Sharing Your Faith Part 2: Conversation Stoppers

Sharing Your Faith Part 2: Conversation Stoppers

by Jonalyn Fincher

When stumped by a difficult question about Christianity, have you ever been tempted to say, “I just take it by faith”?  A simple, religious sounding response that keeps our faith safe and often deflects the anxiety we feel.

But it also stops the conversation.

Not because God doesn’t care about faith; He does. But because “take it by faith” in today’s culture sounds like we’re saying, “I have no idea; I just believe blindly.”

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, she writes, “If faith were rational, it wouldn’t be-by definition-faith.  Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark . . . a leap of faith” (P 195). Gilbert, like many secular people, thinks religious faith means doing scary, often silly, things.

Haven’t you heard phrases like “blind faith” or “leap of faith”? Atheists and skeptics use their secular definition of “faith” as one more reason to mock Christians as blind and irrational.  The skeptic’s dictionary defines faith as “a non-rational belief in some proposition.”

As an apologist this concerns me because God talks about “faith” differently.  God wants people’s faith to grow out of knowledge (Search with the words “know the Lord”). God cares about his reputation among all peoples (Isaiah 45:5).  He came to earth as a human because he wants to be known, loved and trusted.

In Scripture “faith” is synonymous with trust; we have faith or trust in the faithfulness of God.  Faith or trust requires good reasons. Nowhere does God advocate “blind faith” or taking a “leap of faith.”  These very words or concepts are never found in Scripture.

The more we know and can share about who God is, the more our faith and our friend’s faith grows.  Faith and reason work together.

Imagine yourself praying for a friend’s healing.  Will your faith be increased or decreased if God heals your friend?

Why?  Because when we see God at work we have more reasons to trust him, and our faith grows.  In fact, given how our own ears have grown accustomed to thinking of “faith” in non-biblical ways, practice replacing “faith” with the word “trust” as you read Scripture. You’ll get closer to the heart of the Bible’s meaning.
When sharing our love for Jesus, we need to be sensitive to the ways Biblical words are heard in our friend’s ears.  Faith is a good word, but its meaning has been held hostage.

If we are going to share the good news of Jesus with others, we need to make a point to avoid the phrase, “Just take it by faith.”  It does not help anyone step closer to who Jesus really is.  It demotes Jesus into an item on the buffet of religion. By using this phrase we inadvertently tell our friends that Jesus is not real enough to know and we have no good reason to believe in him.

Evangelistic Tagging: Part One

Evangelistic Tagging: Part One
By Jonalyn Grace Fincher

I recently unearthed my major difficulty in sharing my faith: I assumed that people who think differently about Jesus were dangerous.  I felt afraid of them, and it showed.

At a book convention, I stood beside two Christian women as they responded to a secular book seller.  He had just recommended a book that suggested all people go to heaven. I reacted inwardly much like the Christian women reacted outwardly.

“That’s not what the Bible teaches!” they retorted.

“The author makes some good points from the Bible . . .” the bookseller began.

“Well, if you read the Bible you’d know!” both were giving him a severe stare before they walked away.

When you hear someone distorting the gospel how do you feel? Do you ever think, “What can I say to this person in one minute-the only minute I have for them-that would convince them to repent and turn to Jesus?”

We burden ourselves with responsibility to convert someone or get out of there.  We have no idea what it must be like to walk in their shoes, what help or solace their current beliefs give them. We only need to ask to find out, but maybe instead we’re just relieved that we brought God up in conversation. We call it spreading seed, but to our unbelieving friends our witnessing might feel more like the quick, cold-hearted work of a graffiti artist, “tagging” an area for dominance.

Tagging is a term I learned when I lived in Los Angeles. Gang members would spray-paint a wall of a building or underpass to claim their ownership. Friends I shared my faith with in high school later confessed to feeling cornered.  They felt tagged as my projects.

When we moved to Colorado, my husband taught me another meaning of tagging.  He purchased a hunting tag, which meant some elk had a death warrant on its head.

To those who don’t know Jesus our church culture can appear to be issuing hunting tags for their souls.  We can even wield church sanctioned disciplines like apologetics or theology as weapons.  In the process, we become more hunter and gang member than neighbor, failing to look into our neighbor’s eyes and notice they are people, not prey.

As a trained theologian and apologist, I find it too easy to judge people by their ideas before seeing the human that the Bible tells me is made in his image.  But that has changed.

I’m learning to notice people’s eyes before I notice their words. I, like all of us, need to pause and ask myself better questions of those before me. What do they need? Are they friend or prey? How do I tell a friend about Jesus’ good news for them, with their pain, their needs, their questions?

In the process sharing our faith will look more like God’s unrushed, fearless love for this world and less like a hunter taking aim.

Adapted from Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk (Zondervan 2010).