While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17.16-17)
The last few posts have been looking at the idea of the energy of Heaven being set loose, and asking what the signs are when the Spirit of God is inhabiting those who follow.
One of the clear signs in the book of Acts was a boldness of those who know God to share about God. There was a creativity, a winsomeness, a gentleness, and a persuasive quality that made the early believers compelling.
We get a great case study of one of these encounters with the Apostle Paul at Mars Hill. Here Paul shows a tremendous amount of spiritual flexibility, as he shares about the Risen Jesus to everyone from religious Jews to pagan businesspeople; from God-fearing Greeks to elite cultural leaders. I won’t go into the specifics of his content in this post, but instead will ask a pair of questions for your reflection:
Question 1: Why are most believers so timid when it comes to sharing about Jesus?
I have asked this question of a lot of people over the last 10-12 years, and found that generally the answers fall into one of five categories (and of course many of us would check more than one)
1.) They are not convinced it is true – maybe the belief is there at an intellectual level, but it is missing at a core life level. There is as much doubt as there is conviction, and this undermines any motivation to share about Jesus.
2.) They are afraid people will associate them with bad version of evangelists – we all know of the over-the-top evangelists who seem to make Jesus seem more like a used car or vacuum cleaner than the door to the abundant life. Many believe that Jesus is the real deal, but fear the negative association with bad evangelists.
3.) They are afraid they will be found out as hypocrites – this is a different version of the first reason. But in this one it is more of an awareness of their own inconsistencies and shortcomings, and there is usually a great deal of grief associated with these (as opposed to the first, where there is a lot of doubt). Because of their perceived inadequacies they fail to share about Jesus for fear of being found out as a hypocrite (which we all are of course)
4.) They don’t want to offend people’s tolerance – Christianity is at an interesting juncture in history. The Christian faith compels us to fight against injustice, and this squares well with modern values. On the other hand, the Christian faith compels us to a verbal witness as well, and this flies in the face of the modern value of tolerance. Culture generally says you can believe whatever you want as long as you keep it to yourself, but the moment you share you have crossed a line.
5.) They don’t know what to say – this one is more of a nuts and bolts concern. I have met many people who love Jesus and desire to share about the way Jesus has changed their life. But great fears live under the surface that their seeking friend will ask them a question they can’t answer or propose a problem that they can’t solve, and they ultimately shrink away.
Would one of these reasons (or more) describe you? I would argue that you will never be used by the Spirit in a consistent way to have creative and God-centered conversations if you don’t identify and deal with the fears that prohibit you from doing so.