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Avoid pitfalls when sharing Jesus

Updated: Jan 16

Description: How to share Jesus with non-believers is tricky. Luke 18.18 gives a clue: when a rich leader asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.



The rich man’s story appears in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew: 19:16-30, Mark: 10: 17-31, and Luke: 18:18-30, but – for our purposes – the key point is that the man’s question centred entirely on himself and what he might do by himself.


Similarly, there’s a trap in thinking that getting someone to believe in Jesus is entirely up to us: in what we say, how much effort we put in, and so on. Yet God has an absolutely crucial role, and the trap is sprung if we forget it.


The real answer to sharing Jesus

First we must ask the right question, and asking how to get someone to believe in Jesus, isn’t it. This question has one answer: we can’t! Only God can. But – and it’s a vital but – he works through us and our willingness to share Jesus.


Even so, this willingness shouldn’t mean us tearing off, full of zeal and fired up with belief, determined to install belief at the first flicker of interest (or disinterest). We perhaps need a Don’t-Do List as backup.


The Don't-Do List

Here are a few things we definitely shouldn’t do:

  • Choose a noisy public place with loads of people around to make the person feel uncomfortable

  • Start by telling the person you can’t understand why they don’t believe

  • Say that if they don’t listen, they’ll be heading for eternal hellfire

  • Choose a time when they’re tired and/or worried, or when they’re desperate to get somewhere else

  • Choose a time when you’re tired and/or worried, or when you’re desperate to get somewhere else

  • Override their boundaries by pushing the conversation when they’re not receptive

  • Make assumptions about anything (while remembering that they are probably making assumptions about you, your intentions, and Christianity itself)

  • Over-complicate the message (becoming a Christian begins and ends with Jesus Christ).


The list could go on, so to cut it short: remember to put yourself in the other person’s situation. This calls for sensitivity and respect for the other person's beliefs and feelings. It may also be helpful to check out the Positive Pointers that follow.


Positive pointers to sharing Jesus


Be Prepared: Some long-established Christians can remember the exact day and often the time when they received Jesus and their lives changed. For others, it’s a slow train ride, maybe taking many years. Some people accept Christ in a very public forum and walk through gatherings of hundreds of people (sometimes thousands) in affirmation. With others, the subject may simply crop up in casual conversation and develop from there. However, it goes, it will go the way God wants it to.

Bottom line: we can't know in advance how our approach will go. Something dramatic may happen, or it may not. No matter, if we feel the need to speak to someone about Jesus, we should be prepared.


Prayer Comes First: This is a must in being prepared, always remembering we are trying to do what God wants, not pursuing our own personal agenda. Pray for wisdom and guidance before engaging in conversations about faith. Trust that God will work in the hearts of those you speak to and that your words will be guided by the Holy Spirit.

It may be that God has been working on someone’s heart and will suggest we approach them. If so, our approach may well be received positively, but not all reactions will be positive. If they’re not, we mustn’t let things deteriorate and become an endurance test set on wearing down an opponent. We’ve tried and – having amicably tried – we leave the door open for another day.


Relationship: It’s clearly helpful if you have a positive relationship with the other person, especially as Christianity is about relationships. Spend time on building genuine rapport as genuineness is the foundation of any meaningful conversation about faith. Show love, kindness, and understanding, and let your actions speak louder than your words.

Active listening is an action that speaks louder than words, and an essential part of relationship building. Before sharing your own thoughts and beliefs, take time to listen to the other person. Understand their perspective, concerns, and questions. This creates space for a more respectful and constructive dialogue.

Remember, we are sharing our faith and beliefs, not imposing them. There is no place for condescension or feelings of superiority.


Share Your Personal Journey: Talking about the positive impact of faith on your life can be valuable in building trust. Emphasise personal transformation and relationship aspects rather than abstract theological concepts. It’s good to share positive personal experiences, but also to acknowledge that faith is a journey. Everyone experiences moments of doubt and being open about your own uncertainties can make the conversation more relatable and authentic.


Communicate Effectively: Frame your message in a way that’s easy to understand, using everyday language. Overly religious or complex language might easily put off the other person. Also, be patient. Sharing Jesus is often a gradual process. Every individual is just that, and every situation is different. We have to understand that it might take time for the other person to process the information and come to their own conclusions. Needless to say, avoid arguments. A respectful dialogue is more effective than a heated argument. If the conversation becomes confrontational, step back. You may be able to find common ground and continue, or it may be better to take a break.


God's Character: It may be helpful to reflect on God’s character. He’s loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, faithful (to mention just a few qualities), and he doesn’t want anyone to miss out on a relationship with him. Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we too need to be loving, compassionate, forgiving, faithful, and generally show by word and deed that we share a relationship with God and care about other people.

When we reflect something of God’s character – as has often been observed – our faces will express an inner warmth and radiance. Maybe this, in itself, is a big step towards helping someone else towards belief. They will sense Christ within us.


Conclusion

Ultimately, we should remember that everyone has free will. Our role is to plant seeds. It's ultimately up to God to bring about growth and transformation in the other person's heart. If someone chooses not to accept God’s invitation, God is not going to be the one to force them. And neither will he force us beyond our limits.

Nonetheless, we are called to bear witness and should approach others with humility, love, and a genuine desire to share the good news. All of us have stories to tell of God’s love and grace to us personally. Telling these stories can’t be challenged because they are our own stories. God will always be with us when he wants us to take another step.


Compelling reasons to believe in God

Questions about belief in God can come out of the blue, often when bad things happen. It can be challenging to put across our own reasons, especially when we’re not expecting to be confronted. Compelling Reasons to Believe in God (Parts 1 & 2) are connected blogs that explore ten specific reasons behind Christianity’s life-affirming stance.


We sincerely hope you will find these reasons both informative and helpful. Press the link below to access Part 1 of the Blog.





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