sharing ChristThe longer I walk with Christ, the more in tune I become with God’s heart for lost sinners like me.  He did come to seek and to save us after all.  A few years ago I ran across the following (written by Ed Stetzer) while doing some research for a piece I was writing at the time.  I think it is just about the best short article I have ever read about sharing Christ with those who don’t know his saving grace. 

I’d simply provide a link to The Resurgence where it was originally published but I visited the site this afternoon and it appears to be only available to the paying subscriber and since I am not a subscriber I’ll just provide the short article here (I did ask the Resurgence about their policy at one point and they stated that if I merely mentioned them I had their permission to reproduce anything off of their site—so I am taking them up on the offer). 

“Beginning a Conversation about Christ”

Finding a starting point for a Christ-sharing conversation is not easy. Maybe you’ve heard before:

  1. “So, do you consider yourself a good person? Yes, well I’ve got some bad news…”
  2. Nice to meet you, Stephen. Did you know that there was a guy in the Bible who was stoned to death for his beliefs about Jesus? What do you believe about Jesus?”
  3. “If you were to die tonight…
You can follow the Way of the Master method and remind people they are hypocrites, liars, thieves, and adulterers in the first two minutes and bring up the “lake of fire” in the third. I can’t resist watching Kirk Cameron because it’s, well, just so intense to see Mike Seaver “bring it”: see here, here, and here.
   
Yes it’s not subtle, but it gets the point across (watch some of the responses, particularly the last one when crazy lost people “strike back”). 
 
Others suggest you meet a felt need and build around people’s wants. But, take it too far and soon you’re “selling Jesus” as the way to happiness and your best life now, like those irritating people who say their magnetic bracelets can make you live to “143 years young.” 
  
Sharing Christ can be a challenge in our culture today. It often seems like we’ve become the guy at the front of the supermarket peddling a newspaper subscription—the one everyone avoids. There are always challenges that come with the opportunities. But how do you deal with these challenges? Part of it is finding a starting point. 
  
In Acts 17, Paul started with the people’s religious views and philosophies. In Acts 13 he started with Jewish history, and in Acts 14 he started with nature. Where we start depends on where we live and who we encounter. Where we go is settled—it’s where Christ died and rose victoriously over death. 
  
For decades we have approached people with evangelistic/diagnostic questions such as, “If you were to die today, do you know for sure where you’d spend eternity?” and “If God asked, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?” Useful as these questions are, they may not be the best approach in every situation. That’s where it requires spiritual discernment and relational sensitivity on our part. Results from a recent study where I work may give us some useful insights about Americans’ thinking and concerns about spiritual matters. 
     
1 Peter 3:9 reminds us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV). That implies some questions and answers—questions from people we encounter in culture and answers from God and His Word.
  
I assumed that the only people asking the “heaven question” were about to go off to war or enter the ER. But the results show, somewhat surprisingly, that many people today wonder about their eternal destiny. One out of every five respondents wonder daily about the certainty of going to heaven; 13 percent think about it weekly; 12 percent monthly; and 9 percent consider it at least once a year. Less than half (44 percent) indicated they never think about eternal destiny (download the graphics here). 
  
Another approach (perhaps more common in the Purpose Driven world) is to ask about meaning and purpose—important issues for which the gospel provides answers. We asked people how often they think about how to find more meaning and purpose in life. Almost one-third think about it daily; 17 percent weekly; 13 percent monthly; and 10 percent at least yearly. Only about one of every four of respondents (26 percent) said they never think about meaning or purpose in life.
     
Regardless of these factors, we must find ways that start where people are and then takes them to where they need to be. Jesus modeled it when He started talking about water but then presented the Samaritan woman with living water (John 4:10). He claimed He was the light of the world as He healed the man who was born blind (John 9:5). And after feeding the 5,000, Jesus cautioned the people about working for food that perishes, encouraging them to seek the food which endures to eternal life (John 6:27). Jesus, as we would assume, mastered the ability to access the immediate environment in order to present himself as their personal Savior. 
  
Yes, scripture shows that we share Christ, starting with people’s understanding, interests, and needs. But we cannot and must not end there, for their needs can only really be met (whether they realize it or not) by meeting Jesus.
  
Many seem to have lost confidence in that gospel. It is easier to tell people to come to church and live a good life, but that is not the gospel. The gospel is about words that can make us uncomfortable: creation, Jesus, sin, repentance, forgiveness, and transformation, to name just a few. Hard words, but harder still to forget them. To share Christ, we have to go beyond formulas that fit on napkins. The Gospel is not a doodle. Isn’t God’s story of redemption and reconciliation for His creation bigger than what can fit on a napkin? People are searching—but they are searching for something more than fire insurance or “five steps to financial freedom.” 
  
For 30 years we’ve taught people to “bring your friends to church” and have considered that evangelism. Well, there are not as many boomer seekers out there as there were back in those days. We must to share Christ, and that will be mostly done through relationships (sounds like Jesus, right?). 
    
Today, the church is like a bear fed by tourists. It’s lost its natural ability. We need to share Christ in meaningful ways without just inviting people to a congregational event. In this (already too long article) I can just suggest one brief idea: let’s get that back by starting where people are, listening to them, building a relationship, telling them about Jesus, sharing with them the story of redemption, and bringing them to a bloody cross and an empty tomb.
 
Thoughts?
 
(A note of interest: The charts Stetzer provides are missing.)
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