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The Story about Faith
Research done by Barna reports that 47% of millennials believe that evangelism is wrong. As a millennial, I see the context. It is wrong to shove your beliefs down someone’s throat. It is wrong to assume you have the moral high ground today. Perhaps since the Civil War and the Inquisition before Christianity is in a rough spot. Top officials across both Catholic and Protestants are accused and found guilty of sexual sin, hypocrisy, and violence. We simply lack the same level of worldly power, we had back then. Still, I think there is much to hope for especially for this generation so skeptical of evangelism. I believe it lies in the story we tell, emphasizing those we have cold contact with.
Before we dive in, here is a piece of the response to the data from Barna President David Kinnaman:
“Cultivating deep, steady, resilient Christian conviction,” Kinnaman concludes, “is difficult in a world of ‘you do you’ and ‘don’t criticize anyone’s life choices’ and emotivism, the feelings-first priority that our culture makes a way of life. As much as ever, evangelism isn’t just about saving the unsaved, but reminding ourselves that this stuff matters, that the Bible is trustworthy and that Jesus changes everything.”
Door-knocking, elevator pitches, cold calls, direct mail, posters, email, social media, and advertising are all forms of cold contact. Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about cold contact evangelism. He was recounting how one day a guy just walked up to him and invited him to a Bible study. From there, he has been a Christian for years. He could pinpoint the exact moment and person that literally changed his life forever. I marveled at the story because all the cold contact stories marvel me.
They marvel me because someone had the courage to change another’s life. Then the person reached out to had the courage to actually change. They marvel me because of the radical difference from my story. I grew up in church with generations of faithful Christians in my lineage. It amazes me how someone can simply (but not easily) put on Christ.
The Family Story
I am writing this because the very same friend spoke to me about how he wished more people like me would share their story. He was reached out to by somebody who was reached out to by cold contact and so on and so on. My friend rarely receives stories of people who grow up in church and stick around. Men and women who live their entire life (however imperfectly) as a follower of Jesus.
My friend explained how we are the model for his family. He wants his children to succeed in Christianity. To choose the better path just as he did. But, he never receives those stories of hope. Of course, being friends, he gets a lived in
For him, he wanted to marvel at how maybe there was no exact moment. There wouldn’t be any one person who drew us to Christ but rather a community of believers. How much safer and more successful is the community around you at building deeper roots into Christ.But, he never receives those stories of hope. Of course, being friends, he gets a lived in example, but how many of us who grew up in church share our story, our choice to follow Christ? Click To Tweet
I had never viewed my story from the perspective of the outsider now
Inefficient but Effective
Cold contact is inefficient but can be effective. Love is the same way. When is the last time you loved someone for a short period of time and then moved on and everyone felt good about the experience? Love is inefficient. It is messy and mistake-ridden, but so is cold contact. We just have to love people enough to reach out to them
When we reach out we may not have the exciting conversion story in the Pauline tradition. Rather we have the simple and profound Petrine tradition, the rock tradition. The one with a foundation we all want to have, born into belonging, family, knowledge,
A Dream for our Families
We must become adept at sharing the dream of generational Christianity. Passing Christianity on to the next generation is not a given. We must mourn the familial branches we lose along the way. I have aunts who are excellent thinkers but chose not to return to their roots, a fair choice. Perhaps, had we mourned them better or offered them a better vision of family they would’ve remained. Perhaps if we were better at our stories, young Christians could tell their experience stronger and more confident than ever.
Cold contact isn’t so cold when we bring a genuine warmth. They are allowed to be cold. We must warm them. Who doesn’t want to be warm? Who doesn’t want family, belonging, friends, fights… relationships? Few. Instead, we see many choosing different paths. Probably because we are not bringing the warmth, the family anymore. Cold contact doesn’t work because we are
Let me return to the original statistic. I think most of us Millennials won’t share our faith because we think it’s rude. The way we have seen most Christians act on and share their faith is inhospitable. Rudely arguing with someone about faith is not an appropriate way to share faith because Christ was rarely rude. He never sought the argument either.
Consider this though, if we can learn to tell our story that reveals the love of Christ, then we can evangelize. We make Christ real when our narrative speaks His life into people. When we don’t share the joy and hope of Christ, we aren’t just inhospitable. It’s mean-spirited and hard-hearted or as I like to call myself – stiff-necked. Don’t share in a life-taking way; share by listening, learning and then by sharing. It’s called sharing your faith for a reason.
Be hospitable with your story. Be wise when you tell it but do give the effort regale someone. Hospitality does not mean hiding who you are. Disagreement is okay. You can still be friends and disagree on certain issues. Plus, sharing your faith shows how important your faith is to you. It opens conversation lanes when you speak hospitably. Share your faith like the grand tale it is, whether you were born with a Bible in your hand like I was or you came to Christ from a sinful stupor. It doesn’t matter because your story is not about you! It is about Jesus; you know the main person in your life. Don’t forget Jesus is alive. God is the God of the living. Your story is better when you tell it imperfectly because people will know it’s real. That’s how they know Christ is real. It is how you speak life into people.
Telling Our Story
In this hyper-disconnected world, Christianity offers something truly special. You cannot download Christianity. It has never been a personal faith despite the attempts of monasticism. It is a communal faith. Christianity requires other people and you can’t download other people. You have to spend time with them. Maybe, invite them into your home and be willing the fight through traffic to reach another home.
Hey millennials, we are having kids. There is nothing more fun than a van full of screaming kids on the way to
Quick Tips on Sharing Your Story
Accompanying research from Barna displays how non-Christians react to sharing our faith. Here are two do’s and don’ts. I have compiled a longer list here for email community subscribers.
- Don’t judge – if there is one way to posture yourself when sharing your faith in conversation it is non-judgmental. The best way to counter this is to listen and ask questions about how or why people decided to do what they did. See their logic. Trust me it exists.
- Don’t force a conclusion – converting someone in a single conversation is unrealistic. We are relationship building, not converting. Relationships allow us to continually speak and live the life of Christ. Don’t burn a bridge by forcing a conclusion. Be patient
- Do listen – listening is hospitable. There is no need for you to dominate a conversation about your faith. It also helps with our number 1 don’t. To get someone to open up to your ideas you have to first listen to their ideas. It will also help you craft your story.
- Do share your story – while you don’t need to dominate the conversation, you can carry it by telling your story and allowing for question and/or input. Your faith is a large part of who you are and it allows for building trust when you expose yourself enough to get criticized. Your story should be inviting. It should invite them not to church (though it should come eventually), but to follow Jesus.
So what is your lineage? What is your story? Maybe it’s not dramatic. Maybe it is. Either way it can bring some people home, and home is warm. Warm people don’t argue. They invite and are hospitable. They share what they have and a big part of what we Christians have is faith. If you want to practice your story, then type it up and send it to me or post it on the comments.
If this article gave you some perspective or helped you, please share it with someone.
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