The book of Acts is arguably one of the most readable and heart-stirring books in all the Bible. As a chronicle of the first thirty years of church history, Acts is filled with legendary stories of how the church exponentially grew against overwhelming odds and fierce opposition.
Take Acts 8:1-4 for example. In the aftermath of a great persecution that breaks out against the believers in Jerusalem, hundreds if not thousands run for their lives and settle elsewhere. Some might have thought that this would spell the end for the church, but far from it. Verse 4 says, “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” It’s one of the amazing things even a casual reading of Acts will reveal: that the primary work of building and strengthening the church was not done by the leaders, but by the everyday believers.
As our culture continues its drifting, rather its free-falling, away from God, it’s important for Jesus-loving, Bible-believing men and women to remind themselves that the work of sharing our hope in Jesus Christ is for each one of us.
The primary work of building and strengthening the church was not done by the leaders, but by the everyday believers.
No doubt, many of you, upon reading that these scattered saints “preached the word”, started to hyperventilate and reach for a paper sack. “Preach the word! But I can’t do that!”
But would it be of comfort to you to know that in Acts, and throughout the New Testament, the ways in which we can share our hope in Jesus goes far beyond preaching? Here are four examples of evangelistic approaches and skills any follower of Christ can learn.
To Share Your Faith Means Sharing Stories.
Any one of us, old or young in faith, can tell a story. No doubt, these Christians who scattered about like baby chicks did this as they went about moving their families.
I can imagine them talking to the real estate guy, who asks them, “So why are you moving here?” And in response, they tell a story about Jesus. When the guy at the gas station says, “So, I see from the license plate on your camel that you’re from Jerusalem. Are you on vacation?” They’d say no, then share a story of why they were there.
Anyone of us can tell a story. And every one of us who is a Christian should have multiple stories in their backpocket of why they love and follow Jesus.
These stories don’t have to be long either. A great project for developing these stories is something we call 30-Second Stories. Start with the sentence, “I love Jesus because…” then you fill in the blank with a short paragraph.
In short order, you should easily be able to come up with a “Conversion” story, then maybe a “Deliverance” story of something the Lord has helped with through, then maybe a “Truth” story of some lesson Jesus has taught you, then maybe an “Experience” story of some way that you’ve experienced for yourself the power of the risen Christ in your life.
Keeping them brief makes them easy to write, then easy to memorize, which of course makes them easy to share and easy for the person you’re talking to, to digest.
Not only will it be good for the ones you’re talking to, but it will be good for you also. Because in chronicling all the ways Jesus has changed your life for the better, your heart like the Grinch’s will grow three sizes bigger just thinking of why Jesus is the first and best thing in your life.
To share your faith means being able to Explain The Gospel.
No doubt as these baby-chick Christians shared their stories, people would ask things like: What’s a Christian? Who is Jesus? Why would you be willing to lose everything for being his follower? (And just as an aside, isn’t it interesting how these first Christians were willing, even glad, to give everything up for Christ? Would we do the same?)
But here’s what I want you to notice. They had the ability to explain what was special about this Jesus. It’s what we call “the Gospel”. It’s a reasoned explanation of how and why Jesus died and rose again. And why it matters. And the difference it makes. And how a person can come to know Jesus and begin a relationship with him.
As we grow in our faith, you and I should grow in the ability to share this information with others. So what would you say if someone asked you out of the blue, “So what’s Christianity all about?”
Thankfully, there are some beautiful ways to explain the gospel to others, summarized through some simple models which anyone can learn.
You can use the Bridge illustration. Or an explanation known as Do-Done. Or maybe you’ve heard of something called The Four Spiritual Laws. A memorable model called the Romans Road uses a chain of verses from the book of Romans. Memorize the verses, and you have stepping stones with which you can share the gospel.
Whatever method or model works for you, learn it, practice it, and share it. This is slightly more challenging that sharing stories, because you need to actually assemble some facts together in a logical and understandable way.
Though the gospel is “simple”, trust me on this: we will spend not only all of this life, but all of eternity, trying to plunge the full depths of Christ’s dying on that cross for us. But we’ll never get to the bottom of it all. Or grasp the “breadth and length and height and depth…of the love of Christ” (Eph.3:18-19).
Sharing your faith means learning how to start spiritual conversations with others.
In some ways, the hardest part of speaking about your love for Christ is just getting the conversation started. Many of us are conditioned to avoid religion as a topic for conversation outside of church. So even the thought of it makes your knees wobble a bit, and when it happens it feels awkward. The first thing to do here is to ask God for courage and creativity. Acts 1:8 tells us we need the Holy Spirit’s power to be witnesses for Christ. Paul asked for prayer that he would speak God’s word boldly (Ephesians 6:19), and clearly (Colossians 4:4).
Then a second thing to do is to actually think through in advance how you might insert Christ and Christianity into your conversations. One of the simplest ways to do that is to ask questions. Often times, it’s not even us who brings up religion. It’s someone else. So if someone offers an opinion about “those Christians” or “the church” or “crazy religious people”, gently challenge them by asking, “Why do you think that?” In other words, get them talking.
Then as the conversation unspools, take the conversation deeper by saying something like, “Well, I’m a Christian.” “I believe in Jesus.” “I love Jesus.” “I read the Bible regularly.” “I’m part of a great church.” Don’t water down what you mean to say here. Don’t say, “Well I’m a spiritual person.” Or “I believe in God.” These days, that’s not saying much. It’s best to get Jesus straight into the conversation.
You might even want to practice saying it out loud, just so can hear yourself mouthing the words. The first time I started jogging, it was awkward as anything; I imagined dozens of eyes peering out the windows at me, pointing at my gangly legs. But it didn’t take long till running became as natural as breathing.
Starting spiritual conversations should be just as natural. You’re talking about the most life-changing, life-giving reality imaginable! You don’t have to use phony jargon or put on airs or act pious. Just be yourself, speak the truth of your experience, and have a conversation, where there’s giving and taking and sharing.
Finally, sharing your faith means learning how to sustain spiritual conversations with others, and when to stop them.
Start a spiritual conversation with someone, and guess what? They might actually take you up on it. They might start asking you questions! What do you do then? Gulp!
The apostle Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. But do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
There’s both an art and a science to having deep spiritual conversations with people, but this too is a skill that anyone can learn with prayer and practice. If I hear in the media someone attack Christianity, I’ll ask myself, “How would I answer that critique or that question?” I call this “sound bite training”. I’ll think it through long and hard. I’ll do some homework. And then go so far as to write out my response. “Always be prepared to make a defense,” Peter says.
Over time, you’ll grow in something Christians called “apologetics”, which is the ability to give answers to any number of questions that seekers and skeptics will ask. How do you know the Bible is the Word of God? If God is so loving and powerful, why is there suffering? How is Jesus different from any other holy man? (And goodness, these are the kinds of questions that you’ll ask as you move on in your faith! So you should find answers for these questions.)
I’ve learned after 40 years of following Christ that you never need to run and hide. There are answers to be found for even the toughest questions. And good, robust answers. Jesus stood toe to toe with the best religious minds of his time. The early Christians faced off against Greek and Roman philosophy and exposed its nakedness. Down to our age, as pundits and progressives try to advance radical ideas in an attempt to undermine Christian thought and ethics, I encourage you to keep thinking, keep praying, keep studying, and keep sharing, and you’ll grow.
Having said all this, it also very important to know when to let a conversation segue off into other things, or stop altogether. To win some to Christ, you need to be winsome. You’re trying to win a soul, not an argument. And most of the time, the “win” in a given conversation is just to move the needle a little bit closer toward faith.
There’ll be moments along the way when you’ll get to be present when a soul is ready to actually cross the line of faith, and trust me, there’s nothing more amazing. (Which is one more skill the Lord would grow in you – training you how to be the midwife of a soul coming to new birth.) But most of the time, our sharing is just seed-sowing, not harvesting. So know when to say when, to button up your lips and let the Lord take it from there.
Now see? I told you. You don’t have to be a preacher to share your faith with others.
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.