When I first started working at Crosswalk, I wrote a post about how God changed me through Crosswalk. Now it is over a year later and I am still excited about what is happening at Crosswalk, especially Stepping Forward. I’m talking about Stepping Forward as what our church is focused on, our redefined mission. I’m talking about being a community who passionately demonstrates the love of Jesus by pursuing truth, choosing sacrifice, serving all people, and making disciples. This is not just a sermon series, this is an ongoing conviction about who we are and what we do. When I read that mission, when I pray about it, there is one obvious thing I keep coming back to: it is about our relationships, as followers of Jesus, with others. Sharing the Good News with people is not just something we say, it is the way we live, it is who we are.
There are many ways to share the Good News with people and none of them are wrong; except the one where no one knows about your faith. In today’s postmodern society, people want to know that you care about them, as an individual. Several wise people have told me that. Asking a stranger if they know about Jesus doesn’t have the same impact that it used to because there are very few people in America who don’t know who Jesus is. TV, movies, the internet, etc. have changed all that. People know who Jesus is, but they really don’t care. Or they think that Christians don’t really act at all like Jesus did, so why bother following Him? Are they wrong to think that way? No, because I have known a lot of Christians who were filled with hate and anger, and that is what defined and drove them. But that is also very few Christians. Most of them are good, kind, loving, and compassionate. How do we get society to change and embrace Christianity? By being the type of person they want to be around, by letting them know who we are. By developing caring relationships with people, and talking about what Jesus has done for us – and when it is done in the context of an ongoing relationship, people know that you are coming from a place of genuine caring.
I used to be afraid to talk to people about my faith, not wanting to admit I was a Christian thinking that it would push them away. But the verse that kept coming back to me was Acts 1:8 – “and you will have power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” First of all, this was the last thing Jesus said to the disciples before ascending to Heaven. Seems to me that whenever I go out of town for a while I want to make sure that the last thing I say is what I don’t want people to forget. Those last minute instructions which are the most important. A lot of people focus on the power of the Holy Spirit in that text, but I look at what Jesus is telling them to do. Be witnesses – which means sharing what we have experienced in our own lives. What God has done for us in our lives. How the Bible has changed us. As God continues to work in our lives, it is reflected in the way we live.
At my last job, my boss was an Atheist and during one of our first conversations he found out I was a Christian. Immediately he started to tell me about a previous coworker of his who would constantly “share the Good News” with him. He couldn’t stand her because she didn’t want to have a conversation about it, she would only tell her side, and it was patronizing to him. The easy thing to do would be to wipe the dust off my feet, say he doesn’t want to hear what I have to say and then move on. But I listened to what he had to say. In our conversations I was very open with him about what God had done and was continuing to do in my life, but in the context of personal conversation. After a year, he had begun initiating conversations with me: when I told him the story of how I found the job at Crosswalk, he even admitted that while he didn’t believe in God, it sure seemed that God gave me the job. A few months later, he told me that his wife and kids had decided to go to church, and while he didn’t go himself, he encouraged them to see what it was all about. I’m not saying he is accepting Christ or anything, but I am saying that there are other ways to look at evangelism. Listen to people, value who they are and their views. Share with them about how you are experiencing God. In other words, build an ongoing, caring relationship with them which is not just about sharing the Word. It is about being a friend and caring about them, and wanting to share with them what is happening in your life.
I look back at my life and see how God working through a family who cared about me. Like many people, during college I stopped paying attention to God. But I had a good friend whose family lived close to school and they constantly invited us over to dinner, bbq’s and just to hang out and spend time together. They were such an amazing, caring family that I wanted to know more about what made them that way. They talked to me about their relationship with Christ. About what they experienced on missions trips. About how God acted in their lives. They were confident in what was going on in the world. They invited me to church but when I declined they were ok with it. They wanted to be my friend, to be in relationship with me. I can honestly say they were the first family I ever met who lived out the Gospel to others and it had a huge effect on me. Not right away. Years after I graduated college and did not see them anymore I still thought about them. And when God drew me back they were the first ones I thought of and who I called with questions.
I’m just saying that living the Christian life is more than just taking in what God reveals to us. It is about living out the Gospel to others. Not as a monologue but as a conversation. Let people know that you genuinely care for and about them, that you respect them. But don’t hesitate to share what God has done in your life.