For many Christians, few things are more stressful than talking about the faith with others. This is especially true here in America, where we are taught from a young age that it’s not polite to talk about religion or politics in public. Telling someone else about your faith can quickly result in you being labeled as “judgmental,” and it can give you a reputation as a religious nut. Not exactly an uplifting experience. Yet sharing your faith with others can be a rewarding activity that not only brings others closer to Christ, but also strengthens your own faith.
The Desire to Evangelize
The early church took the command to evangelize seriously.
Christ commanded his followers to evangelize (Mt. 28:19-20), and so every Christian who wishes to be faithful needs to share his faith with others. The early church took this command seriously, and for that reason what started as a small, persecuted sect eventually became the official religion of the greatest empire on earth. This was achieved not by military conquest, but by normal people telling others about their love for Christ. In fact, these simple followers of Christ overcame significant persecution in order to share their faith.
But Christians don’t just share their faith because of Christ’s command. We recognize that we’ve received a great gift and we want to share it with others. When someone reads a great book that changes her life, she immediately tells others about it. Not because she wants to force it on them, but because she wants others to experience what she did. For the Christian, there is no greater joy than being a Christian, and we want others to experience that same joy.
The Stress of Evangelization
Is evangelization awkwardly telling a stranger about Jesus while the other party thinks you’re a fool or worse?
So why do so many Christians refrain from evangelizing? Because it’s so stressful. I’ve been involved in evangelization for more than a quarter of a century, and I too have experienced this stress. In my book The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did, I tell the story of my own beginnings in evangelization:
In college I joined [an organization which] had a single focus: to bring people to Christ. We were encouraged to go door-to-door in dorms sharing the gospel, and to take Spring Break trips evangelizing the heathen masses. We were given specific training on exactly what to say, and we enacted mock scenarios to practice sharing the gospel. My experience as an evangelist usually consisted of getting myself psyched up to go out, awkwardly and hurriedly telling people about Jesus, and feeling a rush of relief when it was over.
You know the archetypical stressful dream of walking into final exams and realizing you’ve forgotten to study? My nightmare consisted of me sharing my faith with others.
This experience of mine is what I think most people imagine when they think about the possibility of evangelizing: awkwardly telling a stranger about Jesus while the other party thinks you’re a fool or worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Sharing Your Faith Naturally
We should bring up our Christian beliefs as naturally as any of our other passions.
Think about what you’re passionate about. Perhaps it’s sports, or gardening, or reading. Do you have any trouble telling others about your passion? Most likely not. I love baseball. It’s never stressful when I talk to others about baseball, and I don’t mind advocating for my favorite team (the Cincinnati Reds). Talking about baseball comes naturally for me – I don’t have to get psyched up to do it, nor do I have to overcome any internal barriers. I imagine this is true of everyone regarding their own pet pursuits.
We should take this as a cue when talking about our faith. Instead of trying to force ourselves to push our beliefs on others, we should bring them up as naturally as any of our other passions. If someone is going through a bad time because of physical suffering, we can talk about how our faith helped us through a similar circumstance. When asked what we’re doing this weekend, we can mention our activities at church. It doesn’t have to be a theological discourse – just a natural discussion of something central in our lives.
Share Your Faith to Strengthen Your Own
A true friend wants to help others, both physically and spiritually.
Christians share their faith out of love for others. But doing so can also help us become better Christians. I once led a group going door-to-door to invite people to our church. We had a group of about 70-80 people, and I could tell beforehand that everyone was nervous. What would happen? Would people yell at us? Insult us? Slam their doors in our faces? We prayed and then went out. When we returned we talked about our experiences, and we found that no one was met with such horrible responses. Actually, everyone was energized: we had gone out and invited others to experience what we had, and in doing so, we knew we were inviting them to draw closer to God. It made us more open to sharing our faith in our families, workplaces, and everywhere we went. The graces we received in putting ourselves out there strengthened us and made us better, and more committed, Christians.
If you have a friend with a physical ailment who refuses to seek treatment, would you encourage her to get help? Of course. In doing so, you are being a true friend, one who cares for her well-being. Likewise, if someone is hurting spiritually, it is a true friend who shares his faith with that person, helping him to become spiritually well. Not only will you help your friend, but you’ll help yourself as well.