(This post is adapted from the “Sharing Your Faith” chapter in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Life. And yes, this story really did happen…)
“Would you like me to tell you about Jesus?”
The man who had just buckled into the seat next to me cocked his head. He looked like he wasn’t’ sure what to say.
I tried again.
“Like, do you know how much God loves you? And how he has a wonderful plan for your life? Do you want me to tell you about that?”
“Um…” the man finally said. “No.” And with that, he turned his attention back to his book.
Looking back on this airplane encounter, I have to laugh. (And I hope you’ll laugh with me instead of being appalled at my evangelism technique.) The thing is, I was twenty-two years old, barely out of college and a newlywed. I had a lot to learn about sharing your faith. I had a lot to learn about life. But I’d recently had a conversation with a fellow named Harald Bredesen, a man whose influence spanned continents and whose remarkable life had been widely chronicled by media outlets from Walter Cronkite’s News and World Report to The Saturday Evening Post to Christianity Today. Bredesen was, according to one former Time magazine journalist, “one of the great saints of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”
And when Bredesen told me that “everyone” wanted to hear about Jesus, I believed him.
A desire that this world cannot satisfy
Honestly? I still believe him. We do want to hear about Jesus—we just may not recognize our longing as such. I often think about C.S. Lewis, who came to faith—to Christianity—as a result of a gnawing angst, an ache for joy. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,” he concluded, “the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
God knew we would never be satisfied apart from connection with him. He longs to make known to us the path of life, to fill us with joy in his presence. First, though, he says we have to be born again—to be born of the Spirit. Had I been God, I might have arranged things so that everyone got to hear the how-to’s directly from an angel, or in some sort of dramatic divine encounter, like what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus.
But he didn’t do it that way.
Instead, God chose to involve us, his beloved children, in his life-changing work. To tap us as his messengers. To use us to tell others how they can be saved.
“How,” the Apostle Paul asks, “can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”
How indeed? How can anyone hear the Good News without someone telling it to them?
We know this in our heads. We recognize the importance of The Great Commission, the passage where Jesus looks at his disciples—at all of us—and says, “Go.”
And yet we balk.
We want our loved ones to be saved, but…
Maybe we’re like my college friend’s mother, and the idea of evangelism scares us—especially if it’s on a global scale. When this mom got wind that her daughter might be interested in foreign missions, she put her foot down. (“I did not raise my daughter to go off and be eaten by cannibals,” was, I believe, how she put it.) At the time, I thought the mother was overreacting. Now that I have my own adult children—who have traveled to some of the most remote parts of Africa, China, and India on short-term mission trips—I get it.
I don’t want my kids to be eaten either.
Let’s be honest, though. All of us want our family, our friends, and even strangers on the other side of the world to be saved. But not all of us feel all that equipped, or comfortable, doing what’s known as “evangelism.” Shouldn’t that, we say to ourselves, be left to the professionals? To actual ministers? To folks who have outgoing personalities or that particular spiritual gift?
To borrow a line from my onetime seatmate, “Um…no.”
The Great Commission—the privilege of introducing people to Jesus—is for all of us.
Share Your Story
And while there are many different approaches to sharing your faith (if you read Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children, you know that, as a first-grader, our daughter Virginia was not at all hesitant to tell kids who didn’t believe in Jesus that they were “going to hell” before God softened her style), I find that one of the easiest and most natural ways to bring up the topic of salvation is simply to speak from your own experience.
Tell what God has done for you.
All of us have a story.
And, like all God’s commands, sharing the Good News comes with a blessing. God knows that when we talk about him—when our love for Jesus brims over and impacts the lives of our neighbors and friends—our own faith expands.
I love how Paul put it in one of his letters:
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
“You have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”
Could there be a more encouraging benediction? Let’s use Paul’s words to shape our own prayer:
Help us share your love with the world. Give us the courage, the grace, the words, and the deeds, that we too might refresh the hearts of your people. (Philemon 1:4-7)
P.S., true story: I was recording the audio version of the book, and I’d just finished reading the chapter about sharing your faith, when I stepped outside the studio and saw a picture of HARALD BREDESEN on the wall.
Can’t make this stuff up.
This precious saint has been dead for who knows how long. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe he’d been eavesdropping on me–and if he was, I hope he knows how grateful I am that he never missed a chance to tell people his story.
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