International (MNN) — A Barna study last month asked people why they are reluctant to discuss their faith. They got several responses, but some of the top answers were that “religious conversations always seem to create tension or arguments,” “I’m put off by how religion has been politicized,” and “I don’t feel like I know enough to talk about religious or spiritual topics.”
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries exists to equip Christians for spiritual rescue, to share Jesus with others. Ron Hutchcraft says our hindrances can be boiled down to one word — fear.
Selfish Silence vs. Witless Witness
“I’ve talked to hundreds if not thousands of people about this,” Hutchcraft reflects, “and always the subject of fear [comes up] — fear of messing it up, fear of not knowing enough, fear of them rejecting me, fear of losing something.
“One thing I’ve noticed about all my fears of not talking to people about Jesus, they’re all about me. All the fears are about me. When will I have a greater fear than any fears about me? If I have all these fears about me trying to tell them about Jesus, how about the fear of what will happen to them if I don’t? That’s a much greater fear.
“I believe this: courage is not the absence of fear. It’s a disregard of it.”
When it comes to spiritual conversations, many Christians are afraid of being perceived as creating tension or advancing a political agenda because of negative experiences.
“We may have seen some people really do this in a way that actually drove people away. They were pushy. They were very religious. They did drag politics into it and a lot of other stuff that isn’t part of the Good News message…. They were the person called a ‘witless witness.’”
Hutchcraft explains, “We rebel against that. We’re like, ‘Man, I don’t want to drag people away. I don’t want to do this.’ Increasingly, as our younger generations are more and more raised in a world where tolerance is the number one value and I don’t want to come across as intolerant.”
This desire not to turn people off to the Gospel with pushy conversations, while positive, can lead to another extreme — silence.
“The pendulum swings the other way and we’re like, ‘Well, these high-pressure, religious, condemning, angry, negative, politicized people who are trying to represent Jesus; man, I sure don’t want to do that with people.’ So we go the other way. We say, ‘Well, I’m going to be very careful about talking. Maybe I won’t talk to anybody. I’ll just live the life.’
“There’s a problem with that. Because, you know, somebody could watch me for the next 50 years and [won’t] say, ‘You know, Ron is a really nice guy. I bet Jesus died on the cross for my sins.’ They’re not going to figure that out just by watching me! I have to tell them that!”
“So it’s show and tell. You can’t tell if you’re not showing it. But if all you’re doing is showing it, they’ll never know what Jesus did for them. You will have to tell them what He did on the cross that made you the kind of person you are that they really have learned to love and respect.”
We don’t have to pick between selfish silence or witless witnessing.
“The tragedy is both of those extremes leave the same outcome — whether you have done it poorly and negatively or whether you have not done it at all, the lost person remains lost.”
We just have to be willing to be used by God, both with our actions and our words. And Hutchcraft has a few tips that can make this easier for Christians.
It’s Not About a Religion
First, Hutchcraft acknowledges it’s not always possible to completely stave off any tension or discomfort when you start talking about Jesus. But one thing that makes a difference is where your focus lies in the conversation.
“We don’t have a religion. We have a relationship. And a lot of times it does come across as a religion because we talk about our church or we talk about our denomination or we talk about the meetings we go to or the beliefs we believe.
“This isn’t about the superiority of one religion over another. This isn’t about ‘would you come to my religion?’ or ‘would you sign up for my belief system?’
He emphasizes, “This is all about a personal love relationship with Jesus. I love to tell people that the Creator of our lives has given us the answer to why we are here…. The answer is in six words in the Bible. It says all things were ‘created by Him and for Him’. You were created by God for a relationship with God.”
A Message that Eternities Depend On
It’s not just good that we share this message of the relationship that’s possible with God through Jesus Christ. Eternities depend on this life-or-death message.
“Let me give you an example,” says Hutchcraft. “Jack Phillips was the radio operator on the Titanic and the night that the ship sank, two hours before they hit the iceberg, he got a message from a ship called the Mesaba. It radioed in that they had identified an iceberg field and they needed to exercise caution and gave them the coordinates of it. It turned out to be exactly the area where the Titanic went down.
“Well, the radio operator got that message and he was really busy with a lot of radio traffic coming and going so he put it on a spindle and he never delivered that message to the captain.
“That one step literally cost him his life and 1,500 other people their lives because he had information upon which lives depended and that message never got delivered.”
When we as Christians refuse to tell people about our relationship with Jesus, we may maintain ignorant comfort in our friendships. But the cost is great.
“We have information upon which eternities depend. If it goes undelivered, then we in a sense have condemned that person by our silence, by not telling them what we know.”
Start By Sharing Your Hope Story
Maybe you’ve never had a faith conversation with a non-Christian before and don’t know where to start. Hutchcraft offers this advice:
“It starts really with looking at three stories. Their story, which is the story of a lost person you may know; your story, which is the story of the difference Jesus is making in your life; and His story, which talks about how what happened on that cross and that empty tomb changed your story and could change their story forever.”
When you think of having a faith conversation as simply sharing your story — or as Hutchcraft calls it, your hope story — it really becomes simple. You just have to be transparent.
“Every believer is living proof of a living Savior. Because there is someone right now who is living proof that a father can change because of Jesus, a mother can change, a husband can change, a wife can change because of Jesus.
“You are living proof that a stressed out person can become a person of peace. Someone is living proof that someone with an out-of-control temper can become someone who is kind and loving and whose temper has been tamed.
“There is someone who is living proof that Jesus is enough even when you lose the most precious person in your life. But you’ve had hope bigger than the hurt. You are living proof.
Hutchcraft says it helps to ask yourself, “How does Jesus make your life different? How are your lonely times different because you’ve got Jesus than they would be if you didn’t? How are your depressed times different because you’ve got Jesus? How is the funeral different because of Jesus?
“How is your life different because of Jesus when you heard the bad news from the doctor? How is being single and wanting to be married but still single, how is that different because of Jesus?”
“There are so many ways that Jesus makes the difference in our life we don’t even realize. If you start to write down the difference Jesus is making, ask the question, ‘If it weren’t for Jesus, what would my life be like?’”
So what’s your hope story? As Hutchcraft points out, the formula is rather straightforward.
“‘I once was blind but now I see.’ Fill in the blank. ‘I once was ___________ but now I __________, and the reason is Jesus.’ I can’t explain it any other way.”
And, he points out, “No one can argue with your hope story. There is nothing religious about your hope story. There is nothing political about your hope story. It’s your story. People want to know your story.”
Preparing to Share
As you read this, you may have a name or even a few names on your mind — friends or family whom you have hoped would know Jesus for a long time now.
If you want to tell them about your relationship with Jesus, Hutchcraft suggests you start by praying what he calls the three-open prayer.
This prayer is inspired by Colossians 4:3-4, when the Apostle Paul says, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
To start, Hutchcraft says, “The first part of the prayer is this. ‘Lord, open the door.’ Now a door is a natural opportunity to bring up your relationship with Jesus. Not some contrived ‘oh, hi! Speaking of Jesus…’ No, this is probably going to be something going on in your life or their life or something in the news, something going on in the world. One of those three things often opens a door of opportunity and God is really good at doing this.
“Number two is, ‘Lord, open their heart. I understand this is a supernatural thing, God, and I can’t persuade anybody. That’s up to you. So I pray you would just prepare their heart before they even know their heart is prepared.’
“The last part is, ‘Lord, open my mouth.’ That might be the tough part. ‘Give me the words, give me the approach, give me the tone, give me the starting point. Lord, open my mouth.’”
Hutchcraft has prayed this three-open prayer himself many times in the past — and has seen God move.
“I believe you’ll either start to see opportunities that were there all along or you’ll see opportunities that He now opens up because you have said, ‘Lord, I understand that I have been divinely positioned by you to be in certain people’s lives. I don’t know why you thought I would be your best representative but your Word said we are Christ’s ambassador.’”
You are the Key to Your Tribe
Being an ambassador, you are in a unique position to reach certain people with Christ’s message of hope. It’s no accident that you are in your particular family, in your current workplace, or in your specific community.
As Hutchcraft puts it, “Everybody is in a tribe. You’re in an educational tribe or you’re in a recreational tribe or you’re in a generational tribe or you’re in an occupational tribe. Let’s go on and on. There [are] all kinds of tribes we’re in and people listen to somebody from their tribe.
With this in mind, you may be the only person who can reach your sphere of influence with the Gospel.
“You are the key to your tribe and if you remain silent, that is almost like a silent death sentence for that lost person who needs what you know.”
“In our world today, people are very suspicious of what I would call a ‘professional God salesman’. If they perceive you are a ‘professional God salesman’ — you’re a pastor, you’re an evangelist, it’s your job to go around talking about this — they’re not going to probably even want to hear from you. But they listen to somebody who is like them.”
Ultimately, Hutchcraft says, “There are very winsome ways to tell about Jesus. If it’s warm, if it’s transparent, if it’s personal, if it’s about a relationship [and] not a religion, if it’s done with not using all our religious language but as much as possible in non-religious language, and if it’s done within the context of a relationship where you have demonstrated your love and care for that person…I think you could be a part of helping change someone’s eternity.
“Remember, we have life or death information. We’ve got to deliver it to them because lives depend on it.”
If you’d like more resources on this topic from Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, click here.