Recently I have discovered the show Friday Night Lights. It was a show that ran for 5 seasons. The show is no longer on, but because Stephanie has all 5 seasons on DVD, I am now able to watch the series for the first times. We have made it through season 2 so far. The best two things about watching a show for the first time after it comes out on DVD is that there are no commercials and you don’t have to wait for next week to see the next episode and you don’t have to wait for next season. You just put in the next DVD. The show is based in the small town of Dillon Texas. The story revolves around the Dillon Panthers football team. The show is full of stories and different relationships developed in a small Texas town where so much emphasis is put on high school football. I just love the show and i would definitely recommend watching it to anyone who likes sports or the dynamics of small town living.
In the show, there is a character named Lyla Garrity. She is a young high school girl who has all kinds of things going on in her life. Her dad Buddy Garrity, who is a big booster for the high school football team, and her mom are going through a separation after Buddy is caught cheating on his wife. Lyla herself cheated on her boyfriend, who was the QB 1 for the football team and was paralyzed in a game when trying to make a tackle following an interception he threw. He is now bound to a wheelchair following the accident. The worst part is that she cheats on him with his best friend at the time, Tim Riggons. Lyla is very sorry, but it does lead to their breakup. Oh yes, my point. Let me get to that.
Right at the end of season 1, Lyla gives her life to the Lord. She gets baptized and starts attending church regularly. She is in a bible study group that meets in the high school cafeteria in front of all the other students. She is a part of a group that is going around town and tries to “save all the lost souls” in Dillon. At one point in the show, she is going around in a parking lot in town and putting flyers about some upcoming church event on the windshields of all the cars. Tim see her and approaches her. Lyla asks him when he is going to “stop his hethanistic lifestyle and get saved by God.” It is pretty funny, but not really when you think about it.
I love God and He is number one in my life. To be honest, the type of Christian that was portrayed in this show through Lyla, would scare me to death. If Lyla approached me like that and tried to “save me” like she did Tim Riggons, I would run the other way as fast as I could. I might even try to hide underneath one of the parked cars in the parking lot. I would run and I am already saved.
The point that I am trying to make is that our society tends to portray this type of image of Christians who are going around and trying to save people. Christians who point out the mistakes in others and tells them to get right. Christians who are really nothing but hypocritical because often times they are doing the very things they are telling others not to do. There is no doubt that there are Christians out there who are doing exactly what Lyla was doing and that makes me very sad because they are giving a false idea of what it should mean to follow God. The reality is that not all Christians and people who follow God are like that. There are some really kind and caring people who just want to spread some of the love they have been shown to others. Unfortunately, our society does not do a very good job of showing the people who are not beating and waving their bibles in other people’s faces and just seem to be angry all the time at everyone and everything. Friday Night Lights is just one example of how our society’s social media is misrepresenting what it means to love God and share the Good News.
Jesus makes it very clear in The Great Commission that we are supposed to share the Good News of the Gospel throughout all the world.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So the question here is how should we go about doing this? How do we do what Jesus is clearly asking us to do without being Lyla Garritys out there? Without scaring people to death in the process and making them run the other way and avoiding us?
In my Journey class I am in with several other men, we have been focusing on trying to live a more missional life. This means that we are trying to focus our lives on making it a priority to get out into the world and sharing what it means to have a real relationship with God and the effects of having that relationship can have on your lives.
I would like to share with you in today’s blog 10 ways that you too can spread the Good News to the world without being someone who you yourself would honesty run from. These are ways to share your faith with others without being a jerk.
Everyone is a minister
Jesus calls us all to be ministers. You don’t have to have a theology degree, lead a church, or give regular sermons to be considered a minister. A minister is simply someone who talks about God to others and Jesus wants everyone to be one. I think that churches have made a bad habit of calling the person giving the sermons the minister and everyone else is just spoon-fed the messages. While it is true that the person giving the sermons is a minister, we have to remember that we are all ministers too. The real ministry of the church is everyone’s calling. The paid staff at a church are merely trainers and encouragers who teach the people of the church what they need to know so that the people of the church can go out into the world and be ministers to others.
Just plant seeds
In the spring, the fields are filled with farmers who are busy planting seeds into the fields. There are some things that farmers can control like cultivating and spraying for weeds, but the farmers can’t control whether the seeds will get enough water, unless they irrigate. The can’t control freak storms that could damage the plants. The majority of the factors that lead to that field of plants growing and producing a harvest are largely out of the farmers hands. Not every single seed the farmer plants will grow. Some plants will die along the way, but hopefully a majority of the plants will grow to maturity and produce a crop that is 100 times that of what they planted. If the farmer worried all growing season long about the fact that some of the plants would not survive, they would drive themselves crazy. Of course some seeds won’t make it, but the majority of them will and that is what is important.
It is the same way with talking about God to other people. It’s not your job to try to convert anyone. You are simply called to plant the seeds of faith. God does the converting. You can do things to help give those seeds the best chance of growing like showing love and understand and cultivating a deep relationship with the person you are talking to, but ultimately, it is up to God to change a person’s heart. If you go around trying to convert every person you talk to, you will just end up scaring them away and what you are trying to do will get lost. Paul explained the division of roles in 1 Corinthians when he said, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”
Obviously, if you are going to go out and talk to someone about a subject, it is a good idea to have some knowledge of that subject. This is going to require that you get some training. You need some practical help to become a natural faith conversationalist. We need to learn how to engage our friends in meaningful and non-judgemental conversations that include faith.
One of the best places to start with for training is your church. The staff at your church get paid to tell others about God so chances are that they have some pretty good knowledge about the subject. You can schedule a private meeting with your pastor and i’m sure they would give you some practical ways to engage your friends in conversation. Another great way to learn is to attend church regularly and listen to the sermons. Sermons provide many lessons and background stories that will really help with your knowledge. You can go watch all kinds of sermons online too. I recommend taking notes while watching the sermons because that helps you retain what you are hearing much better and you can refer back to your notes at a later date. I regularly attend services at two churches in Ames, but I always watch the services from Prairie Lakes Church in Cedar Falls, IA each week online. The sermons are just fantastic. They are full of practical knowledge that i find so helpful. Check out the link to these sermons here.
The very best book to check out to get a deeper knowledge of the bible is of course, the bible itself. You need to take the time to actually read the whole bible. You can get reading plans almost anywhere and do it in as little as 90 days or as long as a couple of years. My one church is doing something awesome where we go through and read the Old Testament over a two-year period and the New Testament over a one year period. We have a reading on Mondays through Fridays. No reading on Saturdays or Sundays. This works really great because you have two days built into each week to catch up if you miss a day. I have an app for my church through my smart phone so I just bring up my reading for each day on my phone and it has the bible reading and a short blog that the pastor has written about that particular reading. It is right there on my phone so I can do it anywhere and at any time. It is really cool.
If you are like me, you grew up with a King James bible that was very hard to understand and make sense. If you are going to read through the bible, I have two strong recommendations for you. The first is to get a translation of the bible that you can understand. I would strongly recommend the New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV) or the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The NLT is the easiest to understand and is the one I started with. My second recommendation would be to invest in a good study bible that has lots of notes that go along with the reading. You will have questions come up about what you are reading and these notes that are already in the bible right where you are reading will help you answer almost any questions you might have. By doing these two things, it made a huge difference for me and my knowledge of the bible.
Another great way to gain some knowledge is to be in a small group or bible study. Most likely you will have readings in the bible you will read and a time when you meet and discuss with others what you read. It not only helps make you do the reading, but it also give you some feedback and viewpoints from others.
If you need some practical advice on how to specifically approach people and engage them in conversation, I would recommend the following books for you to read:
God Space by Doug Pollock
I Can Evangelism by Elisa Morgan
Being Real by Mike Kipp
One thing I really want to emphasize here is that as you are working to increase your knowledge you have to come to a point that you just go out and talk to people. Engage them in conversation. No matter how much you learn or train, you will never feel totally equipped when you first start talking to people. You just have to go out and do it. People don’t expect you to know everything or to be able to answer every one of their questions. Remember, you are just human and no one knows everything there is to know. If the person you are talking to has a question you do not know the answer to, just tell them that you will find an answer for them and do to someone who does know the answer. It does not show that you are incompetent, it shows that you care and that is really what is most important.
Recently, I was exposed to something called Lifetree Cafe. This is a really cool concept. There are actual cafes located throughout the country that you can go to. They have free coffee and they have hour-long talks about different topics that you can use when engaging people in conversation. They have different topics each week. If you don’t have one in your area, you can go online and check out the talks there. It is pretty cool. This provides a great source for practice training at engaging people in conversation.
They always say that practice makes perfect, but in this case, I don’t know if there really is ever a perfect that can be obtained. There is no doubt that as you engage in more and more conversations with people, you will gain a level of confidence and become more and more comfortable with approaching people. Practicing will definitely make you better.
Don’t be judgemental
Lets face it, we are all human. We all make mistakes. Talking to someone and pointing out the mistakes that they are making in their lives does no good at all. Even if they do acknowledge that something they may be doing is a mistake, you pointing it out to them is not going to make them want to change that mistake. They will definitely have no interest in anything you have to say if you take this approach. It is not our place to judge them. You don’t need to point out the flaws in others. If the person you are talking to brings up mistakes they have made or may be currently making, don’t judge them. Just show that you are understanding because you have made plenty of mistakes yourself. Under no circumstances should you ever judge that person.
Show you care
The single most important thing you can do when talking to a person is to show them that you care about them. People will listen to people that they think really care about them. If you don’t show them that you care, they will not really listen to anything you have to say. People respond to people who care. People are moved by people who care. If you want your message to really have an impact on someone’s life, you have to really show them you care. You do this by actively listening to what they have to say. Make eye contact with them, don’t interrupt them. Show them that you have interest in their lives. It will make all the difference in the world.
When you are reaching out to people, it is important that you work on their schedule not your own. You need to be available for them when they need you as you develop a relationship with that person. That may mean that you might have to give up your plans sometimes, drop everything you are doing, and go be there for that person. Giving your time is a great way to show someone that you definitely care about them. Being available will have a lasting impact on people.
Tell your story
A great way to really reach people is to tell your story. Talk to people about how your relationship with God has affected your life. You need to practice your God story. You should have a long version and a short three-minute version. Sometimes you will have time to share your long story, but there will be times that you only have a couple of minutes to share and you need to have some idea of what you are going to say. Just be natural when you are telling your story. Be you. After all, it is your so try and no one else has a story just like yours. Don’t be afraid to tell people about mistakes that you have made in your life. People can really identify with people who don’t try to play themselves off as having never made mistakes. Remember, we all make mistakes. Showing vulnerability can really help open up dialogs with people.
Serve, don’t be served
If you really want to reach people and show that you really care about them, you have to be willing to serve them. You have to do things for them. You should be looking for ways that you can help them, not ways that they can help or serve you. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples prior to the Last Supper and told all of us that we should follow His example. The question is, are we willing to serve? It can be hard to serve at times, but the reward for serving comes back to you 10 fold.
Share your stories
As you engage in conversations with people, you will find that you begin to have stories about things that are happening in people’s lives. Ways that people’s relationship with God develops and grows. It is important that you share some of these stories with other Christians around you. People find encouragement and recommitment when they hear how God is working through ordinary people. I’m not talking about sharing person information about people you talk to that they would not want revealed. You can speak in non-specifics. Sometimes the general ideas is what is important. You certainly don’t have to include names of people. If you really are not sure whether you should share something with others, just ask the person whether they want their story shared.
I have found that when it comes to talking to others about faith matters and sharing my God story, there is definitely some hesitations I have. These mostly come from fears I have. Some of the fears I have include, a lack of biblical knowledge, fear of rejection and alienation from people, not knowing what to say or knowing how to answer questions, having the way I live my life being questioned, financial limitations, and just plain laziness on my part. These are all valid fears and these fears can paralyze us from ever talking to anyone about faith matters.
What we can’t get away from is the fact that it is important that we do talk to others about faith. It is so important that Jesus specifically asked each one of us to do it. I know that we all have different dreams and things we want out of life, but Jesus gave each of us the charge of spreading the Gospel to all the ends of the earth so in a way, I guess you could say that this is the most important life mission that we all share in common.
I would like to challenge each one of you to give some serious thought to working on developing your missional life. How big of a priority is it to you. If it is not a big priority to you, I would challenge you to do some soul-searching and really ask yourself if it should be. I know that I have been doing a lot of that since the beginning of the year. I realized that while I have good intentions, my actual output of doing really leaves a lot to be desires and I am really focusing on improving this moving forward. I’m sure some of you have your own fears and reservations when it comes to talking to people. I fully understand, I have lots of fears myself, but it is very important to do this. God blesses each of us in so many ways that we can never fully repay, but reaching out to others and trying to help others in need is a great way to start.
Let’s all work to try to step outside of our comfort zones and really work to make a difference in our world. Let’s just try to avoid doing it like Lyla did. The only person who ever made being a jerk (as in the movie The Jerk) look cool was Steve Martin so let’s learn to share our faith with others, but let’s just avoid being jerks while we do it.