By Jonalyn Fincher
Two Conversation Stoppers and One Major Mistake.
I have yet to meet a woman who confidently shares her faith without the inadequacy monster looming its ugly head. Isn't it easy to think we shared too much, or berate ourselves for sharing too little?
In high school I would proselytize because I feared my friend's future depended on my courage. I wanted to prove to God that I wasn't embarrassed of him. In the process several friends prayed the sinner's prayer, but very few have lives that still show their allegiance to Jesus.
From failed attempts, from awkward and "successful" witnessing experiences in airplanes, from seminary training and five years of itinerant ministry, I've re-visited the art of sharing my faith with my husband. Read on for two conversation stoppers as well as one major mistake Christians make when sharing our faith.
First, beware of the phrase "Just take it by faith." Our neighbors hear "faith" and assume it means "blind leap" or "something gullible people do" (a concept that does not show up in the Bible). "Just take it by faith" kills conversation by inadvertently communicating that Jesus isn't real enough to know, that we don't have reasons to trust him. And if we're honest, taking things by faith sometimes masks our lack of knowledge. If we don't know, better come clean and admit it. Our friends will respect this honesty. And then we can link arms with them and begin to search for answers together.
Second, avoid justifying any belief with "That's just the way I was raised." It may be an appropriate response for a grammar age child, but in adult conversation it ends any chance of productive spiritual digging. If our childhood justifies our belief system, then why discuss Christianity with my Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Mormon friends? They also believe what they learned as a child. Our upbringing cannot be the clinching reason adults subscribe to a religious view. No son of a slave trader would get away with that excuse.
Finally, consider the reason we share our faith. We don't talk about Jesus to get people to join our church (as rewarding as that might feel). We don't prove the inerrancy of the Bible so people will pledge allegiance to our Holy Book. Instead, we're inviting people into a life we enjoy with Jesus. Jesus called it abundant life.
If we get the chance to talk about Jesus, we must refuse to be side-tracked by questions that are molehills compared with the mountain of God's love. We've stopped arguing whether Jonah really was swallowed by a big fish, the place and duration of hell and the timeline for the earth's creation, because we know Jesus is waiting in the wings for an introduction. He can accompany each friend we make into their doubts and frustrations. He is the companion we want to rave about; he is the Mountain compared with these molehills.
For more ideas, check out our book, Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk (April 2010). Or join the online forum discussing challenges and solutions for sharing our faith at Soulation.org.
Lately, Jonalyn has been enjoying baby-wearing their new son, Finn, into coffee shops around town. She is co-founder of Soulation (soulation.org), a non-profit dedicated to helping others become more appropriately human. Read more at her blog(jonalynfincher.com)or pick up her first book dedicated to unearthing the unique qualities of a woman's soul (Ruby Slippers). From their home in the Rocky Mountains, she and her husband, Dale, work as a national speaking/writing team.