BY COURTNEY BAREMAN FAITH February 09, 2017

We’ve all seen the people on college campuses who make us cringe at the thought of being associated with them. The individuals dressed like they’re straight out of the 19th century, usually wearing suspenders and an ill-fitting shirt telling college students they should “turn or burn.” I’ve never heard of someone coming to Christ through a megaphone of judgment and I’m not sure where the idea that sharing our faith as Christ-followers needs to be aggressive or awkward. In fear of being seen as judgmental, many of us decide to stop sharing our faith at all. So where is the balance between fire and brimstone preaching and total silence?

Here are a few practical ideas.

Invite people in.

As Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” This is a great instruction, because it keeps Paul on the hook and accountable. It doesn’t say “follow me and do as I say” or “don’t pay attention to what I do, just pray and worship more.” Nope, instead there is an assumption that Paul is leading someone, discipling them. Teaching them what it looks like to truly follow Christ. And he invites them in, to come close and see. He isn’t hiding or trying to curate a something that looks perfect from an arms-length.

Instead, we can follow his example to invite those we are sharing our faith with to follow us as we follow Christ. We can show how we love our families, not perfectly, but faithfully. And how we create time and space to allow for our hearts and minds to focus on God and his word, rather than the craziness of the culture. Life in the Bible was lived in close relationships—tight-knit community was the cultural norm.

Families lived in close proximity, adding on to their homes with modest additions as the family grew. They depended on each other in nearly every aspect for survival. They prepared meals together, spent their days and nights together. This was normal and this is how influence happens—it takes time. In sharing our faith, it takes time.

It’s not nearly as quick or easy as creating a clever sign and yelling at people on a corner. Instead, this deep influence is birthed over meals shared over time and honest conversation. It is not about having it all together, but instead inviting people in to see how you live with God, in the daily mess, and letting them be a part of it.

Start small, right where you are.

Rather than talking, posting or ranting about all the bad things, try showcasing the good in the world. Trying to share your faith with the whole world in one fell swoop can be paralyzing. Instead, start small, right where you are. Bring dinner to someone who could use it. Listen and care about someone who is lonely. Volunteer at a local nursing home, homeless shelter or after-school program. Build relationships. Serve others.

In this way, you are showing your faith without even having to speak about it. Getting outside and over ourselves is big step, and it creates a lot of room for God to move in our own lives as we serve others. This is not about what we are super great or effective and efficient at, in many ways it is about showing up and being willing to do what needs to be done.

Have a posture that is humble and not above or beyond certain tasks. Actions speak so much louder than words. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What if we worried less about saying the right thing or trying to demonstrate our theological knowledge and just tried to simply love people—with no agenda. That is hard to argue with. There are endless opportunities to love people well and serve them, it just takes humility and the courage to be obedient.

Be generous.

As a people group, generally, Christians are not known to be a generous bunch. Instead we usually get characterized as stingy hypocrites. What if we let this characterization motivate us to do better? To be people who truly care and give accordingly. Of course, there are many ways to be generous—we can give of our time and talents in addition to our money, and those are valid and impactful ways to be generous. But what if we chose to give to others in a way that called us to rearrange our life to accurately reflect the values we claim to live by.

What if we gave up some good and fun things so that others who are lacking opportunity could thrive? What if we chose less for us so we could give more? There are so many great organizations with life-changing missions. This is truly a way to live out your faith and share it. And of course, like what happens so often, we think that we help provide the blessing by giving, when in reality the giver is blessed as well, not just those on the receiving end. Our hearts become softer and more aligned with the heart of God. Our lives become more aligned with the mission of the gospel when we willingly and practically choose to surrender, rather than to serve ourselves.

In so many ways, when we choose to express and share our faith in powerful, tangible ways not only do we get to spread the good news that comes from knowing Jesus, but we reap the benefits and blessings of a life well lived. We have depth to our relationships. Our time is spent not just on building up our bank account or our little kingdom on Earth, but instead making an eternal investment. Our generosity right sizes us and our lives in comparison to what God has called us to do and how to live.

COURTNEY BAREMAN

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