Have you ever been in a conversation with a Christian who is obviously engaging with you with the sole intent on “converting” you to Christ? I’m a Christian pastor and I still get this every so often either by someone who is convinced I’m either not Christian enough or who doesn’t know me personally and assumes I’m not “saved.” These can be awkward conversations and sometimes it’s painfully obvious what these well-intending evangelists are trying to do. Evangelism is one of the more awkward parts of being a follower of Jesus anyway, so why do we have to make it worse?
I desire everyone to put their faith in Jesus just as much as anybody, but sometimes our strategies and tactics of doing so not only come across as rude or obvious, but they can simply turn people off. But yet, this is still something we are called to do. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we are mandated to share the good news. So how do we balance wanting the best for people and to see them come to a relationship with Christ, while also being kind and caring to those who may not see things in the same way, come from a different religion or those who are skeptical of religion altogether? How can we be heard without having to be so loud or obnoxious about it? Here are a few things to consider:
1. It’s rude to use conversation as a façade for a deeper motive.
In other words, it’s rude to be nice to people just because you want to see them come to Jesus. Evangelism is important, so important; in fact, that we cannot afford to do it a disservice by merely resorting to templates of conversation or forcing the conversation to a place it wasn’t going in the first place. Conversation is natural, and evangelism should be just as natural in the life of a follower of Jesus. When we force either one, we could be doing more harm than good. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, wrote that we should always be ready to “give an account for the hope that is within” us. However, he also encourages his audience to do it with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
2. Share Jesus, not just you’re beliefs about him.
I know this seems off-putting, but there is a major difference to be highlighted here. People believe a lot of different things about Jesus, some of them I would whole-heartedly agree with, and some of them not so much. That is why it is important to be conscious of the message you’re actually getting across to someone who may have a very different worldview or set of beliefs than your own. When you look at Jesus in any of the Gospels, he never relied on a set of beliefs about God when he was interacting with other people. Instead, Jesus always resorted to showing the character of God and he let that speak for itself. Another one of Jesus’ disciples, John, tells us “God is love” (1 John 4) and that this is also how we see God in one another. So, part of evangelism is the way we actually treat one another with love and respect, not simply our doctrinal stances on things.
3. Respect has its own evangelistic value.
Showing this love and respect that Peter and John talk about has its own merit in sharing the good news of Jesus. We don’t always have to agree on things, but the ways in which we choose to disagree can say a lot about who we are and the God we serve. If we are becoming more kind, gentle, and respectful people, then we are becoming more of what God intends us to be, and this also helps others outside the Christian faith actually hear what we say and take it seriously. These qualities haven’t always been highlighted or prized within our faith, but in our own time and place, I don’t think they can afford not to be.