Share Your Faith

Prepared by Lisa Leary,
a member of the Lower Susquehanna Synod Committee for Evangelism

“How am I doing Miss Margaret?” the dancing boy asked, his face aglow. He put his hands on his hips, and hopped on one foot and then the other. Months before the child had limped into Margaret Sangster’s Goodwill Center playroom on a homemade crutch and a cane. A pitiful site—one foot twisted completely around and he couldn’t walk properly. A truck hit him and kept going. His injuries went untreated in his home stricken with poverty and ignorance. But that was before Margaret Sangster came into the picture. She recruited doctors to operate and three bankers to pay for the surgery. In time, the day came when the boy danced into the playroom as good as new. After he had gone, Sangster said to herself, “That’s one thing you can see. You are always saying that in this work you produce no visible results. Well, here is one definite thing that you can put your finger on that you did.”

Then as Margaret Sangster told her story, she leaned over the podium and said to the deeply moved audience, “Where do you think that boy is today—the boy that the surgeons, the bankers and I straightened out?” Some one in the audience replied, he is a preacher. No, she said. A banker? No. Governor of the state? No. A teacher, maybe a social worker? Miss Sangster held her hand up for silence and said, “You’d never guess. He’s in the state penitentiary for life for crimes so heinous that except for his youth they would have sent him to the electric chair or the gas chamber. You see, I spent so much time trying to transform the boy physically that
I neglected his needs spiritually.”

As Christians we must provide blankets and food, classes and clothing, medicine and shelter, but our first task is to share the transforming news of Jesus. News that changes a person from the inside out. Actions are important but words are critical. If the words don’t accompany our actions and point people to Jesus, then all our good deeds are merely testimonials to ourselves and our good nature. We need to help our people find the words to go along with their actions.

Resources for helping your congregation think about how it can share its faith

The Relational Evangelism Team of our Lower Susquehanna Synod’s Evangelism and Outreach committee is offering to come to your congregation and do a presentation that will help your people begin to think about how they can share their faith. This is a very practical, ‘how to do’ approach to sharing your faith story with others. It is the first step in a life long process of living as a disciple and carrying out the Great Commission: ‘Go and make disciples.’ Our words are critical. We need to be able to tell others about our faith and the wonderful gifts we have received from God – forgiveness, peace, and eternal life.

We also will provide a four-week study on ‘Sharing Your Faith – A Practical Guide’ along with some other resources. If you would like to arrange for a visit, please contact Lisa Leary at 717-285-4359 or e-mail at lwleary@earthlink.net.

Mission is discerned through prayer and study Bible study format to be used before meetings

Preparation:

Choose a Bible study leader for the next meeting. The leader will select the Scripture and have copies printed to distribute so that everyone can follow along.

Implementation:

The leader will distribute the selected Scripture passage to each person. He/she will then read aloud the scripture passage. Wait a few minutes and then read it aloud again. The people can just listen or follow along on the printed paper making notes about words or phrases that jump out at them if desired. The group will then discuss the following questions:

  • What is the word of God in this text?
  • Who does this text call us to be at this time, in this place?
  • What is the Word of God in text calling us to do?

Set a time limit for your discussion.

Closing:

After discussing the above questions, the leader will read the scripture passage a final time. Allow a few minutes of silent
reflection before beginning the meeting.

Suggested Scripture texts that deal with mission

Mark 8:27-38 Hebrews 12: 1-3, 14-15
John 4:5-32, 39-42 Acts 1:8
II Corinthians 5:17-21 Matthew 28:18-20
Titus 2:7-14 Romans 12:1-2
Galatians 2:20 Luke 15 (entire chapter)
Isaiah 2:2-4 Isaiah 6:6-8
Romans 8:31-39 Exodus 3 (entire chapter)
Haggai 1:2-11 II Timothy 4:1-5
I Corinthians 1:21-25 Philippians 1:9-11
Jeremiah 1:5-8 Deuteronomy 10:12-22
Jeremiah 15:19-20 I Corinthians 15: 3-11
Jeremiah 29: 11-13 Amos 8: 11-12

“Sharing Your Faith”

We often talk about law and gospel. The two go together and can’t be separated. But I feel that we struggle with the relationship between the two as much as the Israelites of old did. They were so focused on law —- on doing the right thing —- they often lost sight of God’s love and forgiveness. The Pharisees were constantly asking Jesus about the law. What’s the right thing to do? Why are you breaking the law? Don’t you respect the law? And history has painted them in a bad light because of it. I don’t think that is fair or accurate. They were simply trying to be faithful to their God in the only way they knew. Mis-informed, yes. Mistaken in their interpretation, yes. But bad, no. And so Jesus tried to set them straight, to get them on the right path. For some it worked. For others it didn’t.

I feel that we have fallen into the same trap. We are so focused on doing the right thing that we lose sight of the most important thing. Luther understood that one can know about Jesus and still mis-understand and misuse the gospel. He wrote: “Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws. For these are the smallest part of the gospel. In short the mode of understanding Christ as simply an example does not make Christians but only hypocrites.”

And so we talk about justification by faith through grace, of being saved by faith, and condemn works righteousness. But we
don’t really get it and these ideas become mere words we recite. We focus on doing the right thing. We look at Jesus and the Bible and say things such as: Well, Jesus says that we must do this, the Bible says that is wrong but this is right. And once again we are reduced to legalism and have lost sight of the gospel.

It is essential to understand that the gospel isn’t about how we do the right thing. It is not about what we do. The gospel is about the gift of Jesus and what He has done. Anything that puts what we are to do before the gift of Jesus undercuts the gospel to the point where it can no longer be called gospel. Luther understood this. He wrote: “The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you
take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize Him as a gift, as a present that God has given to you.”

Once we have received this gift and truly understand it as such, we will be changed people. Being in the presence of Christ will change us. It opens up an entirely new range of possibilities and gives us the freedom to follow Him wherever He may lead. Suddenly sharing our faith takes on a new meaning. It is not about convincing people or trying to change them. It is about sharing a precious gift. A gift we have received and now want to share with them. I don’t know about you, but when I buy a gift for someone I can hardly wait to give it to them because I know that it is something they will really like. It should be that way when we share our faith with others. We have this really great thing that we know they will love and we can’t wait to share it with them. This gift is so big and wonderful that it can’t be contained in us. It bubbles out and overflows.

Life that has received everything that God has to offer is now naturally oriented to offer everything up in service in order to extend that love to the neighbor. So we will find natural ways to share our faith. We have tried to lead good lives and triedm to care for our neighbors. But often an important, critical piece is missing. Oddly, a community formed on the priority of Word over good deeds has relied on good deeds and neglected the Word. With the caring deeds that are our gift to the world we must also bring the words that help people see, not the deed but Christ. If we neglect to speak and to point others to Christ, our witness is to ourselves and our good character. It is only when we speak about the reason behind our deeds, when we share the gift that we have received, that our work is complete. In the end it is as simple as this:

  1. Receive the gift of Christ.
  2. Treasure and learn from the gift of Christ as your life’s guide.
  3. Be a gift from Christ.
  4. Guide others to treasure and learn from Christ as well.

Keys to remember when sharing your faith with others

  1. Pray for help and guidance
  2. Put yourself in places where God can use you
  3. Give people the freedom to walk away – to choose not to listen
  4. Respect the people you are sharing your faith with