I have been an evangelist since 1990. In the last 24 years sharing the Gospel as a Protestant and, since 2002, as a Catholic, I have learned a lot about how to effectively share Christ with others. Today I give you the number one most effective witnessing tool you can have in your Gospel arsenal.
Yes, honesty. Honesty trumps knowledge (you can always find information), quick wit (usually gets one into trouble as it leans to sarcasm), physical appearance (in fact, it enhances it), and even doctrinal purity (which can always be corrected).
Ever bought a used car? The salesman was dressed neatly, he was super knowledgeable with regards to the vehicles, he probably was clean cut, and he likely had answers to all your questions with little or no hesitation.
You bought the car.
Did you notice anything later about the car you wished you had known? A feature missing, a blemish, a mechanical imperfection, a smell?
Full disclosure would have been nice, eh?
When you witness, before you share a word about Jesus you are sharing yourself. What you present must be honest. You must be honest, genuine, real. Speech, knowledge, and appearance can mask dishonesty, but cannot overcome its absence. In the end, you are a liar and the Gospel equivalent of a used car salesman or politician. The world has a really good BS detector and if you’re not the real deal you will be found out. Believe me, I know.
In 2002 I had a great ministry career and a growing family. My ministry was my top priority, often at the expense of being a good dad and a good husband. My priorities were way off, to say the very least. You can fool some people but you can’t fool the people who know you the best, and you definitely cannot fool God. The most important battlefront for sharing Christ was the battlefront of my own home and I was losing. To this day, I am working to make reparations for the damage I did through my attitude, distance, and selfishness. Few knew of this because public ministry is, well, public. But my wife knew and my small (at the time) children knew that daddy was supposed to do more than he was doing. God had to hit me with the “spiritual 2×4” to knock sense into my brain and make me see I was not fulfilling my vocation and that He was prepared to take steps to move me in the proper direction. Full disclosure is what was necessary, and that meant resigning.
If you expect people to flock to Jesus and place their faith in Him, they need first to see that Jesus has made a difference in your life, is making a difference in your life, and will continue to make a difference in your life. Try to present one thing and live another and you will build a case for the other team. How much more refreshing would it be to stand as a fell0w beggar who has found a place to eat to say to the other beggars, “Please come with me to the place where I found nourishment.” Bring them to Jesus because his mercy and generosity in your life has changed you.
Pride and fear make it hard to be real. In fact, the scriptures tell us that “The fear of man brings a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), but we have to kick pride and fear in the gonads. We must present reality for it is in the lived witness of the Christian that people place their trust. I will give you another example.
Years ago, some friends and I wanted to understand Mormonism and foster a dialogue with Mormons. So we ordered a Book of Mormon and accepted the invitation for a visit. Before our first session, my friend counseled us against argument and focusing on obscure teachings. Our goal was dialogue and earning the right to be heard. Therefore, we were going to listen and not introduce conversation without first being invited. We also agreed to total honesty regardless of our comfort.
The Elders arrived and were warmly welcomed by us. We sat in our den and let them do their thing. When asked why the invite, we told them the truth. We answered their questions, but mostly we listened. At several times in the discussion, topics of morality and family life came up. In particular, the divorce rate among Baptists (I was Baptist at the time) was mentioned as we discussed marriage in the Mormon faith. We did not argue and agreed how saddening it was to know the rate was truly that high. We were honest even regarding our own personal moral struggles. By the end of the first session we were beginning to have dialogue. 9 sessions later, we had gained new friends, an understanding of Mormonism, and the knowledge that those guys had seen our faith in a real way. All defenses were down. We could speak freely about matters of faith and morals. We had respect for one another as children of God, while still acknowledging (and discussing) the many theological issues that divided us.
So be honest. Guys, we have a huge opportunity to engage our fellow man in dialogue. Big topics for guys: Faith in Christ, true masculinity, lust, pornography, drunkeness, marriage, parenting, selfishness, finances, anger, true love, and those are just a few. Do you struggle with any of those? I do. Struggling is not something to hide. We can be honest.
Dude, if you are an addict, you know there is no magic zap that takes the desire away. It is grace, hard work, accountability, and time that brings recovery. We can share our struggles. Somebody you know needs to hear how God is helping you improve your life. They need to see it is possible for them. SHOW them Jesus in your life through the grit. Victories and pitfalls are part of the same story. Man up and be real.