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“Let’s talk to these guys about the Gospel...beneath the clothes we find the man. And beneath the man, we find...his nucleus.”
— Nacho Libre
Such deep and compelling words from the mouth of Nacho Libre, a cook for a mid-70's Mexican monastery orphanage. When I think about good models for evangelism, Nacho is one of the first people I think of. He loves people genuinely (orphans, especially). He may not always cook well or make good decisions, but he is always himself and always tries his hardest. He is normal, but in many ways extraordinary in his approach to life. But most of us can't really relate to Nacho. And that's ok. You are not called to be Nacho Libre, you are called to be you.
Everyone is uniquely gifted by the grace of God. That is what makes the body of Christ so beautiful. Christianity is not a cookie cutter religion where we all look the same, act the same, and think the same. We all have different personalities and giftings and dispositions that bring glory to His name as God builds a diverse people together in unity and honor. One of my favorite students recently wrote an article titled, “When Evangelism is Not Your Gift.” I highly encourage you to go read it. She unpacks a common sentiment that most people feel when it comes to sharing our faith with others.
Earlier this week, I led a teaching at FCA on the topic of evangelism. When I mentioned we would be talking about evangelism, you could have heard a pin drop. And that’s true in most settings. Evangelism is just one of those topics that causes half the room to curl up into a ball and roll away.
But something happened in the room after I finished my talk. Half the room had questions regarding their own personal experiences with evangelism, from the teaching and the receiving end. Many shared their frustrations, their difficulties, and their anxieties. I left the night feeling this sense that God wants to teach people how they can be themselves and share Jesus at the same time, without having this nagging feeling that they’re not doing it right. You do not have to become something other than you in order to do this well.
Here is a summary of that talk:
Here are four reasons we don’t like doing evangelism:
1. Only weird people do evangelism.
When we think of evangelism, we have images in our head of people who are carrying signs that communicate angry, harsh dogma that immediately turn people off. We think of open-air preachers spewing off about hell. We think of situations where people have come up to us out of the blue, forcing calculated wisdom upon us we haven’t asked for, in simplistic one-size-fits-all packaging.
2. Our culture hates evangelism.
Then we start thinking about people’s response to this kind of evangelism, and we’re left with a bad taste in our mouths for our own culture, campus, neighbors, and families. We hope they don’t have to experience anything of the sort. And we understand why they would despise these methods of sharing Jesus.
I want to stop here for a second because I want to address something that seems fairly clear to me. If only weird people are doing evangelism it makes sense that our culture harbors disdain toward it. Normal people have to start leading the charge in sharing the gospel in order for our culture to not immediately brush it off as weird and undesirable.
3. We don’t know what to say.
When people share their reservations toward sharing their faith, this one comes up the most often. We just don’t have the words to communicate how we feel and what we believe. We feel like if we were to ever try and change the subject of a conversation to Jesus it would come off as contrived and super awkward. If you feel have ever felt this way, you are a normal person. Congratulations. Because of this, the statistical probability that some people genuinely like you is high. That makes you a great candidate for learning how to process and share your faith in everyday situations. Training isn’t everything. Being normal is everything.
4. We fear what people will think of us.
This is no different than any other facet of our lives. We are always wondering what people think of us. We are self-obsessed and self-deprecating. When people encourage you, do you find it hard to look them in the eye? When people correct you, do you dwell on it and give the rest of your day to deep, personal reflection? I love this blog from Craig Denison that communicates this feeling so much better than I ever could.
Ok, those are the four main reasons we don’t like doing evangelism. So how do normal people practically and authentically share their faith in Jesus?
Four ways normal people share their faith:
1. Normal people give away what they have received.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.”
— Matthew 10:8
You might feel super intimidated hearing this passage for the first time, but I think it communicates something interesting about how the kingdom of God works. Jesus called His disciples to give away freely anything they received from Him. Anything. A great practice for us as we grow in our relationship with Him, is learning how to give away anything we receive from Him. Whether it be a teaching, a revelation, a raise, ANYTHING. Sharing is caring. Share what you have and what you've learned. Don't let anything end with you. Let it begin with you.
Questions to ask yourself:
-What did I learn today?
-Who can I tell?
-When am I going to do that?
2. Normal people use what they have.
When a golfer is in the tee box, he’s using a driver. When he’s on the green, he uses his putter. He switches clubs because NO ONE USES A DRIVER TO PUTT. The same goes for sharing our faith. Every person is unique and every situation is different. Truth is still truth, but we have to learn how to switch to a different club when necessary. The way you share the gospel with your best friend will be different than the way you share with someone experiencing homelessness. In some situations you might have your bible, and at other times you might have to dig into your gut and paraphrase a passage. Sometimes you won’t even have scripture that comes to mind. You might see an object that looks like a cross, or you might be in a conversation that reminds you of a biblical truth, or you might have a window of time where you are free and feel this sense that Jesus is stirring you to follow Him into something. Don’t ask yourself what you lack. Ask yourself “what do I have?”
Questions to ask yourself:
- What do I have?
- How can I use it to share Jesus in this moment?
3. Normal people expect God to do something.
It’s easy for our relationship with God to suffer when we refuse to ask Him anything. We get into this unspoken autopilot, coast into indifference, and forget all of our spiritual needs. Part of us dies without our awareness. A good practice for your morning, would be to ask God more questions. Maybe when you’re in the shower you could ask, “God, what’s one thing you want to do in my life today?” Then listen and see what He brings to mind. Many times He will put someone on my heart to encourage, or a scripture/promise He wants me to be reminded of, or even a place He wants me to go to in faith.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What am I expecting from God today?
- How can I grow in expectation for God?
4. Normal people act like normal people.
I know I’ve harped on this one, but for real! Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God will most likely be rooted in who you are in Christ, not you trying to be someone else. God values you for who you are. He doesn’t look at you and weigh you against someone else.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who am I?
- How can I begin to be myself?
- How can I make this my own?
God's grace is sufficient for those of us who don't feel gifted in sharing our faith. If you've heard nothing else today, I want you to hear His encouragement: Jesus knows every part of you and every single thing your heart has carried. He is not just some cosmic problem solver. He is a benevolent creator that loves His creation. So much so that He made you, crafted your personality, and graced you with gifts for you to use to make much of Him.
What you have received from Him, give freely to others. Use what you have and expect God to accomplish great things in your life. Embrace every good and perfect gift that makes you who you are and acknowledge Him in all you do.