The Rev. Shaun LePage, pastor, Community Bible Church, 906 N. 1464 Road:
There are many popular methods for sharing one’s faith: The media blitz — radio, television, mailers. Street preaching and knocking on doors. The “big event” approach offers free pizza, awesome entertainment and (in small print) an evangelist. The “forced conversion” approach is still being used by some. And let’s not forget the “prophet of doom” approach: shouting thanks to God for “dead soldiers” and waving banners declaring what “God hates.”
But, the New Testament directs Christians to an incarnational approach. Absolutely, we must speak the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. We are sadly deficient — indeed, unloving — if we fail to tell people what the Bible teaches about Jesus: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
But, most of our instructions for sharing our faith are about living what we believe — “being” people worthy of Jesus’ name. Being the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He said his followers were to “be” his witnesses — not just “do” witnessing (Acts 1:8).
The Apostle Paul taught us not only to “speak” but also to “pray” and “conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders” (Colossians 4:4-6). He taught us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” by “living sensibly, righteously and godly ... zealous for good works” (Titus 2:9-15).
Is this the most successful way to share? Yes! Statistically, most Christians were converted through the words and life of a friend or family member who authentically lived the life and patiently explained the truth. This is the “incarnational” approach — not just talk, but living the authentic Christian life.
— Send e-mail to Shaun LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Joanna Harader, pastor, Peace Mennonite Church, 615 Lincoln St.:
This Sunday, people in many churches will hear the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:3-42). The Bible tells us that “(m)any Samaritans ... believed in (Jesus) because of the woman’s testimony.”
So let’s look at how she shared her beliefs.
First, she encountered Jesus for herself. She spoke to him. She listened to him. She questioned him. One might even say she argued with him. The conversation between Jesus and this woman is the longest dialog with Jesus recorded in the Bible.
Then, after encountering Jesus for herself, the woman went back to the city and shared her testimony: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (v. 29)
Her testimony is invitational, not dogmatic: “Come and see.” Her testimony is based on her personal experience with Jesus, not on some lofty theological construct: “a man who told me everything I have ever done.” Her testimony reveals her curiosity about the deepest questions of faith, not her certainty: “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
I guess I’m not sure how we share our beliefs with strangers — and friends — successfully. But I think this woman at the well gives us insight into how to share our beliefs faithfully.
First, have an honest encounter with Jesus. A probing, listening, comfortable encounter.
Then share honestly about what we have experienced. Tell the truth about our encounter. Tell the truth about our questions. And invite others to come and see.
Ultimately, bringing people to faith in Christ is not up to us. The people of the woman’s city came to see Jesus because of what she said. But many of them came to belief because they encountered Jesus for themselves.
— Send e-mail to Joanna Harader at email@example.com.