by Paco Amador
Most of my life I have dreaded sharing my faith.
It has been excruciating.
On one side, there’s the guilt at knowing that I should share my faith with relatives, friends, or strangers. To not do so would mean a betrayal of orthodox theology about hell and our lost condition, beliefs firmly rooted in my heart.
On the other side, in all honesty, there’s nothing that I have tried to avoid more throughout my Christian life than this.
And I am not alone.
I remember talking to a friend about this. She was a wise a godly woman who had also been a believer for a long time. I will never forget her answer: “I will teach Sunday school, I will lead Bible studies, and I will support the church, but just don’t make me share my faith with unbelievers.”
What is it about sharing our faith that causes this type of reaction in even well-meaning Christians?
After all, I attended four years of Bible school. If anyone knows what to say, it should be someone like me. Shouldn’t it?
I distinctly remember back in Bible school hearing chapel speakers talk about how when they got onto the plane as soon as they sat down they began to share their faith. The person next to them was the first to not only hear the good news but to quickly succumb to the truth of the gospel. Eventually, the entire plane was experiencing revival. Upon arrival, it seemed like the plane landed on angels’ wings.
Again, the guilt would crush me.
There was so much guilt in my heart about my lack of evangelist seal that one day while on vacation in Mexico City while riding the subway along with relatives, I decided the time had come. So, filled with courage, I got off our subway cart one exit before our destination and climbed into the next wagon to ride alone.
Looking at my shoes I waited until we were ten seconds away from our final stop and yelled, “You all are going to hell and so you need to give your life to Jesus! Do it today! Or at least go to church!”
By the time I finished saying those words, the train had stopped, the doors opened and I jumped out, leaving a subway cart filled with puzzled looks behind. I never looked back.
Yeah, take that, guilt! At least I could say (especially to my own heart; maybe even to the audience at chapel one day) that I preached on the subway in Mexico City.
If anyone has the gift of evangelism, it’s not me. Definitely.
Eventually, I became a pastor. I preached on Sundays… at church. That had to count for something, I was pretty sure—especially when people began to tell me that they became believers through my preaching.
Still, full disclosure, when visitors would approach me after services, I would quickly look to connect them with our passionate evangelists. They would know what to do, or what to say, I told myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I had shared my faith plenty of times—boldly, privately, publicly, doing altar calls. It’s just that mostly I disliked it. Don’t ask me why.
There are theories for why believers avoid sharing their faith while truly believing they should. Undoubtedly, fear of rejection is at the top of the list. If its not, it should. There’s nothing upstanding citizens dislike more than rejection.
So imagine my surprise when this summer I found myself longing for the sun to come out, for daylight to arrive, so that I could get up, go out into the streets and share my faith with someone, anyone who would listen.
The transformation hasn’t been gradual. In fact, it happened all of the sudden. It surprised me.
So, what happened?
Am not sure, really. As I look back there are three practices that have begun to catch fire in my soul.
First, along with a growing group of people in our community, I have begun to fast regularly for the harvest. Over a year and a half ago, a friend challenged us to write on an index card the names of people near or dear to our hearts who are without Jesus and to pray a short prayer for the names on the list daily and to fast at least one meal a week for their salvation. So you can say that weekly fasting has changed my heart.
Along with weekly fasting and prayer, I have been learning how to share my faith simply. In 30 seconds if need be. Using the three circles. I have even gone back to the simple, yet visually clear drawing of the gap and the cross. Whatever it takes just so long as it is simple, quick, and easy to imitate. So you can say that a clear method to share my faith has changed my heart.
Finally, I have been coached to narrow my focus. When going out, or in just a simple conversation, I am no longer looking to convince anyone. If in fact the harvest is ready, like Jesus said, then I am just looking for one person one who is indeed ready. I am looking for a ‘person of peace.’
That means that I have gotten used to rejection. But it’s not personal. After all, if someone is not ready, why should I spend much time in that conversation? I have been taught to simply move on, to ‘normalize rejection.’
We all do it in our daily lives. When you go shopping for a watermelon, you test its readiness by tapping your fingers on it. If the sound is wrong, then you move on. That watermelon is not ready. It’s not personal.
But it would be inconceivable to give up at the first try. You don’t cry foul: “watermelon persecution!” simply because the first one or even several watermelons rejected you. They aren’t ready. No, you just move on. Until you find the one.
My friend, Chris, taught me to say, “We are neighbors going around our community praying for people. Would you like us to pray for you?”
Tap, tap (is this watermelon ripe?)
If the person says yes, then we ask, “Is there something specific that you would want us to pray for?”
If the person says yes, then we ask, “What?”
The more people open their hearts, the closer we are to sharing Jesus.
At any moment, they might say no. That’s okay. We move on. That watermelon is not ready.
I never could have realized how desperate my neighbors are for the touch of God.
They might not come to church, ever. But offering prayer has led me to share my faith countless times in the last year and a half.
And what is more… I am having a blast leading those who are ready to Jesus!
So you can say that getting used to rejection has changed my heart. The fields are indeed ready and I want to have a part in this amazing harvest!
Paco Amador (@PacoChi7) pastors the New Life congregation in a Mexican immigrant neighborhood in Chicago. He enjoys running, dancing with his four daughters, wrestling with his three boys, and bike riding through the city. Pastor P and his wife, Sylvia, have been married for 20 years.