Monday, November 28, 2011
Sharing Your Faith
Last night in our high school Youth Group gathering, we enjoyed a rare between-series night. After playing a couple of games just to enjoy each other's company, we spent a short time reflecting on the passage in Matthew 28:16-20, commonly known as " The Great Commission." Starting next week we'll be doing a series on "sharing your faith," a topic with which I have personally struggled--not so much in practice as in theological reflection. This will be the first series I have ever taught directly on the subject (don't judge me...), especially without spending the majority of the time harping on all the things we shouldn't be doing. I guess at some point I've got to get over my own baggage. Just because "Contagious Christian" and Ray Comfort ruined me on the subject does not mean I should neglect sharing the incredible news of Christ with people and it doesn't mean that my students shouldn't learn the importance of such an opportunity.
Paul, Peter, and the first Christians didn't seem to have the baggage that many of us have. They didn't witness the exploitation and even the injustices that we have witnessed in the name of evangelism. Of course they had their own experiences with people just doing it wrong and giving them a bad name, but they weren't so jaded that they couldn't be open, honest, and even bold about their encounter with the risen Christ. They shared their stories, they were clear about the content of their faith, and they did it in word and in deed. Their life was their ministry.
Following the model of these first Christians, we're spending three weeks on sharing your story, explaining your faith, and counting conversations. I'm using video interviews with folks from our church sharing their own experience with these three topics to start each evening. I'm pretty excited, actually!
We are doing this all with our current "theme"--Tikkun Olam (healing the world)--running at least in the back of our minds. We actually believe that sharing our faith, indeed sharing ourselves, with others is part of God's healing work. We are not converting people as a means to get them off of this sinking ship before the "rapture" happens. Rather, we are inviting them to live with us in God's present and future reign, here and now. Thanks to Revelation (the study we just finished), we look to Eden for hints of what a healed world looks like. In the healed world, God walks with God's people, intimately in relationship with them. Thus, inviting people to join us in following Jesus and experiencing God, we are taking part in healing the world. Evangelism, at it's best, goes hand in hand with works of mercy and justice and even of constructive inter-faith dialogue.
Sharing our faith should never be separated from the unique and peculiar content of our faith, namely, that a crucified man has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Such a proclamation could only lead to exploitation and injustice if it is removed from our understanding and completely distorted. Such a proclamation should be nothing but good news... especially to crucified people--those on the under-side of society. It is of a crucified messiah that we are called and commissioned to make disciples. If we have truly encountered the risen Christ, it should only seem natural.