to the body of Christ, just to the body of her organization.
Maybe this is why I'm hesitant to tell others about Jesus. I don't want to be one of those pushy people who knock on your door or chase you down in the street. And yet I know that most people who are trying to add to the body of Christ are not working in this way.
We had a great discussion about the story of the woman at the well. (I know a great song about this story, so it was hard to have the discussion without bursting out singing!) Here's an example of Jesus meeting a stranger and, within a few short sentences, sharing the gospel with her. I think the thing I liked most about the story was how he made the gospel appropriate to the situation. They're at the well, talking about water, so suddenly, the gospel is living water. Brilliant.
I remember a preacher we had at church once who talked about "quiet evangelism". Ways that we can show our faith in our actions. Ways that aren't pushy, but that may open the door to a discussion about being a Christian. Like wearing a cross, or saying grace in a restaurant. People will see these small Christian practices. Perhaps they will ignore them. Perhaps they will store them in their memory bank. Or perhaps they will come up to us and say, "Hey, what are you doing?"
They say people need to hear about Jesus thirty times before becoming a Christian. They may not change the first time you say grace with them, but what if that's #29? Suddenly, every little move becomes very important.
I remember, one time in university, I was in Bloor subway station, and I saw guy wearing a leather jacket. On the back of the jacket was a painted design of a burning cross. I was so upset by this! How dare he wear something so disrespectful? Didn't he know how important that symbol was to me? And to millions of others? But what could I do? I was tiny and he was huge and pretty intimidating. But I realized there was something I could do. I could wear a cross too. Not a burning one - a beautiful empty cross; empty to show that Jesus is not dead, but has defeated death and has been raised to new life. For as much as he has the right to wear whatever he wants, and put out whatever message he wants, I can wear whatever I want too. I have the choice to put out whatever message I want.
So, how am I sharing the gospel? I guess the main way is through my singing and, especially in the past year, through my songwriting. I think I'm sharing through this blog. I am wearing a cross, and I do say grace in restaurants. Oh, and I bought a fish to stick on the trunk of my car. (We call it Jesus-fish. It's not meant to be disrespectful. It just makes me giggle!)
Oh, and one more thought on all this. The deeper my faith grows, the more comfortable I get sharing the gospel with others. I think God is giving me confidence in this area. I used to avoid the question, "Are you religious?" by saying "Oh, well, really, I'm much more spiritual". Bull-poopy. I was spiritual, but really, I was just trying to avoid the question. I didn't want to be labeled "religious". Maybe that's part of being a preacher's kid? But now, I don't care if I'm labeled anything. (Okay, I don't want to be labeled "fat" or "mature", but that's a whole other post!)
I know that what I have to offer is great, because all of it comes from God. And everything came together when tonight's discussion hit my guiding verse:
Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify God in Heaven.
What else do I need to say?