Why is it so much easier to talk to strangers about my faith than those I encounter daily?
I think of my neighbors next door. We have lived side by side for over two decades. When one of us is out of town, we take care of each other’s mail and plants. We have watched each other’s kids grow up and have celebrated birthdays and graduations together. We attend neighborhood parties together and stop to visit in the yard every few days. We have each other’s contact information on our phones and have shared meals. So, what stops me from taking the bull by the horns and asking them where they are spiritually?
They know we are a family of Christ-followers and we have invited them to church, VBS, small group studies and have tried to be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. All our invitations are usually graciously declined. Through it all,
I stop short of diving deep into the life-altering, course-changing conversation that would truly make a difference in their lives.
Maybe it is because, I feel like I know where they stand when it comes to the topic of faith, and it is at the opposite end of the spectrum from my own beliefs and position. It’s true - I am making a judgment about them. Because of my assumptions about what they believe, and how they would react to a conversation about faith, I am nervous that taking that gigantic leap could make future interactions awkward or even antagonistic.
I don’t think I am alone in this conundrum and as you can tell, I certainly don’t have all of the answers on how to overcome this fear. That being said, I have formulated a plan that I will put into action (hold me accountable to that – would you?) and that might help you if you are also walking in these same murky waters.
It has to start with prayer.
Prayer helps us get closer to God. When we praise him through prayer, he becomes more tangible and our inhibitions about our faith become less because we can’t wait to share our joy. The community established with God through prayer carries over to a desire to develop community and relationships with others.
I recently began using an app called Bless Every Home. On it, I can see a map of my neighborhood with the names of the neighbors all around me. Now that I know their names, I can sink into the benefits of praying for my neighbors. I have taken my app and physically walked my neighborhood and have prayed (both the prayer given in the handy dandy app prompt and the prayers prompted as only given by the Holy Spirit) over each household by name. There is even a section where you can put in prayer requests as you learn them such as praying that Bob gets a new job or that Sarah’s test results in positive news. You can also fill in information about how you have cared for them, such as delivering a meal, being invited to church, or praying with them personally.
Most of my neighbors will never know that I am praying for them, but within that prayer, I ask God to give me opportunities to share my faith and to be bold and fearless in developing these relationships. I ask him to soften my heart and open my eyes to the struggles my neighbors are facing and that I will be a light in my community and share the hope only found in Christ.
I have to be ready and willing.
But in 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 (ESV)
The MSG translation says it this way: “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick.”
First, I need to live a godly life. Christians are already seen as being hypocrites for saying one thing and then living out the opposite. I need to show my neighbors that I care by spending time with them, helping to meet their needs, and listening. I can’t be in such a hurry to get to the next thing that I don’t slow down and take an active interest in the lives of others.
Second, I need to take advantage of the opportunities that God puts before me. I pray I will recognize them because I am alert and watching for the opening that he will give me to share my faith. If I am in a relationship with God and representing him, I should be eager to share the Good News of my faith in a loving and Christ-like way. And, I need to be aware that not everyone is going to receive my message as Good News. Some will judge me, slander me, or ridicule and tease me. In the end, none of that matters because God wins.
I have to stop being such a sissy.
LifeWay published a study and found that “56 percent of respondents prayed for opportunities to evangelize, but 55 percent hadn’t shared their faith with anyone in the last six months.” When asked why – it was because of fear. Our love must be greater than our fear. What greater gift could we give to our neighbor than to be reconciled with God?
We have such an incredible blessing. We GET to live for eternity with Jesus because we are saved and we know him and he knows us. Why are we afraid to talk about that? We aren’t afraid to invite people to a barbeque, but we are shy about inviting them into the most incredible gathering imaginable. It just doesn’t make sense.
We make things overcomplicated. If we keep it simple and stress the love, mercy, and grace of God; if we share the basics of the gospel – then God will do the rest despite our missteps and awkward words. Jesus knew that his disciples would experience many trials and would worry about how to defend their faith. He assured them in Luke 12 that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say and would guide their conversations. The message he gave directly to his disciples is meant for us too!
If we think we will share the gospel with others when we are more mature in our faith or when we are ready, this almost guarantees that we will never take the leap and actually do it. We have to remember that God can use our very worst attempt and make it into something really incredible.
So, I think I am ready to be bold! I am ready to let my light shine! I am ready to make a real difference in the lives of others by sharing the greatest news ever told! Are you?