I walked into a conversation that others were having and I was ready to throw in my thoughts and contribute! So when I walked in and shared my super amazing insight, I realized they weren’t talking about a film but talking about someone's actual circumstances. I was commenting like I was giving a movie review...Read the room, Alan.
Sometimes as Christians, we don’t necessarily “read the room” either. I think at this time, in our culture, we are just like this awkward moment. Culture is having spiritual conversations that Christians aren’t invited to because we are giving answers to questions that aren’t being asked.
A question posed by most Christians:
“If you were to die to today do you know where you would go?”
An answer given by some who are not Christians:
“I would become reincarnated and come back as a part of nature based on my good works that I contribute as a human being to better the planet because I believe in making the world a better place.”
A response by Christians:
“Oh. Ummm, ok. I, uh…Jesus says, ummm….”
The question is…what is the right response for those around us who are outsiders of faith who need the redemptive work of Christ in their lives?
Barna has just released the findings of a new study commissioned by the discipleship organization Alpha USA, and one of the revelations is shocking.
The goal of the research was to better understand what Christian millennials believe about the Gospel and sharing their faith. Though the vast majority agreed with statements like “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus” and “how to respond when someone raises questions about faith,” things changed when asked about sharing their faith.
From the report: “Almost half of Millennials (47%) agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.”
That is far higher than Gen X, Boomers and Elders. (Gen Z wasn’t included in the study.) That makes millennials the most evangelism-reluctant generation to-date.
In a statement included in the research, Barna Group president David Kinnaman said,
“Even after they are committed to sustaining resilient faith, we must persuade younger Christians that evangelism is an essential practice of following Jesus. The data show enormous ambivalence among Millennials, in particular, about the calling to share their faith with others.”
Cultivating deep, steady, resilient Christian conviction is difficult. Evangelism isn’t just about saving those that need saving, but reminding ourselves that the Kingdom matters, that the Bible is trustworthy and that Jesus changes everything.
The Bible puts it like this:
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. COLOSSIANS 4:5-6
Have the right response. Maybe we are responding wrong. The problem is we are trying to answer questions that no one is asking. Recently in pop culture these issues were highlighted in the last week:
+ When does life start for a human being?
+ How does race affect our relationships with each other?
+ Can we be politically opposite but be united as humans?
+ Can the gay community and the Christian community co-exist?
+ Resistance to authority or submission to authority?
This week, culture is talking about abortion, racism, injustice and bringing restoration to a world that needs it more than ever before. What are we sharing about in our churches that helps others draw nearer to Christ? Let’s be honest, Jesus doesn’t come across in Scripture like he is “forcing his convictions upon us. Jesus preached some of the hardest messages, yet crowds continued to flock to Him. Part of the reason I think that faith isn’t potent in our culture is because we get nervous when the term ‘evangelism’ gets brought up. What is evangelism really?
Let me tell you what evangelism is not:
+ Having an acute knowledge of theology
+ Being super bold about faith issues
+ Reserved for only certain Christians
+ Bringing people to church
+ Being extremely educated and extraordinary
The fact is that is the farthest from the truth. To be someone who can share faith with others, all you need to be is unschooled and ordinary.
"Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus." Acts 4:13
What if we saw evangelism as moving someone one step closer to Jesus. It’s sharing your story of how Jesus has impacted your life with someone. It’s inviting someone into your life and having a conversation with them about your life.
What if sharing your faith with someone was as easy as sharing your life with someone?
My life consists of the following slices of life: marriage, kids, job, church, social life, spiritual life, etc. Compartmentalizing these significant parts of my life compels me then to evangelize at the expense of others things. Or in other words, “I’ve got to find time to share Jesus.” But if I live an integrated life in Jesus then my ordinary life becomes a life of evangelism because by living daily for Jesus is sharing Jesus daily with others.
“Evangelism best benefits the church when you share your faith rather than evangelism benefits you when the church shares it’s faith. ” -Alan Pastian
Here’s how I think it works. This means that when you talk about your kids, your marriage, your job, your friends, your church your passions…you are talking about Jesus. Sharing about the joys or your struggles to have a better relationship with your spouse or significant other, becomes a moment that you can share how Jesus helps you to be a better, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. Your passions to be a designer become a talking point to share how Jesus has given you this passion and how you want to use your creativity to inspire others about the creator, etc. Your love of being a father is like the love of God who is a father so when you talk about your kids you can talk about your heart that God gave you. When I’m with my friends and engaging in my social life, I’m sharing in my community that is connected by Jesus and for others to be connected because of Jesus. When I’m in my church we are talking about Jesus and desiring to be more like Jesus so we can make a difference in our community and in our world. Your whole life becomes a representation of the Gospel.
I know there will be moments where we have to intentionally engage with the others about hard spiritual matters (afterlife, heaven and hell, born again, God and suffering, etc). We absolutely need have these theological conversations. But the reality we face as the everyday Christian is sharing Jesus with someone can be overwhelming to many. But when Jesus becomes your life, is your life, talking about Jesus to others becomes less intimidating.
The church in Thessalonica understood this well. “We were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel but our whole lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Bringing people to church to hear about Jesus is one way of sharing Jesus. Bringing the church to the people is another way of spreading the hope of Christ with the world. I would argue: Evangelism best benefits the church when you share your faith rather than evangelism benefits you when the church shares it’s faith. That’s why the church doesn’t have to be the only valuable entity for sharing Jesus with the world. You are just as valuable if not more.
The new Young Christian is rethinking evangelism in a new way. Here are a few thoughts to get you inspired to share Jesus more often:
1. HAVE MORE CONVERSATIONS AND LESS CONFRONTATIONS.
It’s a different era now than before. The question of “If you were to die today, do you know where you would go?” This was a stirring question in the 60’s, 70’s , etc because of the cold war and the nuclear threat was very real to those in this era. However, today the engagement with others in your community (neighborhood, school, workplace, etc) about Christianity is more of an abrasive issue than in anytime in history. The culture war is dying out and the idea of being in a “battle” is an imagery that is less appealing to both Christians and non-Christians. If we posture ourselves to a dialogue than engage in a battle for truth, we will most likely be more effective.