“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
We all have people in our lives that we'd love to see experiencing the love of God in a dynamic, transforming way. It might be someone who has lost all hope, sees no way anything will ever change, and is stuck in the rut of destructive habits. Or maybe it's a friend who feels empty and lacks purpose. Perhaps your loved one doesn't see his or her need for God at all. Life seems good as it is. Yet you know that something critical is missing.
But most of us, if we're honest, hope that we don't have to be the one to bring up the sticky issue of religion. We'd rather do just about anything else. We don't want to offend by sharing faith with others. We don't know what to say. So we figure, “I'll just quietly live out my faith through my actions, and that should be enough.”
But then we're reminded of Jesus' words in the Great Commission: “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).
These words weren't just meant for the early Church. They are directed at us today. In his first homily, Pope Francis I said, “We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong.”
In 1983, St. Pope John Paul II spoke of the pressing need for us to pass on the gift of faith in Christ. In speaking of the New Evangelization, he said, “Entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel.”
What is the “new” evangelization? Sharing the Gospel with the people God places in our path. We can't assume that just because someone attends Mass, or is a baptized Catholic, she experiences the transforming love of Christ. How many of us grew up in the Church, yet never heard the Gospel explained in a way that really resonated and impacted our lives in practical, relevant ways?
Our churches have many, many people that are not experiencing all that God has for them. Will you reach out by sharing faith with others? Will you point them toward the resources that will help them to experience the life-changing power of a friendship with Christ?
It's easy to stay in the holy huddle-sharing faith with others who affirm our beliefs. It's hard to go out into the zone of the unknown and connect with people we don't know. Research shows that the longer a person attends church, the fewer interactions she has with people who believe differently than she does. The circle gets smaller. Our circle of friends tends to be just like us, and as a result, fewer people hear the Gospel.
The gospel is most effectively shared when we walk alongside someone who sees what a difference Christ makes in our life. Friends see that it's not all rosy, but that when the trials come, Christ gives a strength and peace that surpasses all expectations. Fewer people see this witness when our circles are small.
I'd like to offer you three suggestions for ways that you can try sharing faith with others.
1) Develop friendships
Purposefully expand your circle of friends to include people who don't believe what you believe. Reach out to your neighbors. See family functions as great opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ. Look at people the way that Jesus did; see their potential. What might this person be like in a transformed state? Look deeper-speaking to their need instead of to what appears on the surface.
2) Discover stories
Intentionally discover people's stories. Learn what life has been like for them. What do they dream about? What is going well in their estimation and what needs work? Learn to ask good questions. Be a safe place for a friend to share what's really going on. One day, the opportunity will come to share “the reason for your hope.”
3) Invite a friend to Walking with Purpose
We're coming to the point in the year when registrations are beginning for Walking with Purpose this fall. If Walking with Purpose has made a difference in your life, who could you invite to join you on this journey? Pray and ask God to reveal to you the women in your life who would benefit from WWP.
Grateful for the opportunity to walk with purpose by your side!
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in April 2013.