Staring out at the crowd, the man drew in his breath to speak. Exhausted, beaten and chained, he lost not a single moment to anger or self-pity. Instead, he used his remaining strength to proclaim boldly the love God had showered upon him. He shared his testimony with the now-silent crowd. He declared the truth of Jesus without a second thought.
Paul proclaimed again and again his testimony and God’s truth, despite the anger of the crowds and the attempts on his life. It’s as if the man had no fear. When he saw an opportunity to talk about Jesus, he took it. The book of Acts fills pages and pages of Paul’s story and his ability to start faith conversations with strangers.
We look at Paul and think, “Wow. Now that is a man unashamed of the gospel and unafraid to talk about his faith!” These thoughts can bring guilt to our hearts when we compare our attempts to start faith conversations with Paul’s successes.
But there shouldn’t be a comparison, really. If you think about it, Paul’s life was all he knew. That was his ordinary. His routine was sharing the gospel every chance he had. Why should our routine look any different?
The fear of a new routine
We can’t compare ourselves to Paul because he lived in a different time and place. Unless God has directed you to spread the gospel in a place that persecutes Christians, you will never live a life similar to Paul’s life.
But just because we shouldn’t compare ourselves to Paul doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to have a similar routine. Talking to people about faith should be a part of our ordinary. The problem is, not many of us have the fearless strength that Paul had. We’re shaking from fear at the thought of talking to our friends about God, let alone from standing in front of an angry crowd.
Our fears come from the hidden places that tell us we’ll be rejected, scorned, offensive or not taken seriously. We fear losing jobs, friends and family. And while these are all very real fears, they’re also selfish fears.
When you think about it, if we allow our fears to hold our tongues, then we move aside as that person takes another step closer to hell. Yes, this sounds harsh (that’s the offensive fear), but we must stop living like it’s someone else’s job to share the truth. Every opportunity missed is a moment closer to when Jesus returns. And if our routines don’t reflect an obedience to the Great Commission, then we’re living selfish lives as we hold onto the truth instead of shouting it for all to hear.
No, it’s not our responsibility for others to accept the truth, but it is our calling to ensure all nations have a chance to accept it.
How to face your fears
How, then, do we face our fears and start faith conversations with those in our lives? What are ways we can put aside our selfish desires to avoid awkwardness, anger or loss?
How often do you fall into the trap of not having conversations of faith because you think you haven’t had any opportunities to do so? Often, we’re met with days when we simply don’t know who to say what to about Christ. If we seek wisdom and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal moments of opportunity to us, He will give wisdom generously. This is the starting point. We need to recognize these moments before we can jump into them.
Bring up something personal:
No, this doesn’t mean air your dirty laundry or talk about your health history. But if you’re in a situation where the only options are to stand quietly next to that stranger or to start conversation, then start talking! The problem is, with these conversations come topics like weather or how much you love products at this store, etc. These are good ways to break the ice, but you need a touch of personal to make someone feel comfortable.
Mention your family or ask where they’re from and what brought them here. Offer up a personal (yet safe to share) detail. You may be surprised how you can ease into talking about your faith once you’ve opened up the door for personal conversation.
Draw on experiences:
Let’s be real. It can hurt the situation more than help if we simply walk up to a stranger and say, “Hi, do you know Jesus?” Unless God has swung those doors open wide, that’s probably not the best way to draw someone into a conversation. If you find yourself talking with a stranger, think about how God has been a part of your routine and day-to-day life. Draw on an experience that includes Christ working in your life, and share it.
People talk to strangers about experiences with their kids, their pets and their spouses. Why should we be nervous to say, “God really protected my child when…” or “I know what you mean because God has taught me so much patience with…”? Use those moments as open doors to talk about your faith.
We don’t all have the courage of Paul, but we do all have the same Spirit inside our hearts as Paul had. While we can think practically about how to start faith conversations with strangers, let’s not forget the most important way to prepare: prayer. Listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit as you stand next to strangers or meet someone new. Not every situation calls for a proclamation of the gospel. However, we must always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope we have.