Thanks to all of you who submitted questions since Monday. Here’s the one I’ll be dealing with today – and as promised, I’m keeping the author of this question confidential:
“How do you help friends and family get to know Jesus without coming across as preachy or overly ‘religious?’”
Great question. The short answer can be summed up in the phrase, “cooperation that is both convicted and compassionate.” What does that mean? Let’s begin with two extreme positions you want to avoid:
Extreme #1: You may have heard the quote from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.” This is probably one of the most popular, and most misused, quotes in modern-day Christianity. Most of the time, the people who quote this verse are those who haven’t the spiritual backbone to actually share the Gospel with others. They use this quote and others like it to promote the curious idea that people can come to know Christ through their lifestyle alone. In other words, if I “walk the walk,” that’s better than “talking the talk.” The problem is this: the talk is important, and they’re not saved by your life – they’re saved by His death. The gospel is a message that is encapsulated in human language. Living a moral life is an essential part of the Christian experience, but one’s life alone will never communicate the Gospel. At some point, for us to keep Jesus’ command, we have to share the message of man’s need and God’s solution in Christ.
Extreme #2: On the other end of the continuum, you have people who are all about preaching, all about doctrine, all about theology – but have zero use for people who haven’t yet made commitment to Christ. Listening to them “share the Gospel” is anything but pleasant, and they usually deride people who give more attention to “walking the walk.” As a result, most of these people, while counting themselves as among the most “faithful” evangelists, see little fruit from their “ministries.”
The truth is that there’s a fine line here and that both extremes should be avoided. It’s true that the way we live and love, and the way we meet felt needs, is an important part of God’s mandate on our lives as Christians. However, to say that alone is sufficient is simply an error. Communicating the message of the Gospel is not an option – it’s essential. But at the same time, as important as preaching the Gospel is – it’s not very effective when you come across as a religious nut-job who wants nothing more than to earn another notch on his spiritual belt by shouting the Gospel to you in a disrespectful tone. Your life does matter. The way you come across does matter. And the setting you choose to communicate the Gospel does matter.
That said, here are a few suggestions (in no particular order) to answer, “How do I come across as not being ‘preachy?’”
1) Make sure the friends and family in question know that you love them and are committed to them regardless of what they decide about the Gospel. You should never bail on a friend or family member because he/she decides to be a non-Christian. Even if they decide to be Raiders fans, you should always love them 🙂
2) Don’t judge the friends and family you have who either 1) don’t accept the Gospel or 2) are not ready to hear your story. God is always working in ways that you aren’t aware of, and you don’t need to feel the need to be in control of the process.
3) Ask God to lead you to whose heart might be open to hearing the Gospel and your story. Then, invest your time in those who are open to hearing what you have to say – don’t try to pound it into someone you know is not interested. Many times, we’re super interested in picking unripe fruit off the tree while, in other fields, there is fruit that is ripe and falling off the ground and rotting because we’re not paying attention to it.
4) When you do share the Gospel, and you should, make sure you present it in terms of, “this is what I realized about myself, my sin, and what God did for me.” Your own experience can’t be argued with; plus it puts people at ease because you are sharing with them about what happened to you rather than telling them (second person) what they need to do. It may certainly come to that, but doesn’t have to start there. Remember, these kinds of conversations should be friendly and respectful – not antagonistic or condescending.
5) Invite your friend or family to your church or other Christian event so that he/she can get his/her feet wet without being too intimidated. Respect the fact that people are in a spiritual process, and your job is to be their guide, not their taskmaster.
6) Always till the ground first by praying regularly for God to bless – in many different ways – the individual with whom you’d like to share. When you feel your heart is right, know that God has given you the freedom to proceed, and know that His Spirit always goes before you.
7) Never fall into the extremes I mentioned above. Don’t be a wuss who never shares the Gospel; and don’t be a jerk who never does anything but. Always value balance and moderation, and God will bless your efforts. When you live and minister in the middle, people from both the above extremes will always criticize you – but God won’t. Strive to please him and ignore the religious know-it-all’s who are more interested in their own plan for your life than God’s.
I hope this help – please feel free to contact me again if you’d like to follow-up ☺