By Erin Bird,
There is a Bible verse found in the Apostle Peter’s first letter that says,
“[I]n your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)
I love this verse! But there is a part of it that I think leads many people to wrong thinking. When Peter says “make a defense,” it conjures up images of standing before someone who questions your faith, and yo
u give an amazing response that leaves the other person in amazement. And to further cement this image in our minds, this imaginary moment has been immortalized in several overtly Christian movies.
But I think we are missing something here. We imagine
ourselves doing all the talking. But notice that Paul says you are to give this “defense” who someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” In other words, your “defense” should come in the middle of a conversation with someone. This means Peter is inviting us to enter into a dialogue with those who don’t follow Jesus yet, not to simply give a long-winded practiced speech.
So if sharing Jesus isn’t just about what you say, but rather about having a dialogue, I invite you to:
1. Ask questions
So often, when we actually get to know someone, it adjusts what we say or how we say something. If you launch into a prepared monologue, you may not say what the other person needs to hear. But by asking them questions and then truly listening to them, learning their thoughts, feeling, past, personality, and more, you can better respond to any questions they may ask.
2. Build Bridges
As you get to know the other person, you can “build a bridge” that creates trust. When they realize that you actually care about them as a person and aren’t just focused on shoving your worldview down their throat, they are far more apt to listen to you. As the saying goes, “People won’t care what you know until they know you care.”
3. Affirm Truth
I have personally witnessed “Christians” sharing Jesus with the approach that they are right and their listener is wrong. But when your co-worker says things like, “I believe there is a God,” or “Yeah, I believe some things are true in life,” you don’t have to point out how their theology might be lacking. Rather, you can actually affirm these things to further build a bridge of trust.
4. Keep the Dialogue going
I once heard that it takes 21 times for someone to hear the gospel before they actually believe it. I have no idea how someone discovered this statistic, but if it has just an inkling of truth to it, it means that just because you shared Jesus with someone and they didn’t immediately stop to pray some sort of prayer doesn’t mean that their search for Jesus is over. So keep the dialogue going. Stay their friend. Keep asking questions.Hang out and have fun together. And as God creates the opportunities, keep sharing Jesus.
*To give credit where credit is due, these four shifts come from Gary Rohmeyer, President of the MidWest district of Converge.