The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines faith first as an “allegiance to duty or a person: Loyalty” and secondly as a “belief and trust in the loyalty to God. A belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion.” The definition H. Eddie Fox and George E. Morris, the authors of Faith-Sharing give is, “Christian faith is a centered, personal, relational response involving trust and obedience,” which they credit John R. Henrick’s Opening The Door Of Faith as their source. I write this to point out, as the book does, that there is a danger with the Merriam-Webster definition. While being both grammatically and biblically correct, it states that Satan has a belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, and while he also believes Jesus is the Christ, and all the scripture having been given by inspiration of God is true as God is true, so does Satan have faith?
Fox and Morris point out that “Christian faith is not faith in general. To say that the object of Christian faith is Jesus who is the Christ is to take the adjective ‘Christian’ seriously.” I show the difference as the book does because we do not use the word faith in its generic form when we are sharing our faith. That is because faith sharing is the ultimate act of Christian love, compassion, and concern. It doesn’t get much more serious than that!
Anslem of Canterbury, one of the leading voices of theology in the middle ages, defines Christian Theology as, “faith seeking understanding.” I point this out to further expound that we are saved by faith; that’s why a child can respond in faith. Faith has nothing to do with how smart you are, how theological you are, or your age. Dr. Henry Denman tells us once we are saved, once we develop faith, “We must spend the rest of our lives seeking to understand that faith. That’s why a person never graduates from the School of Christ.”
What Are The Practices Of Sharing Faith?
Before we can share our faith with others, we must first prepare ourselves. My pastor Dr. George D. Crenshaw teaches us, “The message will only be taken as serious as the messenger.” We were taught that we must develop or begin a successful prayer life. We are taught that first we must pray, meditate and commune with God. We can’t expect to pray for others if we don’t have a right relationship with God ourselves. We must go to God and ask him to fix what’s wrong in our life. We often ask God to use us but first we must be made useable. We must then pray for intercession to be able to intercede or speak to God for someone else. Being grounded in prayer is an often overlooked essential. We shouldn’t even start witnessing until “God releases me from the prayer meeting. Five minutes of anointed speech makes all the difference.”
A vital part of preparation is getting to know the Bible. It is very hard to share what you don’t know. God can’t pour anything out of you, until he first fills you up. It is easier to share our faith when dealing with someone who is going through what you have already gone through and has the same experiences as you. But many people we will face will have situations we have never dealt with, things we might not be able to readily identify with. Simply because we have never been through anything like what they are going through, but with the full armor of God, we can share what God has said. We can share stories in the bible and what some of the characters in the bible have faced.
We can share what Jesus (who was tempted in every way a man can be tempted) did, and how he handled certain situations. But we can only do this if we know what we are talking about. So we must know the Word before we can share it with anyone else. Once we have prepared ourselves the most important element of faith sharing is meeting people where they are. Donald Soper said, “We must begin where people are, rather than where we would like them to be.”
Do you remember when the US started doing business with Japan, when Japanese car companies and business started to move into the United States? It became very important for some Americans to learn Japanese to do business with these companies. They had to learn not only the language but the Japanese customs. Sure there were translators but the Japanese businessmen were more impressed and eager to put millions of dollars into the US economy when the persons took the time to learn about them and speak to them in their language while respecting their customs.
One of the most difficult aspects of sharing faith is how to build a bridge between the language of the church and the language of the modern word without copying the world and compromising the gospel. I found this to be the case when led to write my book, Spiritual Minded, a daily devotion for the hip-hop generation. The book combines hip-hop lyrics and culture with biblical elements to create daily devotions for those who are not in the church. It took a lot of research to make sure I had the right ingredients of both so I didn’t come off too preachy but at the same time didn’t water down the message. It’s no good if the word is proclaimed but not heard because the hearer is on a different frequency.
Well the same works for faith sharing, so to speak. To reach a person you must speak the language they speak and understand where they come from and their customs when you are attempting to share your faith with them. If you want to be effective in faith sharing you have to change seats with the person you are sharing it with. You have look at things through their eyes, walk a mile in their shoes and speak to them as they speak while meeting them where they are. If it was important for American businessmen to learn Japanese to do business with Japan, how much more important do you think it is to learn all about a person before you share your faith and your God with them?
You must build a relationship with a person before you can successfully share your faith with them as well. The bible tells us that Jesus focused upon people and their needs and if we are to be successful in sharing our faith that should be our focus as well. Another very important practice to faith sharing is listening. Listening opens the door to speaking. Listening opens the door to more opportunities to share your faith. Listening opens the door to build a better relationship.
People love to talk about themselves and will always tell you all you need to know if you will simply listen to them. In addition to that listening them makes them feel you are concerned with what they are going through not just trying to push your religion and your God on them. Talkative people need to talk, so let them talk about their situation. Other impact zones we should be aware of include taking in consideration their age, race, sex, martial status, income, education (or lack of) and geography.
All of these elements help paint a better picture of the person and give you a better perspective of how they see things and where they are in their life. We must always pay close attention and take a persons environment very seriously.
This is what tells the person whether they can trust you or not. Last but not least we must witness in first person. It is very important to be real. Be honest. Its ok to be transparent, a person who has been hurt before can see the pain in others.
But we must know exactly how transparent to be. Its always better to share who you are, tell more about yourself then to question what they are not! Let God lead us, in this area. But when you are not sure just how transparent to be, always error on the side of caution. Like a recipe you can always add more seasoning later but too much of any seasoning or ingredient can ruin the meal.