In Bill Hybel's book, Just Walk Across the Room, Hybel gives great recommendations on how to approach people when sharing your faith. One of the most important suggestions he makes is to have your own "before-and-after" story. This story is the faith story of our lives; how we fit into God's greater story.
As Hybel shares, "When people grasp the magnificent truth that the gospel has direct implications for the meaning of their stories, all sorts of light bulbs flicker to life:I can be found like the lost son.
I can be cared for by a Good Shepherd too.
My deepest needs- like the widow's - can actually be met.
I can receive abundant life just by exhibiting the tiniest amount of faith.
It's really true: anyone can get healed, renewed, transformed, and thrust into abundant life."
I am now working on my "story". In the Christian book world, it is called my 2-minute sales pitch of God's purpose for the book I am writing. In the "real world" it's called sharing your faith in hopes of leading others to Christ, or that other word that I used to hate so much- EVANGELISM. It has taken years for me to remove the negative connotations I have personally connected with that word. Sunday mornings of hearing preachers shout and rant about how I was going to hell if I didn't accept Christ into my heart turned my ability to receive God's love into an impenetrable brick wall. But boy does God have a sense of humor! After finally understanding God's love for me (not just His wrath), I am now the chair of the Evangelism committee at my church. Who would've ever dreamed He would lead me down this path?!?
Hybel lists four criticisms for the stories Christians often tell when sharing their faith and I believe that many of my reasons for hating the word "evangelism" in the past stem from these four reasons. They are as follows:
1. Long-windedness- your story really needs to be kept at three minutes. After that, you simply lose your audience.
2. Fuzziness- your story needs to be simple with a clear plot line that conveys the heartbeat of your faith journey. A confusing story is a sure way to leave seekers scratching their heads.
3. Religionese- verbiage needs to be such that those who are not believers understand and appreciate the words used. In the past, before I had experienced God's love, religionese was just an irritating platitude to me.
4. Superiority- pious remarks and haughty assumptions that show a lack of caring for others will never win others over for Christ. Don't talk down to people. Share and, more importantly, LISTEN.
And here's one I'd like to add:
5. Pressure tactics- pressing and threatening someone with the threat of eternal damnation is NOT the way to share a loving God with them. If your story does not lead them to Christ, consider it a seed planted. Only God can turn someones heart to Him. We are simply sharing His love in hopes that others will accept and find it too.
I want to encourage anyone who desires to lead others to Christ to work on their own stories too. And next time someone opens up to you by asking why you are so excited about your own faith or how you manage to live your life with peace and joy, rather than a constant state of anxiety or worry, tell them as simply as possible what was going on before you met Christ and what has been going on since you began following Him. I know in my own life, the differences are incredible and I pray that they are both inward and outward. Inwardly, I know that God has changed me, refined me, humbled me and loved me, enabling me to live with the peace of knowing that His love is always there for me. Outwardly- well, I'm still working on that, but I pray that my actions are speaking much louder now than my words ever did before finding Him.