The challenge of sharing faith

One of the things most followers of Jesus find really hard to do is share their faith with those who don’t yet believe. You feel afraid that other people will laugh at you, think you are weird or, perhaps, want to dissociate from you once they discover this aspect of your life.

Last week, I spent an hour on a seminar over Zoom about nurturing a faith sharing culture in your church. The presenters were trying to make suggestions or give ideas for ways in which you might introduce your faith into ordinary conversations without becoming overbearing or intrusive.

One of the best resources any of us have when it comes to sharing our faith is our own story of how we came to know more of Jesus in our own lives. We have all maybe heard dramatic stories of transformation in people’s lives or maybe seen the signs of change in someone’s life that we know. When people start from a position of hostility or aggressive opposition to the Christian faith, like Saul of Tarsus, and end up becoming one of the most renowned and fearless advocates for the way of Jesus, it’s quite a thing to behold. Sometimes people tell stories of healing from illness or trauma or the power to forgive those who have wronged them and these are incredibly powerful to hear.

Most of these experiences, however, seem quite a distance from our own reality, if we are honest. Very few of us have the flashing lights, the dramatic change in world view or the hardness of our hearts being melted in an instant. It’s much more likely to be an ordinary story of an awareness of God’s presence during a testing or difficult time. It might be a renewed interest in prayer after we cried out to God in a really tough time and we somehow felt we were heard. Perhaps, it was the way someone of faith stood up for us in a situation of injustice, or reached out to us at a time when we felt vulnerable and spoke of the difference their faith makes to them in daily life.

During this short seminar, we were shown a 2 minute video of a lady sharing her faith for the very first time in public. She was really nervous and hesitant. She spoke of how, at a time of real challenge in her life, someone from a local church came to visit her home. They offered practical help with the difficulty she was going through, they prayed for her and with her and came back to see how things had gone and invited her to come to church with them. It was a very ordinary story, hesitantly told, but it was incredibly moving and powerful. The lady spoke of how, over time as she invited Jesus into her heart, she didn’t feel as alone anymore. She didn’t feel worthless or ashamed in the way she used to and she had discovered a new peace since she started trying to bring her new found faith into her daily life.

I wonder, as you look back over your life, can you trace God’s hand upon it? It might not have been dramatic things but, maybe, he seemed to open particular doors at particular times? Maybe you made particular choices when you faced crossroads moments and you believe God led you to take a certain direction. If you have ever had experiences like that, why not tell someone about it? Maybe your story and your experience might trigger a response in them? Maybe you feel like a safe person to talk to for someone who has religious questions and is a bit afraid of looking or sounding foolish by asking them?

St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, prayed a simple prayer when it came to sharing his faith. He asked that if opportunities arose that he would be able to speak clearly. Before that he prayed that God would open doors for him and place him in situations where those opportunities might arise. He also prayed that he would make the most of each opportunity and God would somehow use even his conversation as a tool for pointing others towards Jesus.

Imagine if the ‘church without walls’ were to pray things like that each day – that we would be given opportunities to talk about Jesus; that, when those opportunities arise, we would be brave enough to take them. Imagine if we prayed, finally, that we would simply be clear in what we say and share and make the most of those opportunities and then simply leave it all with God?

As a quiet introvert I’m never going to find those conversations easy. I find, however, if I manage to say something that prompts the curiosity of another and I keep asking God to give me his love for others and a genuine interest in all they tell me, it leads to very enriching conversations.

I often discover it’s not so much the other who needs their heart changed. Its me!

Very sad news reached us at the beginning of this week about the sudden and unexpected death of Paul Smyth. Paul is the son of Trevor and Adrienne, the brother of Michael and Colin and we ask you to hold the Smyth family circle in your prayers at a time of devastating loss.

Look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,

Jono.

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