This week's edition of the Cru blog comes from Jeff Grant, College Missionary and Partnership Specialist on Cru's Student LINC Team.
Few people enjoy conflict. We want to get along with others, and it is much easier to stick to topics where we can agree, or at least pretend to agree. But is that stopping you from sharing your faith? Does the fear of offending someone keep you from saying anything at all?
It’s a valid concern. The truth is, we might offend people. The gospel asks for a person to change, and that can be a tough pill to swallow. Others might take offense at the need for a Savior or to bow to a Lord. In fact, Jesus pretty much promises that people will be angry at His message (Luke 21:12-19).
When concern for keeping things pleasant keeps you from talking about Jesus, you might need to do a heart check on the following priorities:
Choosing comfort over JESUS.
This is probably the most obvious one. Jesus commanded us to tell people about Him (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). Even though He already owns us, having created us, Jesus traded the infinite comfort of Heaven for the brutal death of a criminal all for our sake, to exchange the eternal punishment we deserve for eternal restoration and a meaningful part in His rescue mission to the world. Will we shrug at all of that and go back to wasting our time in comfort? I don’t believe we can lose the gift we did not earn, but I am both chilled and inspired by Jesus’ promise in Matthew 10:28-33.
Choosing comfort over LOVE.
It’s funny that we’re afraid to tell people about Jesus, because not only does it glorify God, but it is also the most important and awesome information someone could ever get! A famous atheist, Penn Jillette, once said, “How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
When you discover a new TV show or piece of technology, do you keep it to yourself or do you “like” it “share” it and email it to everybody you know? We should always be sensitive to another person’s thoughts and feelings, but it comes back to being motivated by love and filled with the Holy Spirit. If those things are true, then you will listen well and meet them where they are rather than deliver a faceless, one-size-fits-all, prepackaged gospel message.
Choosing comfort over YOURSELF.
A friend of mine recently asked, “why are the things of this world so much more tempting and tangible than the things of God?” It’s a great question, and toward the end of my response, I realized that my best answer to that feeling is to follow Henry Blackaby’s advice to “see where God is at work and join Him.” You’re not going to experience God moving through you if you aren’t willing to step into the current of what He is doing. God is about rescuing the lost, and if we want to be a part of this story (what we were made for), we need to ante in.
So if you’ve looked at all those things, and put comfort aside for the greater cause, is it still possible to get it wrong? (Matthew 7:22-23)
In his book, With, Skye Jethani talks about the many poor postures we can have toward God (such as “over God” or “against God”). A surprisingly bad posture though is living “for God.” We can serve Him relentlessly but never know Him. Living “with” God does involve plenty of hard work and sacrifice, but God cares more about a loving relationship with Him than simply what He can get out of us. Don’t forget, He doesn’t need us at all (Matthew 3:9).
Consider starting with a “sometime” question. Ask a friend or family member, “could we sit down sometime so I can hear about your thoughts and experiences about spiritual stuff? I’d love to share mine with you as well.” When you do have that conversation, be ready to ask good questions and listen well. Then, tell themyour story and be sure to include how the Bible says they can know God personally.
Remember, the greatest tool we have is the love and kindness of Jesus. No matter how offensive the thought of changing or of needing a Savior may be, many people are disarmed by an act of love.
The following is an article from CruPress Green, the digital home of all the ministry resources of Cru’s U.S. Campus Ministry.
THE HOPE THAT IS WITHIN US
For many people, and probably your disciple, evangelism does not come naturally. We sense the social awkwardness of talking about spiritual things. That’s why it’s important to demonstrate, from Scripture, why we should engage in sharing our faith. This will bring about a conviction to do evangelism in the absence of feeling like it. What follows are four biblical reasons for doing evangelism and how you might share these biblical motivations with a small group or someone you disciple.
The reason for doing evangelism is the very same reason for our existence. Why do we exist? In order to bring glory to God. What is glory? Perhaps the best way to think of glory is our word “fame.” We live to declare the wonders of God, or to make Him famous. When we love others with God’s love, or give Him thanks in all things, we are singing His praises– making Him famous. When we choose not to sin, we declare to the world that God is more satisfying than sin. We are declaring His greatness. You might ask your disciple how doing evangelism brings God glory or makes Him famous.
PEOPLE ARE LOST
2 Cor. 4:4 states that, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
This is the tragic, but accurate, depiction of the state of people apart from Christ. Satan is holding them hostage, keeping them in prison, and blinding them to the Gospel. As Paul states in Ephesians, they are “without hope and without God in the world.” You might ask your disciple in what ways they have witnessed this blindness, or how does Satan keep people blinded?
For you or your disciple to grow in his understanding of evangelism, it is important that he or she believes the Scripture in its description of people as lost and separated from the love of God.
Here it would be easy to get into a discussion about what happens to those who haven’t heard the Gospel. Such cases must be left to God’s brilliance and sovereignty. He’s not scratching His head about such issues. The truth is that the Scriptures don’t describe a Plan B; only Plan A, which is for Christians to go tell those who are lost about Christ.
You might suggest to your disciple that a good place to start is to make a list of friends and family who are lost, and to begin praying for them: that they would come to know Christ.
2 Corinthains 5:18-20 touches on the evangelistic motivation of stewardship. God has entrusted us with the responsibility of being His ambassadors:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
This is an idea worthy of some exploration. You might ask your disciple what it means to be an ambassador. Or, “What difference would it make if he or she went out each day seeing themselves as God’s ambassador? Have they seen God use them in this way?” Or, “Why do you think God chooses to make His appeal through us?” You want to ask some questions to help this truth, and responsibility, penetrate their hearts.
INCREASING OUR JOY
The apostle John in the beginning of his first epistle states, “We write this to make our joy complete.” To better understand this, let me ask you a question: Is it possible to sit down and eat your favorite meal with a group of friends and not make some grunt (mmm!) or explicative of approval? Of course not! Why? We instinctively want to complete our joy.
When we truly delight in. something, the way in which we complete our joy is to tell others, or say (mmm!). This is the physics of joy and it must complete its circuit in order to be fully enjoyed.
Why do we share Christ with others? It completes our joy. If we are enjoying our walk with Christ, our Christian experience is still incomplete until we can share it with another.
Perhaps the greatest thing we can do to excel our own walk and joy in the Lord is to be engaged in sharing this joy with others.
Below is a true story of how God changed one freshman's life. As you read, ask yourself, "where do I find myself in this story?" This fall, might you, like AJ, have an opportunity to help a freshman like Sam discover what really matters? Or, are you more like Sam? Could God be calling you to find true, lasting satisfaction in Him?
Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of this upcoming freshman class, and pray that God would open their hearts to Him and His great love!
When Sam attended his first week of college, he was not looking for a Christian group, in fact it was not on his radar at all.
Raised in a Christian family, he routinely went to Sunday School and youth group. However, when he started high school, he questioned the reality of God. By year 12 he was less interested in church, starting on a destructive path fueled by the approval of friends and lust of the world.
After an unexpected break-up with a girlfriend, Sam was shaken. He says: “I was dating a girl from youth group. She went to some camp, came back and didn’t talk to me for a week. She said ‘God’s telling me that it’s not His plan for us to be together.’ I was like, ‘He didn’t tell me that!’ I took it really bad.” Sam found solace in drinking. During his gap year after high school, he began clubbing, eventually pushing boundaries by experimenting with drugs like ecstasy. “I wasn’t happy. I knew something was wrong,” says Sam.
When the first week of classes rolled around, it had been two years since Sam attended church. That week, Cru ran a booth where they handed out spirituality surveys. Sam filled one out. A few days later, he received a call from a missionary AJ. Although hesitant to meet AJ, Sam did. Through their first meeting, God began to turn Sam’s life around.
AJ was there to listen, but strongly prompted Sam to make a decision about what he already knew to do. Sam checked out his first Cru group meeting and was refreshed by people different from his friends. They were not trying to impress each other and talked about things that really mattered. Sam started attending church again.
Sam began to recognize his sensual life of lust and drugs was eating him alive, and he could not break free. He says: “During the worship session I was on my knees and was crying; I was a mess. I knew something wasn’t right--something had to change. I remember surrendering my life to God.” From that moment the pleasures that consumed him lost power, and he began seeing victory over the sins that had plagued him.
The satisfaction Sam finds in pleasing God far outweighs his old habits, and he now lives with a passion to do what God is calling him to do. He lives in the ecstasy of new life in Jesus. Having open, honest and accountable friends from Cru has been a huge encouragement. Furthermore, being discipled by AJ has made a lasting impact on Sam’s life.
He says: “Every time I share my story, it just reminds me I have a lot to be thankful for. It’s God that has brought me this far. I can never go back.”
Sam is now happily married to a wonderful young lady named Eldora.
This story was written by Gina Liu on June 25 2012. You can find more stories like it at www.cru.org.
Family. This is perhaps one of the most powerful single words in our language. For most people, the word 'family' comes loaded with vivid images, memories, and emotions. For some, those are bright, beautiful memories. For others, those are dark, painful emotions. For all of us, however; our only true hope and peace comes from knowing that the one truly good Father has adopted us as His own children, and brought us into His own family.
Still though-our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and others are dear to us. And even if most of those in your family love Jesus Christ and are walking closely with Him, all of us know at least one or two people in our family who are far from God. As author and Cru staff member Randy Newman writes, "Jesus is off limits for a lot of families and friends-or at least that's how it appears sometimes. Why does sharing the good news with a stranger often feel less frightening than telling those you love most?"
This week, we share a video clip where Randy talks about that very topic: Bringing God Home. Most college students (that means you!) will spend at least a few weeks of significant time with family during Summer break. So, take a deep breath, think about that family member you love greatly, and yet know that they haven't embraced Jesus Christ, and pray for them. Then press play, and let Randy Newman encourage you.
For more helpful videos on sharing your faith and helping others know Jesus, check out http://overflowtoday.com.
Almost every Christian I know has a deep desire to tell friends, family, and coworkers how they can have a relationship with Christ. But the most common reason we don’t “go there” is we are not sure how to do it without being perceived as pushy, judgmental, or awkward. So we wait, and wait, hoping the other person brings up the topic– and when that that doesn’t happen we can easily get discouraged.
Here are 5 simple steps to have a spiritual conversation with anybody without feeling pushy, awkward or judgmental.
Step 1. Read. Believe it or not it’s one of the best things you can do to share your faith because it gives you something to talk about. Read whatever you find interesting – news articles, blogs, books – anything to stimulate your mind. Because when your mind is stimulated, it’s easier to have meaningful, significant conversations with people. You don’t have to read for hours. Just reading for 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your ability to get into spiritual conversations with people.
Step 2. As you read, identify connections to your faith in Christ and questions that come to mind. For example, I recently read an article title “Analytical Thinking Weakens Religious Belief.” It was an article directly related to faith that raised important questions. Making mental notes of such questions helps you get into spiritual conversations down the road. But the books or articles you read don’t have to be spiritual. They could be on any topic. For example, you may see an article on marriage or divorce that never mentions anything about faith. The very fact that faith is not mentioned in the article may be worth noting. Why did the author leave out the subject of faith? The combination of reading and identifying connections to your faith is very helpful because it primes your mind for spiritual conversations. It gives you meaningful topics to discuss with your friends as well as questions that will steer the conversation a spiritual direction.
Step 3. Share with your friends the things you are reading – or better yet, ask them, “Have you read anything good lately?” As your friends share what they are reading your mind will be used to making spiritual connections and asking good questions. For example, if your friend is reading a book on leadership you could ask, “What does the author say are the most important character traits in leadership?” Or, “I’ve often wondered if a person’s belief in God is a help or hindrance to them being a better leader. What do you think?” Don’t feel pressured to linger long on a spiritual topic or to force a conversation in a particular direction. Simply ask a good question and see where it leads. If the conversation turns deep, great. If it doesn’t, no problem. You will certainly have other opportunities. If you can’t think of a good question in the moment, you can always follow up later and say, “I’ve been thinking more about what you said about ____ (topic) the other day, and wanted to ask you more about that.”
Step 4. Listen well and reflect back what your friends are saying. This is where I have often blown it. Once a spiritual conversation comes up, I’m so eager to share what I think or believe I find it hard to really listen to the other person. Over the years I’ve learned (the hard way) that it’s much more important to listen and understand another person’s perspective than to explain my own. “Tell me more about that,” or “Why do you feel/think that way?” are questions that draw people out and keep them from feeling defensive. You don’t have to argue or debate with them. Just listen and reflect back what you hear them saying. At some point, they will likely ask what you think, which will give you an open door to share your faith. If not, you can always follow up later. Which leads to the last step…
Step 5. Follow up with your friend after the conversation. After your friend has had a chance to share what they think, regardless of whether or not you were able to share your perspective, the door is now open for you to have a follow up conversation. One way to re-open the conversation is to share with them an article on the topic you discussed. “I was thinking about our conversation the other day and thought you might find this article interesting.” (Click here on sending a article with spiritual content to a friend.) Or the next time you are with them you can say, “I’ve been thinking more about what you said the other day and would love to share with you some time my thoughts on the topic.”
Once your get in the habit of talking with people spiritually, it becomes increasingly easy to “go there” in a gentle, tactful way. And once you have had a meaningful spiritual conversation with a friend it’s much easier to talk specifically about the Christian faith.
For additional tips on sharing your faith visit: www.CruPressGreen.com.
Pete Kelly has worked for 20 years in collegiate ministry, seven of those in Leadership Development. He now serves as an Executive Director of Fund Development with Cru. To read more from Pete's blog, go to http://christcenteredleaders.wordpress.com.
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