Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sharing Jesus Without Fear

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

This verse was my go-to verse before a "fishing trip" in college. I wouldn't hesitate to call myself socially awkward. When I am talking to people I don't know, I tend to stumble over my words. I don't know what to say. Carrying a conversation with a new person just, unfortunately, isn't one of my strong suits. But 1 Corinthians would remind me that it wasn't by my own power I would be speaking, it was the Holy Spirit who would be speaking through me. It has been a while since I was in college and we made these semi-regular trips to "tailgate city" to share the gospel. During those trips we were using tracts and a technique we had learned through Way of the Master / Living Waters. The tracts not only contained the gospel message, but were presented in a creative way that allowed us to walk up to strangers and start a conversation. My personal favorite was the "Survey Pad," which had a series of trick questions to break the ice, before moving on into more serious questions like "How does a person get to heaven?"

Even after those trips, I wouldn't say it really got "less scary." At the beginning of 2015, I participated in an exercise in which event participants wrote down things they wanted to leave behind from 2014 and then toss them in the fire. I have a lot of bad habits, but I chose one word to write down: Fear. Oddly enough, not long before that, I purchased a bible study from Lifeway, Share Jesus Without Fear. Unlike the previous study "Praying With Paul," our small interdenominational group chose to simply read through this study because of its layout.Share Jesus Without Fear was organized as a four-week study with each week broken into five days. With two hours, once per week, we managed to complete the study in about six weeks. Here are some of the things that stuck out to me:
  • Not sharing my faith is a sin; it is disobedience. (Sin of Silence)
  • Because sharing the gospel is a partnership with God and it is the Holy Spirit who will change hearts, I can't fail if I simply obey and share our faith. If the message is rejected, the person isn't rejecting me.
  • Even Moses made excuses; many of which are similar to an excuse we might give today. But he followed through. (Ex. 3:11-12,13-17; 4:1-9,10-12,13)
  • Remember to always Say something, Ask questions, Listen, and Turn the conversation (SALT).
  • There are ways to share the gospel, through questions, that make the person feel more at ease. Don't argue with the person, simply listen. The study presents five questions to help open the conversation.
  • Mark a small bible with seven bible verses (provided) and ask the person to read each of them aloud; ask them what it means to them after each.
  • Close with key questions, offering the person a chance to respond to the gospel.
  • If I need a "cheat sheet," it is OK. I don't have to know everything and the person may appreciate the fact I am a normal person, not a bible scholar.
The study closes with a list of 36 possible negative responses a person might have and some responses. Many times a simple "Why," is the response. Other times, more detailed answers are provided. I must say there are a few I don't agree with.

Maybe it is my semi-sarcastic nature, but if I were not a Christian and when I said I was not ready to make a decision the person told me something like, "OK, drive carefully," or "Have a nice day," and then walked away, I'm not sure I would take that positively. I think I would lean more in the direction of some of the previous responses and encourage them to think about our discussion and let them know I would love to talk to them again and at least leave my contact information.

So now I have to ask myself, what am I afraid of? " What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). When we started the study, my two responses were a fear of not knowing what to say, and not knowing how to start/hold a conversation (and social awkwardness in general). Now, I think the latter is my primary fear. In college, I found the gospel tracts from Living Waters helpful. The two methods in sharing the gospel are slightly different -- I could see a way to combine the tracts from Living Waters with the approach presented in Sharing Jesus Without Fear.

What are your biggest fears in sharing the gospel? What holds you back? How have you overcome these fears? I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment.