Butterflies quickly overtake my abdomen and somehow transition into a lump in my throat. I sip my tea that was piping hot an hour ago. The room temperature liquid seems to ease the lump in my throat, but the butterflies don’t subside. For the last hour, I’ve been sitting across the table from a friend that I love. We’ve talked about every topic under the sun, updating each other on family, school, work, and stressors. Little silences and pauses are creeping into the conversation, and I know it’s time to bring up Jesus. The butterflies are all too familiar. I recognize the Holy Spirit’s nudge. The Jesus I treasure, who has become the very most important part of my life, is somehow somtimes the most difficult thing to bring up with my friend.
If you’re reading this article, we can begin with the baseline knowledge that we should be sharing our faith with our friends. All throughout the New Testament of the Bible it’s abundantly clear that telling others about Jesus is not only a command, but a privilege that draws us near to the heart of God. I’ll start by telling you that I am a not-shy-at-all extrovert, yet bringing up Jesus (whom I love dearly) with friends is some of the most challenging evangelism work I do. After years of student ministry and communicating the gospel message to teenagers and strangers, you’d think sharing the gospel or talking about my faith with the friends I love most would come naturally, but alas, the butterflies and throat lump remain.
If you’re like me, you are probably raising all the logical reasons why you don’t need to bring up Jesus yet. “It might ruin our friendship.” “I don’t want to tell them the wrong thing and mess it up.” “ We just don’t talk about that stuff.” All of these excuses—and the slew of others I’m sure you’ve collected over the years—are indeed logical reasons for concern. Not logical enough, however, to override the commandment from the God of the universe to make his name known. In Matthew 28:19,we read the final words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is known as “The Great Commision.” Again, baseline knowledge. You know you should share the gospel with your close friends. But how?
Rather than skimming the words below for a few, quick evangelical tips, would you join me in spending five days adding study, thought, and prayer to your schedule? The Holy Scriptures are the most powerful tool we have, overshadowing any tip I could share. Let God encourage you and equip you for this great evangelical work you have stepped into. I believe it’s the most important work of all time.
Read first: Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Exodus 4:10-12.
Many rely on the Bible verses from 1 Corinthains 12 regarding “many parts to one body” to quietly excuse themselves from the work of telling others about Jesus. Because they are shy or awkward or “not good at that kind of stuff,” they simply say, “I’ll stick to the behind the scenes kingdom work, and let the extroverts share the gospel.” While it’s true and beautiful that each of us have different giftings that can be used to make Jesus known, sharing your faith on an individual level with someone you love is not reserved for the outgoing.
We’re talking about your friends. Real friends. The people you love, where conversation and understanding flows freely. The people whose eternity in heaven isn’t yet secured. There is an urgency that is imperative to remember when fear and anxiety tell you to push this calling aside. There’s no need to stand on a podium or prepare an eloquent message. You already know how to love these people well and how to talk to them best. Begin by simply integrating your faith into conversations.
In Exodus 4, God demonstrates his power to Moses and calls him to lead the Isrealites out of Egypt. Although Moses isn’t a strong or bold speaker, God makes it known that Moses is the man he chose for this specific work. If you’ve made it this far, I have a hunch that you are feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit to take action. Whether you have a friend on your mind, or you know you want to start talking about Jesus with anyone, you are brave and courageous. Satan has worked long and hard to convince you that telling someone about Jesus isn’t your job, or that it will jeopardize your relationships. I’m here to remind you that Satan’s native tongue is lies, and he only comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 8:44, 10:10). Continue on, friend, with the good and hard work of integrating your faith into your relationships. You might be the only one brave enough to do it.
Prayer: Write down a prayer with the name of the person on your mind. Ask God to keep this person fresh on your mind, and to show you the right time to enter these conversations. Pray for his will to be done in their life, and surrender your own efforts, submitting to his. Pray for bravery—you’ll need it.
- If you don’t know which friend to start with, pray for God to reveal it to you.
- You can start very small by integrating “faith vocabulary” into your conversations. It seems small, but it’s things like this that will help signify to that person that you are a Christian, and this is important to you.
- Example: Instead of saying, “I’ve been hoping to get a promotion,” say, “I’ve been praying to get a promotion.”
- Instead of, “That’s awesome, congrats!” say, “Wow, praise God, that’s awesome!”
- Instead of, “I’m getting lunch with a friend,” say “I’m getting lunch with a woman from my church who mentors me.”
- Share details about the Christian things you do. Don’t assume they don’t care about that part of your life just because they’re not a Christian.
- Example: “I’ll come over right after I’ve finished reading my Bible.”
- “I’m in a great mood. The church service was really encouraging this morning!”
- “I’m feeling really down lately. I feel really disconnected from God if I’m being honest. (Don’t be afraid to share hard stuff too—that will help them see that being a Christian isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.)
Today we look to the Apostle Paul, a hero of the Christian faith. He was a powerful man on a mission to silence the voice of Christians until Jesus opened his eyes to the truth. His mission changed and he became one of the most influential Christ followers of all time, writing 13-14 books of the New Testament. His ministry was spent traveling to new areas, preaching the gospel, then moving forward to another. He would often write letters back to churches and groups of believers, instructing them further in the faith. These letters, known as epistles, fill the New Testament and are the basis of our study today.
Paul’s words in the Bible are widely quoted and shared, encouraging believers globally. Today, rather than pulling out individual verses, we look to Paul’s method of writing as a whole. Over the next three days, we will look for patterns in his communication, and find actionable steps to help us tell our friends about Jesus.
Paul Made a Plan
Open your Bible to the book of Romans. Notice the paragraph headers if your Bible has them. By reading over these headers, it’s easy to see that there was a lot for Paul to cover. The same is true for you: there is a lot of information to share with your friend. Paul clearly knew the direction he was headed, he had a plan for these letters, and very thoughtfully communicated the information at hand. We can model our evangelism after Paul, putting work in behind the scenes so when an opportunity for faith-centered conversation arises, we are prepared.
Paul knew the truth of the Gospel by heart
Open your Bible to Ephesians, and read Ephesians 1:3-15.
In this letter to the church of Ephesus, right out of the gate, Paul was sharing the gospel. In fact, he did it in just five sentences. If you are making yourself available to God as someone who is willing to be used to further the kingdom, you will be put in a place where the gospel could be shared. It’s important to know it by heart. For many, this is often where your hands get clammy and you start to freeze up. I suggest practicing. Practice telling the story of Jesus in simplest terms, like you’re talking to a child. The gospel is beautifully simple, sometimes too simple for people to believe. But that is a gracious gift from God to us, that in all of his complexity, the story he left for us to share is boiled down to a few main points:
- God is above all. He is all knowing and all powerful and perfect.
- All humans have sinned and are therefore separated from our perfect God.
- We have no access to God on our own.
- In his great mercy and love for us, God sent Jesus to die on a cross, in order to bear the just punishment for our sins.
- Because of that sacrifice, Jesus now offers us free access to God our Father. There is no price left to pay for our sins.
- Like any free gift, it’s our choice to accept it or reject it.
- If we accept it, eternity and inheritance and communion with God is ours.
- If we reject it, we are eternally separated from God—the darkest fate of all.
Practice it. Study it. Read in the gospels how Jesus lived this out. Read in the epistles how Paul tells this story. I recommend starting with Romans.
Some of you will be equipped in knowledge to share the gospel in detail. Some of you will start by sticking to its simplest form. Either way, know this story. It’s the whole point of our faith and this life and the life to come.
We pick back up today with our study of Paul’s methods in evangelism.
Paul Relied on the Church
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the last section about sharing the gospel, this section is for you. Paul modeled to us so well the value of using the tools provided to you. Paul knew he couldn’t possibly teach everyone everything, nor was he going to be the perfect match for every person’s learning style.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Ephesians 2:19-22, Hebrews 10:24-25.
God’s people, the church, can be relied upon. Back to the “many parts of one body,” there are people exceptionally gifted in leading and continuing instruction of the gospel and the way of Jesus. The best place to find further support for your friend? A healthy, local church. You’d be surprised how often a friend will agree to go to church with you, just because you asked. They will almost never stumble in on their own. Invite them into the church, get them around your other Christian friends, and the light of Christ will be on clear display.
Paul Shared His Own Experience
Read Acts 22: 1-16.
With your friends, personal testimony is powerful. Your friends know you best, and they have seen many aspects of your life. Sharing your sin, the saving grace of Jesus, and the freedom you’ve experienced is a clear demonstration of the gospel at work. By sharing what God is doing in your life, you are opening your friend’s eyes to see God’s movement happening right in front of them.
Today we’ll finish our study of Paul’s methods as he helps grow churches, and preach the gospel across the world.
Paul Personalized His Message
Now that we’ve run all over the epistles, this point is clear: Paul’s message was personalized. Although he had the same goal with each letter (to glorify God and make the truth known), he accomplished that in different ways and different orders, with different tones.
Because you’re sharing your faith with someone you know well, you have the opportunity to personalize your message too. Consider what strategic path you might take in the way you communicate the gospel to your friend:
- Do you need to ease into it to avoid past hurt from religion or the church?
- Do you need to speak bluntly, calling out the lies they are believing about God?
- Do you need to show them the gospel at work in your life before teaching them anything about the Christian faith?
- Do you need to give them a Bible and help them on their path to self-discovery of God’s Word?
Paul Prayed for Them
Read Romans 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Philippians 1:3-5, Colossians 1:3-5, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3.
I could have shared 20+ more verses proving Paul’s devotion to prayer for those he ministered to, but I think the point was made. Diligent prayer for your friend’s salvation is another powerful tool at your disposal. Pray today—and often—asking God for opportunities to share the truth, and thanking God that he loves your friend fully.
Read first: John 16:5-15, Proverbs 19:21, Isaiah 55:8-11
As we prepare to part ways and you enter the world strengthened and ready to share your faith, I leave you with two final thoughts:
The Holy Spirit is running the show.
Jesus could not have been more clear when he left the earth: the Holy Spirit is your guide. You can confidently wait on the right time and place to share your faith with your friend because the Holy Spirit will guide you. As you pray consistently for this guidance, you will know—you’ll just know—when it’s time to act. You can trust that God knows best and wouldn’t lead you into a battle that won’t end in victory. Even if the interaction doesn’t seem like a victory in the moment, God is using you here to accomplish a great purpose.
You can’t mess it up.
Don’t allow yourself to circle back to the lie and fear that somehow by sharing your faith, you’ll mess up God’s plan for your friend. You can’t mess it up (Job 42:2). No matter how much you butcher your delivery, or stutter, or wish you said something differently, or how many times you miss the Holy Spirit’s signals, God’s will will prevail. He is the only changer of hearts. His Word will accomplish its purpose no matter how it reaches his lost children. We rejoice knowing that God will do something great, no matter how large or small of a role we play.
It is a privilege to partake in the work of the King of the universe. Sharing your faith with non-believers will be the most rewarding, life-changing work you will ever do. Confidently press on, knowing that your Father in heaven is proud of you. Just like an earthly parent would be proud of a child for doing something daring and brave, God delights in you communing with him through sharing your faith. With all of Heaven on your side, take a deep breath, wave hello to your stomach butterflies, swallow your throat lump, and share the most important story ever told.
Image credit: Sarah Brossart