Can we still share our faith in the 21st Century? posted by John Sorensen on Feb 20, 2020
Can we still share our faith in the 21st Century?
By Rev. John B. Sorensen
Some people don’t think evangelism works anymore. They believe that going to apartment complexes, knocking on doors, and even paying a visit to people who visit their church is outdated or even wrong. Many Christians are simply afraid or don’t want to offend anyone. But consider this: what if the person who told you about the hope found in Jesus Christ never shared it with you? Where would you be today if you never had the chance to receive it?
A few years ago, one couple I know, Bill and Donna, had visited churches for months. Each time, they would fill out a visitor card and wait for someone to knock on their door and tell them about God. When no one came, they moved on to the next church. Finally, someone did and shared with them how they could have a relationship with Jesus. Soon after, they were saved and baptized, and today, they are actively involved in their church, attending several Bible studies each week.
“There is no expiration date on the Great Commission.”
What if no one shared with Bill and Donna? Where would they be today? The reality is many believers simply don’t share the Good News entrusted to them. In a recent Barna Research Study, more than half (56%) of believers surveyed reporting having less than two conversations about faith during the previous year and nearly half (47%) of Christian Millennials agreed evangelizing was wrong (Reviving Evangelism, 2019).
But there’s no expiration date on the Great Commission. Jesus said in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19). That doesn’t exclude us today in 2019. While witnessing in the 21st Century may look different than it did 50 years ago, we must not forget that people are still responding to the Gospel. We just need to go.
The good news is that God doesn’t not leave us to accomplish the task alone. If He tells us to go, we can trust Him to provide the people who are willing and ready to listen.
Begin with Prayer.
Prayer is a critical element of sharing our faith. Nothing we do for the Kingdom of God is effective without the backing of prayer. That includes our witness. Every aspect of our outreach efforts should be thoroughly covered with prayer from the beginning to the end and everything in between.
“God loves to prepare people’s hearts to hear about Jesus.”
Think of evangelism as a three-way partnership. When we pray, we are reminded to rely on God. He will bring people across our paths if we are willing to look for opportunities. Paul writes, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV). While it is our responsibility to share the Gospel, the Holy Spirit will enable us to speak, and He will bring understanding to the person hearing it. We just need to be obedient.
God loves to prepare people’s hearts to hear about Jesus. He brings individuals along our path every day who need to hear about Him. But the truth is, many of us walk past these divine appointments without ever noticing them. When we ask, God opens our eyes to see opportunities to share the Gospel wherever we go. Ask Him to give you courage to share, and invite Him to lead the conversation. He is waiting for people who are willing to step out in faith and speak for Him.
Engage in Conversation.
We engage in conversations every day – about our work, our hobbies, and even our social media activities. But many believers don’t talk about their faith because they believe people don’t want to hear about it. They are afraid of being accused of “shoving religion” down someone’s throat.
A couple years ago, LifeWay Research conducted a survey of unchurched people about how they view faith. An overwhelming 79% stated that “if a friend really values their faith, they didn’t mind them talking about it” (Unchurched, 2016). And yet, LifeWay also found that more that 60% of believers don’t bring up spiritual matters during everyday conversation (Visible Faith, 2019). People are more willing to have a spiritual conversation than we think.
Greg and Brittany began developing a relationship with the woman who loaded groceries into their car every week at the local supermarket. Each time, they spoke to her about God. Then on Easter, they invited her to church. She gave her life to Christ during that service!
You see, it doesn’t take much to engage someone in a spiritual conversation. Invite a friend to join you for coffee. Ask a co-worker how they are doing, physically and spiritually. Offer to pray or help someone in need. Then really listen to what they have to say.
Be yourself and keep the conversation friendly, but don’t push. Always ask permission before shifting the conversation to spiritual matters. Don’t worry if someone is not ready to speak about his spiritual life. Simply change the subject. Be genuinely sensitive to their needs. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
God will open the door again in His time. Be patient. Wait on Him to lead, but continue to be available.
Share your Story.
When we share them, our stories are powerful. The problem is many Christians simply don’t believe it. We think they are too simple or ordinary to matter, but they do. Your testimony – the story of how God has changed your life – could be the very thing that God uses to reach someone with the Gospel. People might be able to argue with Scripture, but they cannot dispute what you personally have experienced.
If you have never shared your story before, I have good news for you! You can begin right now. Here are a few tips you can use:
- Don’t include your whole life story. Most conversations are limited in time, so limit your testimony to a few minutes. Simply talk about one area of your life where you saw God at work – a new job, a family situation, or dealing with death.
- Focus on the positive. Don’t spend too much time on the details of your life before Christ. Mention it, then focus on what Christ has done for you! Our job is to attract people to God, so keep the focus on Him.
- Keep it simple. Our testimony doesn’t need to be extravagant. It just needs to be relatable. Share about a step of faith that brought you closer to God or about that moment that you decided to trust in Him.
Allow me to share a brief version of mine: Before I had eternal life, I was absolutely afraid of dying. Then someone shared with me the greatest news about how I could have eternal life, and it changed me. I no longer feared death. Ever since, I’ve had the confidence that if I died today, I’d go to be with God in Heaven.
Your story will be different – unique to you. When we share it, we allow others to see with their own eyes the transformation that God has made in our lives. It demonstrates His power, not just 2,000 years ago, but today.
Our personal story is the most original contribution we bring when we share the Gospel. But to make your story count, it must be shared. If you’ve never shared your story before, begin by writing it down. Then practice it. Be ready to share it at a moment’s notice. Most importantly, allow God to use it to reach others.
What about Objections?
The more we share our faith, the more likely we are to encounter people who say something like: “But I don’t believe in God.” “The Bible is just a book of stories.” “Why doesn’t God do something about the pain this world?” When this happens, don’t panic. Turn it into an opportunity to share the Gospel.
Most of the time, people who object to God have some college education. Don’t be afraid to engage in intellectual discussions. Listen to what the person is saying. Reiterate their right to believe as they do. Then dig deeper. Ask pointed questions to lead them to think deeper about their beliefs. Ask if they know what the main message of the Bible is or if they know what the Bible teaches about Heaven and Hell. Some may not even believe in eternal life. Confirm that you are not asking them to believe the Bible, but focus on what they think is written.
“Don’t be afraid to engage in intellectual discussions.”
The key is to deal with it as simply and quickly as possible and refocus on the Gospel – the Good News of what Jesus has done for us. Avoid a combative attitude, but don’t back away passively either. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest, but ask if you can make an appointment to follow up with them after you have done some research.
Keep in mind, a non-threatening Gospel message simply does not exist. 1 Corinthians 1:23 calls the Gospel a “stumbling block” and “foolishness” to those who don’t believe. The Gospel is a threat to the belief that we can get into Heaven by our good works . . . it’s a threat to the belief that we’re really good people who deserve Heaven.
But there’s a difference between the Gospel being threatening and the witness being threatening. The Gospel is, but we shouldn’t be. Being pushy or overbearing does little to advance God’s Word. Share the Gospel in a considerate manner—having first received permission. Remember, we’re looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus, not win an argument. The Lord can take the Gospel you shared and change the heart of that person who reacted negatively. God’s truth has a way of doing that.
Don’t Forget to Ask.
Here’s the good news! As we step out and share our faith, people will respond. Don’t leave them hanging. Ask the key question to lead them the rest of the way: Would you like to receive this free gift of eternal life?
Some will walk away. That’s okay. You did your job – to share the Gospel. Your words may have caused them to think about faith in a new way. Or perhaps you reinforced something they heard earlier and needed to think more about. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
But others will be ready to take the next step. So be ready to help them. Keep it simple. The Gospel is not complicated. Explain that Jesus died on the cross and rose again so that we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. All we need to do is place our trust in Him alone.
Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t pray to receive the gift of salvation right away. Follow up. Invite them to church. Offer to meet again to answer any questions. When you meet again, they may be ready to say, “Yes!”
Finally, Be Bold.
God uses ordinary people like you and me to point others to Christ. Opportunities to share our faith are all around us. With a few simple tools, we can speak the Gospel with confidence and develop a passion for those who do not know Him. Keep in mind that fear won’t vanish immediately. It takes time and practice, but be patient.
We all can become effective witnesses for Christ. Ask God today to reveal people in your life who need the Gospel. Begin to pray daily for them. Rely on the Holy Spirit to direct your conversations. So, what are you waiting for?
The Gospel was never meant to be kept silent. It was meant to be shared! Share it with boldness.
REV. JOHN B. SORENSEN, D.D. is the President/CEO of Evangelism Explosion International, headquartered in Arden, N.C. EE has been a leader in equipping Christians to share their faith for more than 55 years. Follow him on Twitter, @jbsorensen. For more free tips and resources, visit evangelismexplosion.org.