By Kent E. Fillinger
Guilty as charged!
I admit I’m guilty. And maybe you are too. I’m guilty of not loving my neighbors and those in my network enough to share my faith with them as I know I should.
Thomas Dewar said, “An honest confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation.” Regardless, maybe it’s time for more of us to confess and repent from living a Christian life that looks holy but may be hollower than it should be. Loving our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers enough to share the good news of the gospel with them seems to be a good starting point on the road to being a disciple who makes disciples.
Willing to Listen
A December 2021 Evangelism Explosion study conducted by Lifeway Research found that two-thirds of Americans said they were “open or very open to having a conversation about the Christian faith with a friend.” The same study found that 65 percent of Americans said they were “open or very open to talking with a friend about having a relationship with God.” It’s worth noting that just over one-fourth (26 percent) of those who identified as “religiously unaffiliated” said they were “not open at all” to faith conversations.
Barna Group’s 2019 Reviving Evangelism report noted that the top two qualities non-Christians value in a person with whom they would talk about faith were “listens without judgment” (62 percent) and “does not force a conclusion” (50 percent). The same report discovered that some non-Christians said they might be more interested in Christianity “if they had more evidence” (44 percent) and if faith had “a better reputation” (34 percent).
We’re Not Talking
Despite an apparent openness to faith conversations by most people, 60 percent of Americans said “many of their friends who claim to be Christians rarely talk about their faith.” As my childhood preacher used to say, “If the shoe fits, ouch!” Also, 40 percent said they “wouldn’t think about faith on their own if a friend or family member didn’t bring it up.” Maybe it’s time we start talking.
An April 2022 Evangelism Explosion study conducted by Lifeway Research found that less than half of self-identified Christians have, at least once in the past six months, shared a Bible verse or Bible story with a non-Christian loved one (46 percent), invited a non-Christian friend or family member to attend a church service or other program at church (43 percent), or shared with a non-Christian loved one how to become a Christian (38 percent). The same study also identified that almost 2 in 3 Christians (65 percent) agree sharing with a nonbeliever how they can become a Christian is the most loving thing they can do for them.
“While some have reached a firm conclusion that they are not interested in faith,” said Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell, “most are open to hearing about faith when someone can show it matters or when it is shared by someone who matters to them.”
“Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended by our message,” said evangelism professor Alvin Reid.
We need to follow the examples of Peter and John who said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The 2021 Lifeway Research study on evangelism showed that most Christians agree it’s their calling to share their beliefs, but that it’s their minister’s duty to equip them to do so. Seven in 10 Christians (69 percent) said it’s every Christian’s responsibility to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. Similarly, 68 percent agree it’s the minister’s responsibility to equip the congregation to share the gospel.
Christian Standard’s 2020 church survey discovered that 75 percent of our churches said they rarely emphasized “talking about one’s faith with those who aren’t part of your church and/or believers.” Our 2019 Christian Standard church survey revealed that less than half (47 percent) of our churches offered any disciple-making and/or evangelism training programs. I hope these percentages have improved in churches over the past few years.
Years ago, I heard this maxim: “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” My guess is that most longtime Christians (like me) have studied the Bible and attended worship services for years and, therefore, have more than enough Bible knowledge and tools to share the gospel and make disciples.
Now, we just need to love our neighbors enough to act and share our faith story. If we do, there likely will be fewer people who receive the verdict of “Guilty!” on Judgment Day. We need to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “work at telling others the Good News” (2 Timothy 4:5, New Living Translation).