Faith sharing is a spiritual process that starts with prayer. God is always present with us through the power of the Spirit who leads us in our faith conversations. We are never alone when we share our faith with others.
Approach faith sharing by praying for the non-church-going people you know. Pray for those with whom you are prepared to share your faith and for those with whom you have a relationship of trust. Pray that you will have the right attitude and disposition to listen to them. Pray that God will use you as a witness to Christ’s transforminggrace, to make a difference in their life.
It is not our job to convince others of the truth of the gospel. Our job is to enable them to hear it for themselves. We are simply trying to share our own faith story in the hope and trust that God will be present and allow the Holy Spirit to work. We don’t convert anyone to anything—that is the work of God. Our task is to help people be open and hospitable to hearing this word. We can share our faith with anyone at any time, but we should never be pushy or argue, defend or justify.
Everyone loves to hear a story and to tell their own story. Telling others our story can be a non-threatening and easy way to communicate. It is important to weave the Christian story into our own faith stories. Faith sharing is a three-way conversation involving us, the faith-inquirer, and God. The most important conversation is the one that happens between the individual and God.
The greatest skills we need for sharing our faith are the ability to listen and the capacity to be a faith friend. Effective faith sharing involves care, support, sensitivity, unselfishness, responsiveness, and most of all, prayer.
Meet people where they are
Listen first! We must always respect the person with whom we are sharing to recognize their culture, beliefs, attitudes, and situation in life. Our focus has to be on the person as we listen and try to understand their needs and sensitivities. In a similar way, it is best to focus on the person and the work of Jesus Christ, not on the church or theology. Don’t over-intellectualize your faith; just relate your personal experiences of God.
Using church jargon can turn others off. It is likely that they don’t have a Christian or Catholic background.
Instead, use language that any person can understand.
Put simply, be with people, listen to their stories, know their concerns, and identify with their struggles. Then respond in a Christian way, highlighting your own struggles, telling how your faith in Christ has helped you, and offer ways in which this may help them.
Invite others into dialogue
“Come and see” (Jn 1:46) are the words the disciple Philip says to his friend Nathaniel. On one level, it is an invitation to friendship, discovery, and discipleship. Our faith can be communicated in this way. The gospels tell us of Jesus calling his disciples whom he first called to be his friends and then to faith in him. The call to faith is a call to have a relationship and a friendship with God. Invite people to your home for coffee, dinner, a small group meeting, to a special evening at the church, or to Sunday Mass. The call to faith often comes as a result of an invitation.
Share what a difference your faith has made in your life
Christians are given the gift of faith in order to give it to others. There comes a time when we need to tell others about the faith we have and what a difference this faith can make in their lives. Our actions are just as important as our words.
In summary, here are some things to consider:
Let me sum up with a story a friend of mine recently told me. On a crosscountry flight, he began to read a Christian book. The woman sitting next to him asked about it. She had traveled the world and had been introduced to many world religions. Although her faith background was not Christian, she did not practice any religion. A few months earlier, she had watched the movie The Passion of the Christ. Through this and her many Christian friends and contacts, she felt that God might be calling her to be Christian.
As she engaged in conversation with my friend, the talk turned to what a difference Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sin had made in his life and what it could do for her. After discussing this, she talked about her own story and background. He encouraged her to read the Bible, especially the gospels. After more questions and a little more discussion, my friend encouraged her to read C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity.
When the flight ended they went their separate ways. Did this woman come to full Christian faith? Only God knows. What we do know and are thankful for are the opportunities that we have to listen, minister, and share our faith. TP
Rev. Dr. James Czegledi is the associate secretary for Evangelism, Church Growth, and Worship with the Presbyterian Church in Canada. This article is adapted with permission from Evangelism Connections: (evangelismconnections.org)
*This article appeared in the March 2007 issue of Today’s Parish.