Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Four Approaches to Evengelism, Part three

Part three:  How to Share Your Faith Even If You’re Timid

In my last blog, I pointed out that many Christians are uncomfortable sharing their faith. It may be they’re afraid of being asked questions they can’t answer (the solution here is to study apologetics). Others are afraid of being ridiculed—and that happens sometimes, although most people are interested in spiritual things. Some Christians are simply intimidated because they think sharing the Gospel is too confrontational. Others are just shy—it’s too much like public speaking. But there is one approach to evangelism that every single Christian can apply. In fact every single Christian should apply it. And believe it or not, this evangelistic “tactic” probably accounts for more people becoming Christians than any other avenue of evangelism. It played an important role in my own conversion.

I’m speaking about lifestyle evangelism, which plays out in two ways. First, it’s living out our Christian faith with integrity before non-Christians, so they can witness Christians modeling a Christian lifestyle (e.g. Mt 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12). Second, its building relationships with non-Christians, which will inevitably provide opportunities for sharing the Gospel (e.g. John 13:35; Col. 4:5-6). It’s like the old maxim, “your actions speak louder than your words.” Because Christians can experience a profound sense of peace during life's many crises, and because we have the power of God to deal with suffering and to resist sin, unbelievers can observe this and desire a similar relationship with Christ. Living out our faith among skeptics and critics can also  create an atmosphere in which we have “earned” the right to explain how and why we know what we believe (apologetics).

As Christians, we are always on stage before unbelievers. Certainly, they sometimes look for opportunities to point out our failures and to criticize us. Paul warns about this in 2 Tim. 3:12: "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." But non-Christians are also aware of how we respond to life's challenges. This can make a tremendous impact on unbelievers. If we demonstrate through our lifestyles that we possess an inner strength and peace of mind the world can't offer, Christianity can become extremely appealing to people who have never been responsive to direct witnessing or apologetics.

The principle is this. The life a Christian lives in the presence of unbelievers acts as a preview to what they see themselves becoming if they become a Christian. If we are legalistic and self-righteous, or condemning and gossipy, non-Christians will assume they were right along to reject Christianity. We’re just like everyone else. Even worse, if we live a life more in harmony with the secular world than with the Kingdom of God, unbelievers will judge all Christians as hypocrites. This is one of the major reasons unbelievers give for not wanting to become a Christian. I think it’s telling that Jesus was kind, patient, and loving to every variety of sinner He encountered—except one: religious hypocrites. In Matthew twenty-three, Jesus called them “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” and “brood of vipers.” He told them they deserved condemnation and warned them of the consequences of hell.        

In Sum, many unbelievers will choose to accept or reject Christianity on the basis of what they see in us—not what they hear. Even if we are awkward or uncomfortable sharing our faith, it is often what unbelievers observe and our relationships with them that draws them to Christ. When our lives reflect Jesus Christ, it’s a powerful and effective non-verbal communication of the Gospel.      

In my next blog article on the Four Approaches of Evangelism, we’ll get into the meat-and-potatoes of this study. We’ll begin by considering how we can apply “law” as a tool for evangelism and apologetics. That is, help unbelievers see that they are sinners in need of a Savior.

*  This and the other blog articles in this series are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced electronically or in print. But feel free to link this blog to your own website, personal email list, or Facebook friends and groups. I explore the topic of this series of articles more fully in my book Engaging the Closed Minded; Presenting Your Faith to the Confirmed Unbeliever (Kregel Publications).

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