Student Question: Why am I Afraid to Share Jesus?
Here's the full question: Why is it natural to be afraid to share Jesus?
ANSWER: First, this is not just a middle school problem. Parents, adult leaders, pastors and even I experience fear when it comes to sharing Jesus. The short answer to the question is because we are afraid to lose friends. In middle school, friends are like currency and losing one is like losing a percentage of your bank account. However, there is a more layered and complex answer to the question that I want to explore.
I believe the natural fear many of us feel around sharing Jesus is rooted in two obstacles.
REASON 1: WE LIVE IN A POST CHRISTIAN CULTURE
What does post-Christian mean? Here’s a thought experiment to help you understand this concept. How many people do you attend school with who self-identify as a Christian and regularly attend church? 1? 5? 10? I’m guessing most of us would answer with under 5. One of the biggest challenges among Christian students in Denver is that they just don’t have enough faith support from their friends at school. Being a Christian in our city in 2019 makes you a minority. Whereas a decade or so ago you would have been in the majority, that’s not true anymore. So sharing Jesus puts you at risk of being singled out, labeled as weird, different, or at the very least having less in common than other potential friends at school.
In addition to having less Christians around, one aspect of a post-Christian culture is that religion in general is seen as a personal belief that belongs in private. People in our city are generally fine if you want to practice any type of religion as long as it doesn’t interfere with their freedom to live the way they have chosen. Most people accept conversations around sports, movies, food, or hobbies as appropriate to share what we love. But God should only be a private kind of conversation for people who are religious. It has no bearing on the public sphere. Therefore, it’s generally not culturally appropriate to discuss faith, Christianity, or even Jesus in public. Some may find it annoying, and in worst case scenarios, others may consider it oppressive.
REASON 2: WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO SHARE JESUS
Imagine someone at your school who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus. Now picture them sitting next to you. Now imagine you attempt to share the message of Jesus with them. What would you say? How would you begin? What part of the message would you include? It’s an intimidating thought, isn’t it? It already feels like a leap to muster up enough courage to put ourselves out there and share our faith with someone. And once we get there, it can seem like an even bigger leap to figure out what to even say. In a post-Christian society you can assume you are talking to someone who doesn’t understand even the basics of Christianity. They are either uneducated or misinformed about most things related to the Bible, God, Jesus, the church, and the concept of faith. So what do we even say?
There are a few more reasons, but I think the two I’ve listed are the most important responses in answering the question, “Why is it natural to be afraid to share Jesus?” And now I’d like to provide a response to help us get over those obstacles so we can participate in the mission Jesus called us into to,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you - Matthew 28:19-20.
FIRST RESPONSE: WE MUST ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL
Our faith in Jesus and belief in the saving work of his death and resurrection gives us the power and energy we need to share Jesus. Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy in order to encourage him to stand firm in the true gospel of Jesus in the midst of opposition and suffering. He rooted his exhortation in the gospel,
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God - 2 Timothy 1:6-8
The implications of the gospel are that you are forever loved and accepted by the God who created the entire universe. He proved this by sending his son Jesus, in whom you have eternal life. In whom you are filled with love, joy and satisfaction. If you truly believed that, what could you possibly be afraid of? You don’t even have to fear death! It’s through prayer and communion with God that we are reminded of these beautiful gospel truths and are able to receive God’s spirit of power, love, and self-control.
SECOND RESPONSE: LOOK FOR WAYS TO SHARE JESUS NATURALLY
Think back to when I asked you to share Jesus with a hypothetical friend sitting next to you. It’s difficult to think of what to say, right? But if I said, what’s one thing you love about coming to Student Fellowship, or church, it gets a little easier. You can talk about how much fun you had at the lock-in, or the upcoming camping trip, perhaps a connection you’ve had with an adult leader, or the small group you attend. If you are talking about Student Fellowship, you are one step closer to talking about Jesus in a more natural way. I do this all the time with people I meet. I bring up church or a friend from church or some aspect of Christianity and it gets a conversation going around faith.
For example, a few Saturdays ago I got up at 4:30 AM to experience one of the all time great powder days at Breckenridge. Since I was skiing by myself for the day, I jumped on a lift with a random snowboarder. Her and I got to talking about how epic the snow was that day and she asked for a few route recommendations on the next run. We both headed down the mountain and ended up in the same lift line. The line was about 20 minutes long plus another 10 minutes for the lift, which means we’d be spending a lot of time together. We eventually started talking about college and I mentioned that my brother, sister, and I all attended the same Christian college, Baylor University. Her response, “wow, that’s interesting. Did you come from a religious family?” Boom, I’m now in a conversation about my faith.
I didn’t plan for this discussion, I didn’t try to manipulate the conversation. I had a regular conversation with someone I shared a ski run with and it came up. She told me about her upbringing in the Unitarian church and although she considers herself Unitarian, she’s not really practicing. Eventually she asked about my church, which gave me a chance to share what I love about Fellowship Denver. I told her that the vision of our church is to follow the original teachings of Jesus, not a new or distorted version of Jesus, and to do it with a posture of love toward people in our city, whether they are a Christian or not. I told her that our church is great at helping people discover who Jesus is and what he originally taught. Then I went into detail about why I think knowing Jesus is so important. I told her that Colorado has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country and that 40% of teenagers in our state attempt suicide. She was rightfully shocked by these statistic and asked me why I thought so many teens in our seemingly happy city were anxious, depressed, and suicidal. I told her that there are tons of factors, but this is one of the reasons I think working with youth is so important. I said, “if a teenager knows deep down without a shadow of a doubt that there is a God who loves them, accepts them exactly as they are, and proved it by sending his precious son to die on their behalf in order to give them life, do you think they would want to take their own life?”
And then our conversation pivoted to something totally different. I shared Jesus with her in a way that was natural, meaningful, and she was interested. And I didn’t even plan on it. I just started talking about my life, shared my heart, and trusted God. We got off the lift and went in different directions and I’ll probably never see her again. I’ve prayed the message sits with her and perhaps she’ll attend our church someday. Will you join me in praying for her? Or maybe she will google our church name, find this blog post, and be totally weirded out. If so, thanks for shredding with me Jamie. I hope you consider the reality that God loves you and wants a relationship with you and that’s available to you through Jesus. Hit me up if you want to talk more about it.
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