Some followers of Christ seem to find it so natural to spontaneously talk to others about their faith. By all appearances, they are able to turn normal conversations, even with strangers, into an opportunity for talk about the best news in the world. They anticipate obstacles along the way, graciously answer objections, and often end up with inspiring stories of new life.
From somewhere in the shadows, many of us envy such persons. We’d give anything to have the freedom and courage of introducing others to a wonderful, everlasting relationship with the One who died and rose from the dead for us. We hear successful soul winners say that if they can do it, anyone can. They remind us that this is why we are here, to make the Gospel known to all. Yet, our desire to share our faith often ends up with nothing more than a longing, or maybe a few false starts, or awkward attempts to do so.
But are we really failing in the eyes of the One we want so much to talk about. Maybe not. My hunch is that few misbeliefs cause more false guilt and needless feelings of spiritual defeat than the idea that we are all called to be witnesses in the same way. Few thoughts are more disturbing than the suspicion that, if I’m not leading others to personal faith in Christ, then it must be because I don’t really love others, or even worse, that I am embarrassed of the One who died for us.
Maybe there are other explanations for our differences. The Scriptures themselves show that there’s more than one way of being a witness to Christ. Some of those other ways are not so much focused on talking openly and courageously about the Gospel as they are about living with hope (1Peter 3:15), loving everyone (John 15:12) , expressing the unity of the Body of Christ (John 17:21), praying (1Tim 2:1), and being faithful to use whatever God has given us for the good of others.
While we are all part of the mission, we are not all given the same gifts and grace of those we think of as “soul winners”.
If it is our longing and prayer to be a part of the most important search and rescue on earth, it’s very possible that we have been given a supporting role that is critically needed.
The Apostle Peter knew what it was like to go silent. He also knew what it was like to be fearless in behalf of Christ. Yet late in life he didn’t end up with the conclusion that all of us serve the cause in the same way. Neither did he seem to think that it’s always time to talk about our faith. In the third chapter of his first letter he wrote about living with such hope in the middle of tough circumstances that others might become curious enough to begin asking questions (1Peter 3:15). The hard part of that counsel is in the living. The easy part is the talking– once we are asked.
In the next chapter, though, Peter seems even more to the point that we all have different roles and responsibilities in supporting the mission of Christ. Beginning in verse 7 of chapter 4 he wrote 2000 years ago, “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ. All glory and power belong to him forever and ever” (1Peter 4:7-11 NLT).
Imagine the credibility of the Gospel when those who have been given the grace to speak, are supported by a Body that is filled with that kind of love and service to others.
More often than not– friendship, acceptance and love need to be shown, before a word about the Gospel is spoken to those who– if the truth be known– are more afraid of us… than we are of them.