If Christianity is so great, why can’t I talk about it?

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At some point in the life of every Christian, they come to the stark realization that they’re supposed to be telling other people about their Christian faith. But how do they do that? Witnessing, the non-technical word for “personal evangelism,” terrifies many believers. They find out early in their evangelistic efforts that a lot of people aren’t nearly as excited about the Christian faith as they are. The witness, they face rejection, they feel deflated, and they decide to “live their faith” rather than talk about it. Sound familiar?

Fortunately for Christians like us – I say “us” because it’s happened to me, too – there is hope for recovery. We’re not failures. We’re not bad or lazy Christians. Witnessing doesn’t come easy for most of us. It’s really kind of funny when you think about it. We Christians have the cure for death, yet we have trouble sharing that cure with people who are dying. Imagine if you had the cure for cancer how easy it would be to share it!

Confidence

Like most endeavors in life, you need confidence to succeed in witnessing. If you aren’t sure you if you can play hockey, you’ll be falling down all over the ice. If you aren’t sure about what you believe, you’ll be tongue-tied, and even if you manage somehow to get the facts of your faith out, you’ll sound unsure and disingenuous. You need confidence that Christianity is what that person you’re talking to needs the most. You need to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that no matter what that person is going through, what you know is what they need to know; that your faith is what will help them.

But, how do you get that confidence? Where does it come from? Can you learn it? Can you practice enough to “gin it up?” The short answer NO, you can’t learn it; NO you can’t “gin it up.” That confidence is already inside you, all you have to do is tap into it.

While we’re asking questions, how about answering this one: Are you a confident breather? Seriously, do you think about each breath you take before you take it? Do you practice breathing to make sure you get it right? Of course not! You just do it. Sharing your faith should be like breathing. Your faith is simply part of who you are, like your lungs. Your faith – your beliefs – should animate you; they should be behind the way you talk, the way you work, the places you go, and so on. At any moment of any day, your beliefs should be so real to you; so much a part of who you are and what you are doing, that if somebody comes along and asks you about them, the words should just come naturally. This is what Peter was getting at when he wrote this:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Maybe one simple reason why some of you find witnessing so difficult is that there isn’t enough revering go on. Maybe you just don’t think Christ is that big a deal, and therefore it’s not your faith or beliefs that animate you. Something else is. If this is the case, you have a much bigger problem than not being able to share your faith!

All things being equal, however, and if you are a true believer grappling with how to make the “Great Commission” part of your everyday life, reverence for Christ will motivate you to share Him with others. He is a big deal, and what He did when He saved you is a big deal. It’s a big story worth telling. But in order to do that, we need to know what we believe, why we believe it, and we need to be able to communicate it to people in a way that makes sense to them.

Essentially, we need to know why Christianity is so great.

What we think versus what is true

Here’s what a lot American Christians think: Christianity is on the decline; that nobody wants to hear about Jesus and the Bible. Christians think this way for a number of reasons. First, they think Christianity is on the decline because they attend churches that are, on a good Sunday, half full. Or half empty, depending on the church. A lot of these churches are old, with sanctuaries built to seat two or three hundred people, with names on a sign that include: Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran; words that to modern ears mean nothing. And herein lies the problem, which I’ll deal with shortly. While it certainly looks like Christianity is in decline, the facts tell a different story.

The overriding fact is Christianity is on the rise all over the world. Christianity is growing faster than any other religion. Generations ago, Nietzsche famously declared, “God is dead.” Well, today you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who believes that. In behind the growth of Christianity in places like China, India, and other Eastern countries, is the shocking growth of religion in general. People are very interested in God – or god – and the spiritual life. Even in materialistic America, and to a greater extent the materialistic West, more and more people are searching for spiritual answers to the problems of their lives. Two or three decades ago, secularism was seen as the “new religion,” but today secularism has largely fallen by the wayside as secularists have discovered it holds no answers. Secularism is nihilistic. What people want is some kind of hope; they want a belief system that helps them to make sense of their world. Even the rise of the so-called “new atheism” is marked by faith. Believe it or not, there are “churches” for atheists. What these people have discovered is that faith in something, even in atheism, is better than having no faith at all.

These “searchers” are looking for God – your God – whether they realize it or not. Of course, what they find in their search is more often than not something other than the God of the Bible. They find some wacky new age religion, some “family-friendly” cult, or even Allah, the god of Islam. Islam is growing fast; it’s second behind Christianity in much of the world. What people find so attractive about Islam, a dreadfully false religion, is that its teachings permeate every area of life. This is what people want – they want a faith that speaks to every area of their lives. The challenge before Christians is to tell people why Christianity, not Islam, is the only belief system that truly makes sense.

Another reason why so many of us see Christianity in decline is that we don’t see it anywhere. Think about what’s happening in America today. You’re not allowed to talk about God on government property. Crosses and symbols of Christianity are forbidden – you can’t wear them and you can’t display them because you might offend somebody. When you watch TV, do those TV families you see ever go to church? Fifty years ago, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Aunt Bea, Opie, Helen his girlfriend, and Barney his deputy all went to church together. They were seen singing in the choir and working in and around their church. Rarely, if ever, do you see characters on TV portrayed as sane Christians these days. When Christians are portrayed on TV, they are likely portrayed as wacky cult leaders or fundamentalists who have a stockpile of semi-automatic guns, making plans to shoot up an abortion clinic. Churches, if they are portrayed in a positive light at all, are seen as homeless shelters, food banks, or bingo halls, not as houses of worship where members praise God and fellowship together. Pastors, if they aren’t seen sleeping with secretaries or pilfering the collection box might be seen lobbying the government to clean up a local landfill or heading up a recycling project in their neighborhood. But he’s certainly never seen doing what pastors do: leading people to Christ or shepherding his flock.

These negative and false images take their toll on Christians, who often spend more time in front of the TV being brainwashed than they do reading their Bibles or going to church. We come to believe we are truly in the minority; that there really is no interest in Christ. But that’s not true. That’s a fantasy created by Hollywood and the entertainment world.

This leads us to another reason why it seems as though Christianity is decline. Because Christians are in retreat, they think Christianity is too. Nowadays, serious Christians have all but abandoned the non-Christian world. We have our own theme parks. We have our own TV stations and radio stations. We have our own schools. We associate almost exclusively with other Christians. None of those things are bad, by the way, but it’s very difficult to be “salt and light,” as Jesus said we were to be, when we never venture into the dark world.

In spite of all of the above, there is a resurgence of spiritualism and faith all over the world. If you don’t see it, you’re looking in the wrong places.

Religion versus Faith

So, if there is this resurgence is spiritualism and faith, why aren’t churches full? People have finally figured out what some Christians haven’t – churches are not synonymous with faith. Put another way, people think they can find God and faith without a church. They’re not all together wrong about that. A generation ago it was very common for a Christian to identify himself as a “Presbyterian” or a “Methodist.” Today those religious labels mean nothing. What people really want is the faith component, not the religious. They want God, not religion. That’s why we see without exception mainline denominations dying as the independent, non-denominational churches growing and thriving. Churches are not dying. Denominationalism is.

What that means is that when you go out to share your faith, you’d better share your faith, not your church. Don’t invite people to church, invite people to have faith in Christ. Before you freak out and stop reading, you really do need to get this person you’re witnessing to into your church eventually. But people are more sophisticated than they used to be. They can tell if you’re only interested in adding them to your church roll. They don’t want to just be a number; they want a new life. Only Jesus can give them that, not your church. Your church may be good at teaching people how to live their new life, but they have to have that new life first. So don’t put the cart before the horse. Care about that lost soul first, then care about your church. We Christians should be leading the lost to faith, not to religion.

The time is ripe

Given that people are trending toward the supernatural these days, there has never been a better time to share your faith with them. You as a Christian have the truth, and while there are many, many false religions for people to chose from, and while many lies are being told about the nature of faith and Christianity, the truth is powerful. God’s truth cannot be held back or covered up. It’s a force of nature that cannot be stopped or silenced. All you have to do, as a sincere Christian wanting to share your faith, is tell God’s truth. The lost need to know who Jesus is and what He has done for you.  Be confident. Christianity is winning. The church of Jesus Christ is not dying. Have confidence in your faith.

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