I remember the first time I shared my faith with someone. I had memorized an entire outline which I crammed into the poor fella’s ears over lunch in my middle school cafeteria. I don’t remember the look on his face. I don’t remember what he said at all. I just remember trying to get through all that material and trying to recall what to say and what order to say it in. I was obsessed with the what of evangelism, and I got it all wrong.
When it comes to sharing our faith we as Christians obsess about what we are going to say. We rehearse the key points of our doctrine in our heads. We make outlines. We memorize illustrations (Does the line “Let’s say I have a golden pen and you have an enormous debt” ring a bell with anyone?)
This is all a bit overwhelming to we Christians. It might explain why even though 80% of those who go to church think they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61% of us haven’t told even one other person how to become a Christian in 6 months (source: LifeWay Research). Clearly, focusing on the “what” of evangelism has made sharing our faith unsustainable.[quote_left]61% of us haven’t told even one other person how to become a Christian in 6 months[/quote_left]
Perhaps more importantly, when we obsess over what we are going to say it can come across as overwhelming to the hearer. The one sharing their faith seems like a know-it-all, or like they are rushing through a sales presentation so they can say they shared their faith. There is good news for those of us who want to share our faith–and good news for those who need to hear the good news as well:
Sharing your faith is more than what you say. When, Why, Where, Who, and How you say it matter more than what you say. So here’s part 1 in a new series on how to sustainably share your faith:[divider type=”simple”]
When you say it matters more than what you say.*
Did you know that problems related to anesthesia are four times less likely for surgeries starting at 9 a.m. as 4 p.m? You know how your work gets sloppier as the day goes on? Seems like the same is true for medical personnel. Also, women in labor are more likely to have an unplanned C-section on Friday between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Why would that be? Doctors are getting things wrapped up before the weekend—those “things” being infants. And remember that even hospitals are shorter-staffed on holidays: Patients admitted on public holidays are 48% more likely to be dead a week later.
So remember on your next trip to the hospital: timing matters [source: Atlantic Monthly].
But also remember that timing matters in sharing the gospel.
I had an elevator ride with a gay author I met a year prior. I had read part of a book he wrote and was able to converse with him in a respectful manner about some very good stories of real people that he shared in the book. Now, the Defense of Marriage Act ruling was something that had happened in between that elevator ride and the time I had spoken to him last. I know we happen to disagree on such things. But the timing to debate with him was not a brief elevator ride. Timing counts in communicating truth.
I think God might have wanted something different out of that elevator ride than an awkward confrontational conversation that drove us apart.
Because when you say it matters more than what you say.[quote_right]We chase the “like” button online more than we consider the timing of our sharing.[/quote_right] I wonder if we chase the “like” button online more than we consider the timing of our sharing. We dance into the controversial subjects when they are big in the news, not in order to truly share our faith, but instead to expand our own personal brand presence. Social media has made many of us into our own marketing consultants, and we too often seize the timing of elections or Supreme Court decisions or tragedies to spread what we think is the gospel, but instead it is just grandstanding to make ourselves look better. When we do this with suspect and opportunistic timing it is already worrisome, when we do it with distasteful and mean tone we drive a deep wedge between those outside our faith and ourselves. When you say it matters more than what you say.
More Than What (series links)
Click here for part 1: When you say it matters more than what you say
Click here for part 2: Why you say it matters more than what you say
Click here for part 3: Where you say it matters more than what you say
Click here for part 4: Who you say it to matters more than what you say
Come back for part 5: How you say it matters more than what you say
*Thanks for reading. You might be interested to know that this article is from the cuts in a manuscript I am working on currently titled “Unsustainable.” If you like this then I’m hoping you’ll really like what actually makes it into the book. Stay tuned.