Evangelism: Sharing about Jesus

Posted 8/19/2018

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:13-22

So far this month in our look at evangelism we’ve considered some of the reasons we don’t do evangelism and some of the reasons to do evangelism. We’ve looked at some guidelines that can help us in doing evangelism. Today we’re going to take some time to consider just how we go about actually sharing about Jesus.

One of the first things to consider when we think about how we share the good news about Jesus is what 1 Peter says. Our passage from 1 Peter provides us some guidance in our sharing, saying we are to “always be ready to make [our] defense to anyone who demands from [us] an accounting for the hope that is in [us]; yet [we are to] do it with gentleness and reverence.” 

Note how Peter first of all says we are responding to what others say to us. As we’ve been hearing throughout this sermon series, in our witness we need to share in a way that fits naturally into the conversation we are having. Witnessing to Jesus isn’t a matter of forcing a conversation to the topic of our faith. It is sharing about our faith when there is a natural opening to do so. 

The second thing to note is the attitude we are to have in our witness. We are to be “gentle” and “reverent.” An attitude of reverence means that we show respect for the other person. This kind of attitude would once again indicate we don’t force the conversation to the topic of our faith. It also implies whenever the topic of faith or Jesus does come up we are to take seriously the other person’s doubts and their questions. 

Furthermore as we do this our sharing should be “gentle;” that is at the very least, a witness that doesn’t include a demand that they must agree with us. Rather, our “gentle sharing” should be a simple talking about our experience with Jesus.

That leads us to the last thing to notice about what Peter says. It is that we are sharing why we have hope. We share about the way in which Jesus has impacted our lives for the good. We tell about how we have encountered Jesus and experienced his help. In witnessing to Jesus we are telling our story of our own hopeful, joyful encounters with Jesus. 

So exactly how do we go about sharing? Scripture indicates we are to share through both our words and our deeds. We share both by what we say about Jesus and how Jesus has impacted our lives and by showing that impact in our way of living. The quality of our lives — and of our life together as a congregation — is one important part of our witness. 

I suspect most of us are much more comfortable with the thought that we share about Jesus through our deeds. We feel at ease helping out with the needs at the local food pantry or assisting a family that has had a crisis. We generally find it rather easy to share the good news of the gospel in doing things that show our love for our neighbor. 

And that is one important aspect of bearing witness. If our lives are no different than the lives of those who don’t believe in Jesus, there really isn’t any reason for others to consider the Christian faith. If our faith in Jesus doesn’t change us in any way, why bother with it? And, as Christians, we know that Jesus said the 2nd commandment is to “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves].” Thus this kind of showing Jesus’ love to those about us in practical deeds is important — even vital to our witnessing to Jesus.

Yet if we stop with only deeds of love, we haven’t really born a full witness to Jesus. Remember Peter says we are to “give an accounting.” We are to tell others WHY we do what we do. We are to not simply live as Christians, but to tell others why we live that way — to speak about the impact Jesus has had on our lives. 

Let’s be honest. If we don’t speak about Jesus as well as show the love of Jesus, how are others to know about Jesus? We may help a neighbor after a fire; but doesn’t the Red Cross do the same? We may help provide food through a food pantry to those in our community who can’t afford enough to eat. But how is that different from government food stamps? There truly are many, many organizations and programs that provide help to those in need in our communities. So if we don’t speak the name of Jesus — if we don’t in some way share WHY we do what we do — how are those who receive our help to know we are doing it because of our love of Jesus and our Christian love for them?

This leads us back to the importance of developing relationships — real relationships of friendship — with those to whom we witness. In other words, our call to witness invites us to not simply provide money to help the family that lost their house in a fire, but to also enter into a relationship with them. We may enter into a relationship with them through phone calls to see how they are doing and what other needs they may have during the time they are recovering from their loss. Over time such calls may lead us into even more ways to connect with that family. As the friendship develops we may discover we are sharing more and more of our life with them, including potentially sharing our faith. To put it bluntly, witnessing encourages us to not just give something (money, food or something else) to people who are in need, but to actually enter into conversations with those we are helping. Conversations about their lives. Conversations that allow us to get to know them as individuals. 

When we do that, when we enter into real relationships, then there is the real chance that the other person will see and wonder about “the hope that is in us.” There is a real possibility that we will be asked about our faith. And there are also real possibilities that we can respond to their concerns not simply with material help but with a sharing of the way in which Jesus has helped us deal with the common difficulties of life they are facing. 

Let’s go back to our hypothetical family that lost their home in a fire. Perhaps as we enter into a friendship with this family we discover that the parents are now having to work a second job to afford to replace what was lost. As we listen to their concerns about the effects of this upon their children, is there any way we can begin to share our experience of Jesus? Have we ever gone through a time when we were concerned about our children? Did we find prayer helped? If so, we can say that. Not that we say prayer will make all the concerns just “go away.” Rather we can talk about how we have experienced the way in which prayer helped us to be less worried, and maybe even enabled us to discover new answers to our concerns.

It is in relationships — in friendships — that we will discover the openings that permit us to speak of our faith. Yet, doing this requires that we do the work of establishing and nuturing friendships, that we be willing to speak of our faith and that we know how to speak of our faith.

This latter aspect — knowing how to speak of our faith — is an area where our Christian fellowship can help us immensely. As we learn to share what God has done in our lives with our Christian friends, as we learn to tell the story of our journey with Jesus in the church, we also are learning how to tell it to others who are not in the church. Sure, there will be differences in what we say. After all, we probably use some “church-y language” here at church that we will want to not use when sharing with others outside the church. But it is here, among our Christian friends, that we practice noticing and talking about where we see God at work and how we experience Jesus in our lives. This is one of the core functions of Christian fellowship — building one another up by helping one another notice where Jesus is at work in our life and our world. 

When we have learned to speak about our experience of Jesus, when we are deeply in love with Jesus, when our lives reflect our relationship with Jesus, we will find ways in which we can share the good news about that relationship with others naturally, respectfully and gently. We will come to know that we really can share about Jesus not only with those who already know him but also with those who don’t. We will become witnesses to the good news of Jesus, the one who has changed our lives in ways that go beyond anything we could possibly have imagined. In other words, we will do evangelism.