Sharing our faith in Jesus is one of the things that Jesus clearly calls us to. In fact, it’s one of the last things he has to say to the disciples before ascending. We are to be witnesses. We are to make disciples.
The problem this call has generated, over the centuries, is that our attempts have often been—at best—marginally effective. What I mean is that we have had the tendency to share our faith in ways that feel contrived and far from genuine. At some points in history the sharing of our faith as Christians has even amounted to little more than bullying or brain washing. All of this leaves most Jesus followers hesitant to say anything.
We are afraid that sharing our faith will isolate us or will cause others to associate us with things labeled “Christian” that we don’t want to be associated with. We are hesitant because of the poor and sometimes damaging ways that others have shared the faith. So most of us are silent. We just don’t share because we don’t know how to make it feel genuine or compelling.
What I love about Exodus and the Israelites is that they are living such a radical life of following God with reckless abandon that their lives are spreading the word about their faith. There is no need for long, carefully worded presentations. They don’t need tracts or pamphlets or marketing campaigns. Their lives are spreading the word.
Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the Lord had rescued them from Egypt. Exodus 18:1
Jethro heard about everything God had done. In a world without the internet, television, the radio or even telephones he heard. Across miles and miles of desert—he heard everything. Their lives and choices were speaking, actually shouting, about the God they were following and Moses’ father-in-law came to see and hear for himself.
And he isn’t alone. The word spreads before the Israelites into the lands they go. People know who they are and that they are coming and that they were freed from Egypt because of their God. Their lives, their radical following of God, is speaking to those around them.
I really think this is the problem with modern day evangelism. The focus is heavily upon arguments and convincing conversation. This isn’t the way the Israelites spread the word. It isn’t even the way Jesus spread the word. Yes he spoke and taught and explained, but only as an augment to what his life was speaking.
If we focused more today on radically following, if we committed more to whole-life surrender, if we invested ourselves more intentionally in what it really looks like to follow well, I truly believe the face of evangelism would change drastically. Our words and crafty arguments would stop being the trump card we have, and instead it would be our lives. Our words would simply be a clarification, an addition to help communicate what people were already seeing in our lives. But this doesn’t happen—can’t happen—until and unless we are following radically. Until and unless our lives abandon what’s safe and controllable in exchange for the calling that is wild and terrifying and God-driven.
Then people would hear about us and what God is doing. Then people would come to us to see, to hear, to know what was making our lives so different, so full and significant. This is the choice we have to make: safe religion or wild and reckless discipleship. The face of evangelism hangs in the balance and depends on what we choose.
If you are sick and tired of evangelistic methods that feel sick and tired perhaps the problem isn’t evangelism. Perhaps the problem is us. Perhaps the issue is how we follow, how we prioritize, how we surrender.
Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians. “Praise the Lord ,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt! I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.” Exodus 18:9-11