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Have we forgotten how to verbalise our faith?

Friday, 18 June 2010  | Monique ten Hoopen

Similarly, do members of churches with great community and mission programs become complacent with sharing their faith instead relying on their church programs to be their witness?

We are Jesus with skin on, his hands and feet to those we meet and minister to by our actions and example, but we are also his voice! Do we empower Christians to verbally share their faith in their everyday lives through their own story?

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” I Peter 3: 15

Some Christians feel their story is inadequate. That another person’s conversion from what is seen as marked ‘sinful’ choices or a major healing transformation story will speak louder and have more impact. Yet it is no less amazing that Jesus went to the cross for what is seen as a ‘good person’. Does today’s ‘Christian’ truly understand the magnitude of their salvation?

We need to encourage Christians to be comfortable in sharing from who they are, as God created them to be, utilising their experiences, personality and giftedness.

Sharing one’s story is not restricted to conversion but includes the multitude of stories of Jesus encounters in everyday life. People want to hear how God is making a difference in your life today, not just 10 years ago when you became a Christian!

However to do so, we must have an active growing relationship with God or we won’t have new stories to tell. God present in the everyday should be evident in our conversations, amongst Christians, but also amongst our friends and networks where opportunities to share with ‘gentleness and respect’ present themselves. Church leaders need to spend more time equipping their people for these opportunities.

People don’t just want to hear the nice ‘good’ stories of life, rather they’re interested in how you overcame the tough times, suffering, illness, or that time you succumbed to temptation and how you have had to face up to the consequences assisted by a forgiving God, as well as the everyday issues of parenting, relationships, pride, self discipline, anger and contentment.

They don’t want the ‘right’ answer or our theoretical standpoint; instead they are more likely to listen to our authenticity and reality of our relationship with Jesus. Theoretical sharing simply points to a standard, and people know enough about what we stand against. However, when we share authentically from our own story we share; ‘this is how I dealt with that’, ‘this is what is working for me’, ‘this is what I’m learning’. It becomes personal, relational and risky, as it demands our vulnerability and imperfect self, yet it invites ongoing dialogue and opportunity.

Our actions, life example and church programs are important but not as a substitute for our willingness to give verbal testimony to the hope and faith we have through Jesus. If we put more time into equipping Christians to be who God created them to be, to utilise their gifts, be open to share their experiences and the impact of Jesus in their lives with gentleness and respect for the listener, imagine what would happen.

Monique ten Hoopen is the Director of Community Mission for the Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania


Conrad Parsons
June 18, 2010, 2:10PM
Equipping includes helping people find their place in the Body of Christ. A strategic move in any local gathering would be to activate gifted, well formed evangelists and invite them to show the way to the rest of us. Often these people are engaged in their community and can help shape communication so the message arrives intact.
Lisa Hall
June 18, 2010, 4:54PM
Thanks for this article - you have eloquently shared something I have believed for a long time - we can't "nice" someone into the Kingdom of Heaven. Our good works and kindnesses, whilst an important way of obeying God and loving our neighbour are not the gospel: they are not "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). The gospel is. We can't show someone how Jesus' death and resurrection can bring them from death to life by what we do - it's a message that needs to be shared.

Perhaps our reluctance to evangelise has more to do with the belief that we need to get out the "whole" gospel, or some gospel presentation for "evangelism" to occur. In my experience, sharing about Jesus happens more often over time, in relationship and in community.
June 25, 2010, 10:45AM
A wise Christian sister I know has said that we will never share our faith with people who do not follow Jesus until we can share it with with people who do! What she meant, in part, was that at church meetings we need to be discussing, for example,our response to the sermon rather than the weather or which team won at church meetings!

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