From the first days of Sunday school people tell us, “evangelize to friends! Spread God’s word! Tell everyone about Jesus!” but no one tells us that sharing the gospel is actually really hard sometimes.
Because, you see, although I completely agree that we’re supposed to tell people about God, I also think that we need to be very careful as to how we tell people about Him. And we sometimes have a hard time with that.
I saw this post on Facebook the other day. Although faith-based Facebook posts rarely make me think, this one caught my eye. I tried to find it again and couldn’t but it pretty much said:
“I’m an atheist and my best friend is a Christian. When she’s sad or going through something tough, I comfort her with Bible verses I find online. When I’m in a hard place or going through something, she doesn’t quote Bible verses at me, though, but is just there for me. If I want to talk religion she does, but she doesn’t have to. Likewise, I don’t constantly point out why she shouldn’t believe in a God. And we get along really well. That’s how the world should work.”
And it made me really think that you know what? The poster really has a point. So of course I stewed over this for a few days. And I came up with the three biggest mistakes I think we often make when preaching the gospel.
Preaching the Gospel Mistake #1: We Don’t Truly Respect Freedom of Religion
Here’s what a lot of us get mixed up. I think that unconsciously a lot of people believe in freedom of religion but also believe that their religion should have precedent over the others. And it’s logical, because we all believe we’re right. Otherwise, why would we believe what we believe?
But I don’t think this is a healthy mindset. Freedom of religion means just that–freedom to believe whatever you want to believe. And you know what? It’s a two-way street. You deserve freedom to express your beliefs, but if you want that freedom respected, you’ve also got to respect others’ beliefs.
But here’s the thing: respecting someone else’s beliefs doesn’t mean that you’re being ashamed of yours.
Rather, it means you’re saying “Hey, we believe different things. I respect your choice of those beliefs, and because I respect your rights, I’m not going to force you to accept my beliefs without accepting yours as well.”
Preaching the Gospel Mistake #2: We Don’t Become All Things to All People
Now, in case you thought the above point was a “get out of jail free card” that let you never have to evangelize again, enter point two.
Sunday school often does a great job of teaching us “how to evangelize.” And it becomes a character we don. We become ultra-spiritual (we didn’t have a “good” day, we had a “blessed”day), and make sure to always have a serene look on our faces. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I see it almost every day. I think we can often get it into our heads that there is a right way to go about preaching the gospel. And that way is to present yourself as a perfect little stereotypical Christian.
But that’s not what the Bible says.
Instead, we’re supposed to be fluid and try to relate with the people around us. It doesn’t help anyone if you come in there with a “don’t you want to be just like me?” attitude. Let me be clear: the end goal is for them not to have a life that looks like yours. The end goal is to help them allow Jesus into their lives so that Jesus can work with them where they’re at.
A lot of people shy away from church because they don’t fit in with the church crowd. That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. But I think it’s because we’ve made ourselves so separate from the culture of the people around us–we’re too afraid of being seen as anything other than the most holy, or the most “spiritual” that we’ve forgotten how to simply relate to people.
That is so completely different than the first apostles’ experience. I’m just going to paste here what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone,to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Jesus didn’t only come for one type of people. He came for everyone. So why are we making it seem like Christianity is only for people who fit a “church crowd” stereotype?
Preaching the Gospel Mistake #3: We Use Christianity to Save Face
Often we can get so caught up in presenting Christianity well that we’re scared to be vulnerable. Because if we’re trying to show people why Jesus is the way, they won’t be interested unless our lives are perfect, right?
Wrong. And not only wrong, but actually pretty prideful, too.
Often we use our religion so that we don’t have to become vulnerable with people. We talk about the blessings that God has given us; we stay on the “safe” topics about how wonderful a relationship with Jesus is. So you talk for a while, but never actually say anything. You’ve only presented half of the equation.
If we’re scared that nothing but the “perfect” life will draw someone to God, we’re actually believing that “the gospel is more about me and my life than it is about God and what he did.”
Woah. Harsh. I know.
But think about it–the gospel is true and it is powerful despite our weaknesses. In fact, even more than that, it is made powerful through our weaknesses! It is absolutely absurd to be scared that truth will scare people away from God. And you know why? Because God is truth.
God isn’t interested in tricking people into believing in him, like some bad car salesman. He wants people to engage in a deep, intimate relationship with Him that isn’t possible if it’s shallow or one-sided. God isn’t only God in the good–He is also God in the bad. So let’s give Him and His gospel some credit–truth and authenticity are some of the most powerful tools we have, because it shows how God can work even when we screw everything up.