Sharing Your Faith Might Look Different Than You Think–Pt. 2

Last week, we explored the fact that the way in which people come to faith should be thought of less as a singular event and more as a longer process. And as a result, effective outreach might include anything that helps someone move closer to believing the gospel.

Looking at the case of the apostle Paul, we found that his background as a Pharisee and his activities persecuting Christians were likely instrumental in him eventually believing in Christ. But what about other examples? What are some of the means that God uses to call people to himself (often through people like us)?

The following list is meant only to be suggestive, not exhaustive:

  • Acts of love, kindness, and respect. This category alone is virtually limitless. It could include showing respect to someone who disagrees with you, a helpful presence in the midst of difficulty, or simply a faithful friend over time. And while these and many other things should be done in the simply because it’s right to do them, living out our faith with integrity can sometimes make a powerful impact on those around us. Jesus spoke to this when he said: let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mat. 5:16). 
  • Answering intellectual questions and grappling with ideas. Sometimes people are ready to respond to a short summary of the gospel. In other cases, however, they have serious questions about the viability of the Christian faith. They need someone to help them answer objections and make connections. Is God there in the first place? What makes something right or wrong, good or bad, etc.? What’s the point of life? What makes Christianity different from other religions or worldviews? The book of Acts shows Paul and others pursuing these kinds of conversations. It regularly describes their activities with words like “reasoning,” “proving,” and “convincing.” See particularly the account of Paul’s time in Athens interacting with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, among others (Acts 17). Our role along such lines might include engaging the relevant questions ourselves or pointing a person to other people or resources.
  • The inevitable trials of life. This could also include any number of things: sickness, losing one’s job or other financial setbacks, parenting struggles, a difficult relationship, the death of a loved one, etc. In God’s gracious economy, however, these things can often be “severe mercies,” causing us to reevaluate our perspective, priorities, beliefs, etc. For example, God used a disease in the case of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5), and the death of her son in the life of the widow of Zeraphath (1 Kings 17). In both cases, the tragedies were integral to the larger processes in which they came to faith.
  • Artistic works. This includes movies, music, books, and other forms of artistry that challenge assumptions, vividly portray the consequences of ideas and actions, display genuine beauty, provide enjoyment, and so on. Being made in the image of God entails that we were made to engage in and enjoy creativity. It’s no wonder then, that God regularly uses such means to impact people. Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis’ account of his own conversion, is filled with mentions of literature and other artistic works—some Christian and some not—that influenced him in numerous ways toward Christ.
  • A simple invitation. Sharing a meal, coming to church, having coffee with friends, attending a Bible study, etc.: all these things could prove to be instrumental in someone’s life. But the simple fact remains that many people only take these steps if someone they know invites them to “come and see” (John 1:44-46).

The above list begins to demonstrate why Jerram Barrs has written about “God’s infinite variety of means” in his excellent book, The Heart of Evangelism. And this infinite variety has implications for the way in which we engage in outreach. For one, it means that we needn’t approach every person in the same rote or reflexive way, as if there was only one manner in which a person comes to faith. Further, even if we don’t yet feel comfortable with or capable of impacting others in all the ways mentioned above, there are likely some things each of us has—in the timing and grace of God—the opportunity and ability to do.

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