Part 9 of series:
The Mission of God and the Missional Church
In my last two posts, I’ve been explaining how we who believe in Jesus have been sent by him to share his good news with others. In my last post, I said that one of the easiest ways to do this is simply to be honest. As an example, I talked about one of my friends in college, a man named Lance who, though he was a new Christian and not especially articulate, nevertheless had many opportunities to share his faith because he was honest about it.
Nevertheless, many Christians hold back. I’ve found two main reasons why. The first I’ll discuss in the post; the second will be the focus of my next post.
First, some are afraid that if they attempt to speak with others about Christ, they will botch it up. They fear that their lack of biblical knowledge will keep them from being effective, and even turn people further away from Christ. Certainly the more you know about the Bible, the better you’ll be able to explain the good news about Jesus. That’s one major reason to devote yourself to Bible study. But if sharing your faith is a matter of being honest, not winning arguments or hawking your spiritual wares, then you can tell people about Jesus without worrying about how little you know. In fact, many of the most effective “evangelists” are brand new Christians whose knowledge base is tiny, but whose enthusiasm for the Lord is contagious.
“But what should I do,” you might wonder, “if I get questions I can’t answer?” I once raised this very issue with Gary, my high school pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church.
“I’ll tell you what to do,” he said. “I’ll give you an answer that always works, every time.”
“Wow! That would be great!” I replied, expectantly, but with a bit of skepticism. “How can I answer a question I don’t know how to answer?”
“It’s easy,” Gary continued. “Here’s what you say: ‘I don’t know.’ It’s really that simple.”
His advice shocked me. Somewhere along the way I had picked up the idea that I needed to have all the answers before beginning to talk with people about Jesus. In retrospect, I realize what a silly idea that was. But, at the time, Gary’s counsel set me free to be honest, not all-knowing. Since that conversation with Gary, I have probably said “I don’t know” more than thousand times when talking with people about Jesus. I have found that my willingness to admit my lack of knowledge, far from turning people away from Christ, often encourages them to be more open. They seem to trust me more if I freely confess my theological limitations.
I should add, however, that I will often follow the admission “I don’t know” with an offer: “But I’d be glad to try and find out for you.” The questioner usually feels honored that I’m willing to do research on his or her behalf, and it’s easy to pick up the conversation about Jesus at another time. Moreover, I get the chance to learn something of real value. There are abundant resources available – books, articles, CDs, leaders, websites – to help us formulate solid, biblical answers for any question a person might ask.
My friend Lance, so free in talking about Jesus yet so limited in his knowledge, kept saying “I don’t know” until both he and his non-Christian friends became a bit frustrated. So he decided to take advantage of the relationships he had with other Christians in our dorm. He asked me and a mutual friend, John, if we would be willing to meet with his friends for a bull session about Christianity. John and I were thrilled because we loved to share our faith with people, but weren’t quite as forthcoming as Lance, even though we knew more than he did about the faith.
I’ll tell you what happened in that meeting in my next post in this series.