Now that I’m in university, there’s a lot of emphasis on bringing people out to church, ministering to friends, and the like. Which is amazing, and I really love! I really don’t have a problem with talking to people about God, which I’m grateful for, but I think that all of us as Christians can be guilty of a few mistakes when we try to evangelize to our friends. So here are some things that I try to keep in mind when I’m talking to my classmates about God, or just in general.
You are not there just to convert them
One of the (many) things I hate is when Christians talk about going out to convert the people they talk to. “I saved 3 people last month” or “I’m trying to convert 7 of my classmates.” People are not just numbers to be added to our “list of good deeds”–they’re people, and people who need someone to show them who God is. If your goal is to convert people, you’ve missed out on a great discipleship opportunity. I see a lot of people who bring classmates out to Christian events but then that’s it! They feel like they’re done, and they stop being a friend to that person because they’re converted. What does that say about Christians, that the only reason we’re talking to someone is because we want to drag them into our religion?
Instead of focusing on converting or saving people, look for opportunities to share your faith. Not convince them why they should accept it, but simply share what you believe. Trust me, sharing has a much bigger impact than teaching does.
We can often be guilty of ego-centrism; we tend to only see from our perspective. If someone isn’t a Christian, they can’t be expected to act like a Christian! So stop giving them dirty looks, stop being taken aback by what they said, and stop being offended by everything coming out of their mouth.
Even though you don’t believe everything that they do, they have a right to be shown as much respect as you would want to have from them. Don’t immediately attack everything they believe, don’t belittle them, don’t hold them to the same standard you hold yourself. Instead, be respectful that everyone grows up with a different home environment, different family, different friends, and everyone’s a different person for it! So respect those differences. Your friends at school likely have completely different ideas of what’s OK and what isn’t, so when they’re talking about going and partying all weekend, try not to judge, or insert your own opinion. Instead, listen, and then, when asked, present your opinion. It’s just being respectful.
Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want said to you
Would you want someone to tell you that your religion is stupid? No? Then don’t tell people their way of life is stupid. As Christians, I understand that we have rules and guidelines that show us what is sinful and what is not, and none of this applies to talking to people who call themselves believers, but outside of the church there are no rules. If you’re getting to know a lesbian girl in your class, do you really think the best way to show her the love of Jesus is to tell her that she’s living in sin with her girlfriend, who she’s really in love with?
Be very careful that you don’t offend the people you’re trying to help. Their lives are their lives, and you’re not called to change them. You’re called to show them Christ, who then can change them from the inside out.
Just get to know them!
So often we skip this step. And I don’t know why.
I know a lot of Christians who really don’t know anyone in their class, or the people they’re trying to bring to church they don’t really ever hang out with. I’m not saying become best friends with everyone, but why not try to get a bunch of people together for a study group? Why not all go out for coffee after a class sometime? Or why not come to class early to chat with people while you’re waiting for the prof?
If you really want someone to trust you enough to talk to you about their life, then get to know them as a friend. Not as a missionary, but as a friend. People can smell a fake from a mile away, so don’t just be their friend for some ulterior motive, even if that is to bring them to God. Always remember that even if they never come to God, that was not wasted time. It wasn’t wasted effort getting to know that person, because they are precious to God, and you were placed in their life for a reason.
Be confident and secure in your beliefs
When you’re confident in what you believe, people see that. They respect it. What people don’t respect is a wishy-washy Christian. The kind who says one thing and does another.
So prepare yourself for life! Not just for ministry, but for living the kind of life God wants you to live. Read your Bible, read books on theology, talk to your pastor–just make sure you know why you believe what you do. Then, when opportunities arise, you’ll be able to speak up and offer your opinion more effectively.
So in short, just be respectful, realistic, and remember that others have feelings and beliefs, too. There is a time for everything, so just pray for opportunities, and that God will show you how to handle them when they come!