Sharing Our Faith
I was sitting in an airport waiting for a flight when a young man approached me wanting to share his faith in Christ. When I informed him that I was already a Christian, he looked at me with suspicion and then left me with some of his materials just in case I wasn’t telling him the truth. Shortly thereafter, a second person approached me who also wanted to share his faith. This young man is from a different religious tradition and when he found out that I was an ordained Baptist minister, one of the demonstrate for me is superiority of his religious tradition over that of mine
As I boarded my flight, I was feeling anger over these two gentlemen, but wasn’t sure why. These were good young men who were only trying to share their faith, which was a noble thing to do. I as a clergymen have been more sympathetic to what they were setting out to accomplish. No sooner had I arrived home than a door knocker from yet another religious tradition showed up and he was the most tenacious of the three. So tenacious in fact, that I was forced to close the door on him because it was obnoxious approach. I had a good reason to be angry with that last man, but why was I so disturbed by the others? It took a while before I understood what was bothering me about those incidents, is the sense of being manipulated. None of those evangelists had showed the least interest in me as a person.Â
My value to them was in direct proportion to how I could meet their needs, which was to convert me to their particular brand of faith. Not one of those men had taken the time to ask my name, nor did they attempt to find out what my needs were, how they might be able to help, how their religion would benefit me, but they operated on the assumption that all my needs could be met simply by my conversion to their particular faith. I should have been sharper and immediately recognizing those techniques because shortly after I was converted to Christ, I was sent to a week-long seminar, which was euphemistically title Leadership Training, but actually was a training program for aggressive evangelism and at that young age in my life, I bought the whole package.
I look back now and shutter at the manipulative techniques I was taught that week. We were instructed not to allow the other person an opportunity to talk or even ask questions because that would detract from my talking about my faith. We’re also told that if another person seemed uninterested or hostile, we’re to break off the conversation immediately and move on to someone else. The goal of this experience was to convert as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. It took a long time for me to unlearn those techniques I was taught that week, but I had come to learn a better way on my own.Â
While there are a number of organizations that teach an aggressive approach to evangelism, I have found few organizations which teach how to evangelize in a more caring and compassionate manner. I knew how to do it the wrong way. What I didn’t know was how to do it the right way. I ended up simply trying to treat other people the way I wish I had been treated. Today, they call that relational evangelism. The simplest phrasing I have encounted come from the Cursillo Movement, a renewal movement within the Episcopal church, which teaches make a friend, be a friend and bring a friend to Christ.
The young men and women I work with in juvenile hall are first-class manipulators and they’re usually able to recognize another’s manipulations when they encounter them. Through the years I’ve watched these young people out manipulate some of the most manipulative of evangelists. The only effective way I found of sharing the gospel with such young people is through taking the time to build a trusting relationship with them first, where they know that I am not out to get over on them religiously, but I’ve come to care for them as human beings in particular.
Once that premise has been established, they allow me to talk about anything that I thought would be a value to them. I can’t guarantee that they will respond to my message, but it’s almost certain that they will respond to the honesty and the warmth and the care that I have extended to them. Author Em Griffin in the book, Mind Changers wrote, we have the most influence on people when we are the least manipulative. Perhaps this is part of Jesus’ meaning when he told his disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We believers need to make sure that the quality of our presentation maintains the same high integrity as the message we’re trying to communicate. An uncredible presentation undermines the credibility of an incredible message.
An original podcast by Christian Podcast Central