Worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
How can we share our Christian hope in rural communities? Here are four tips based on 1 Peter.
1.) Focus on hope. Although Peter uses the root word for “apologetics” to describe how we are to be able to “explain” what we believe, we don’t need to be experts in Christian doctrine, ready to fence with strangers on a tightrope. That attitude places us in an adversarial relationship. Rather, we are to be prepared to testify to our hope. We use “I” language. We speak to our experience. Hope is a common human longing, and we speak to the particular hope we have in the Lord of life, Jesus Christ.
2.) Listen and ask open-ended questions. It’s interesting that Peter anticipates that we will be asked about our Christian hope. Being asked means that we’ve taken time to listen to the other. We haven’t barged to the front of the line and demanded to be heard. They’ve asked us. Especially in rural communities where we have the chance to build relationships with people over the long term, and where folks often know each other, it’s vital that we practice the cruciform discipline of listening. This means asking open-ended questions, such as: Is faith part of your life? or Is God part of your life?
4.) It’s all about Jesus. Back to the beginning of the verse: “worship Christ as Lord of your life.” Jesus is the animating force behind our hope. What we want to share with others is life with Jesus. Over the last year and a half, I’ve interviewed pastors of thriving rural congregations, and one of the things they all had in common was a hearty love of Jesus. They made Jesus the center of their teaching and worship and life together as a congregation. It’s all about Him.