Do you have a view of “personal evangelism” that includes knocking on stranger’s doors, holding large “Repent of Burn!” signs in a busy mall, and harassing strangers and friends while following a specific system? In my own experience, and hearing personal stories in a Bible study yesterday, I found that often we Christians come off as pushy or plain weird. We often expect evangelism to be a loud, exciting, grandiose movement that makes the Christian newspaper, instead of a quiet, normal friendship that gets no applause. We want to rely on certain evangelistic systems, but minimize our reliance on Jesus. Yet instead of focusing on thousands of converts, why not focus on being a good friend to one person? We see so many churches that are shrinking. If every Christian simply loved one friend to Jesus, once in their life, Churches would continually double!
“Sharing your faith” should not be a system or arguments to convince people to join you. Instead one should live a genuine Christian life, and with real love, hope, and authenticity that draws people.
Below are some tips to help you change your thinking. These are derived from Pastor-Dr. Timothy Keller, who writes that if 20% of Christians did this, we would see a steady grown in Christianity. These are a progression from 1 to 9, and according Keller, part of our problem is the fact that we usually try it upside down. We try to push things on people when they aren’t ready for it, instead we have to be authentic and pray for Jesus to work in their heart. Then if they are curious or responsive, we slowly progress from 1-4 to 4-7 and finally to 8-9. This is not to be a system you follow word for word, but ideas that should redefine how you share your faith.
1. Let people around you know you are a Christian (in a natural, unforced way)
Don’t throw this into every conversation, but mention that you went to church. Perhaps hang a Bible verse or quote in your cubicle, or post it on Facebook.
2. Ask friends about their faith – and just listen!
Don’t critique their statement, or launch into a barrage railing them for being a heathen. Just listen to build trust, to let them know that you won’t judge them, and won’t look down upon them for their views (or lack of) on faith.
3. Listen to your friends problems – maybe offer to pray for them
Sometimes we want to have an instant result, but God’s timing is different. Your friend may not want to talk about faith most of the time, but may be very open during a period of suffering. Be there to listen and offer a few encouraging words.
4. Share your problems with others – testify to how your faith helps you
One of the biggest errors of Christians is our failure to explain that we are also weak and sinful. Many unbelievers assume we think we are without sin, and only they are sinful. They feel we think we are better. So explain you too are sinful, weak, and in need of God. Talk about how Jesus has helped you overcome something.
5. Give them a book to read
Some great books are Tim Kellers ‘Reason For God’ and N.T Wrights ‘Simply Christian.’ In fact, you can give a film (go to one with them) or a website as well. One website that is really great is www.christianityexplored.org
6. Share your story
Talk about your personal journey of faith and how Jesus has led you from unbelief/doubt to faith. Even if you were raised in a Christian home, you need to have a personal life testimony of meeting Jesus and what he has done.
7. Answer objections and questions
One thing I heard a great deal in discussions with others is that they don’t know answers to hard questions. I recommend you to read a few books (Reason for God will bring you up to speed). Once you have answers (or know where they are found), you can provide them.
8. Invite them to a church event
It doesn’t need to be a Sunday morning service, it could be a small group, a concert or some other event.
9. Offer to read the Bible with them
Many unbelievers are curious about the Bible, and if you see they have questions about the Bible, offer to go through it with them. A year ago God saved a business associate and I simply opened the gospel of John and spent an hour reading and explaining what it meant. It was very simple, no Greek words or advanced hermeneutics required.