(a Mission Catalyst in NYC)
I love Jesus, and I like reading the book that tells me His story. I like reading the Bible because it teaches me things about life as it encourages and humbles me. I like reading the Bible because it makes me wrestle with hard questions and because it leaves me wanting more. I like reading the Bible because its contents are Truth… I like reading His story, and I like learning about our story through the Scriptures.
Although I’ve always liked the Bible and I’ve wanted others to read it and experience the Truth that is contained within, I would often struggle to share its contents with others. In the past I have been good about spouting off an occasional “John 3:16” or even an entire “Psalms 23”, but when push came to shove and I had the opportunity to share something that really seemed powerful, often I would draw a blank. I think that many followers of Jesus want to share the words of the Scriptures and I think that we feel called to, but as I struggled…so do they.
This week I was practicing Discovery Bible Studies with some fellow Christians here in the city and we were studying Genesis one. As a part of our Bible studies we, ask two important questions near the end:
1. “If what you read is true, how then will your life look different this week?”
2. “Who can you share this story with?”
So with these two questions we have attained some sort of practical or mental application of what we learned and we’ve been challenged to evangelism (or at least to share the passage with someone). I love these questions and think that they are important, but on this particular day there was a different question on some minds in the room; a question that reads like this: “How do you just share a story from the Bible? …Do you just walk to someone and say, ‘here I have a story for you?’”
It’s actually a good question…
God has allowed us to have a book of Scriptures that point to Himself as the Truth that we seek. We have the words in front of us, a book full of stories and letters, poetry and sermons… but we can’t just walk up to others and say “Hey listen to this!”
…Or can we? Who or what determines what we can or can’t say?
I’ll be the first to admit that approaching a stranger and asking to share a story from the Bible or even rattling off a powerful Christian statement such as: “Jesus Christ came to earth and died a perfect man, rising again to bring life for all sinners including YOU!”… Well…it’s awkward. I don’t think it’s wrong to share like this, but I don’t think it’s a very good practice either. Honestly, most people won’t take the time to hear the story we want to share and even if we only say a quick statement it probably won’t stick with them any longer than a White Castle Slider. A True statement proclaimed about God is not a bad thing… but how many statements do we hear every day that don’t stick with us because they don’t apply to us? In order for something to remain with us it must have some personal application. For what we say to be most effective it must have some personal application to the one we’re speaking to. If we just randomly speak Truth it won’t have the same Gospel impact that we desire it to have.
So back to my friend’s question, “How do you just share a story from the Bible?” I think that before we can share anything well, we need to know what needs shared. I have a friend who is a panhandler by trade and I know that he wants money every morning to buy a Donut and Coffee from Dunkin Donuts. If I see my friend I can give him a coupon for a coffee and he’s very glad. However, if I just gave some other panhandler this coupon, it might not benefit them if they don’t even drink coffee. Another example, my daughter is 3 years old and I love it when she shares things with me, but when she shares she doesn’t think about what I need, but instead what she wants to give me… often times I end up with scraps of paper or a stick from the park or maybe even a fork; not bad things, but things that won’t leave an impact on my life for very long.
Sharing the Gospel and stories from the Bible shouldn’t be any different than this. I think that, as we are trying to share stories or passages from the Bible with the people around us, it is best if we are attuned to their needs.
The other day I was talking with a friend from South Asia and he was sharing about how, when he lived in his old country, he prayed to Allah all of the time! He prayed so much because he had so many material needs. But, now that he has money and lives in the U.S., he doesn’t pray nearly as much. While listening to him speak, I realized that, in the book of Matthew, Jesus had talked about something very similar to this man’s situation. I shared with him the passage in which Jesus talks about rich people; about how it was difficult for them to get to heaven because their money often times became a stumbling block to them. I said that it was only by putting God first and by the grace of God that they (we) could be saved (Matthew 19:23-26). After sharing this, it reminded me of another story about money and I shared about the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); the son who took his inheritance early, left his Father and brother, and chose to live wildly until all his money was gone. It wasn’t until this son was as low as he could get that he remembered how even his father’s servants lived better than he was, and so decided to go back to Him, not as a son but as a servant. However, the Father was waiting for the son and ran to him as he returned proclaiming, “This son of mine was dead, but now he is alive!” …at this, my friend became slightly emotional, what a beautiful story.
When we are attuned to the needs of those around us, the Living Word of God is something that we can and need to share.
So when could I share Genesis one? Maybe when a friend feels that they are not worthwhile I can tell them how I believe in God and that He created all men “very good” and “in His image”. Maybe when someone is asking me if I recycle; I can say that I do and share about how God gave the world to us as a gift and about how I want to take care of it. Maybe when someone around us talks about feeling stuck in life, we can share about how Jesus commanded His followers to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1). And maybe when others around us are worrying about life we can tell them of Jesus’ words about worry; that worrying about things cannot add even one hour to our lives and that God has things taken care of (Matthew 6:25-34).
Listen and share the Truth of God.
In closing, do not forget that not everyone believes the Bible and therefore it may have little to no authority in their life. Also, please don’t use the Bible to shame people but instead to point them to the Truth. Truth leads to more Truth and getting someone into reading God’s word is awesome! God has given us a living powerful word… and to not talk about it with those around us would be a shame; but to abuse it and misuse it might be just as bad.
Get people to truth and allow them to think and process… be there, listen, share…