Maybe it has to do with all of the (from our perspective) crazy people knocking on doors to convince you of your eternal demise. Maybe we watch the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons in their nice clothes and good haircuts parading up and down the street and think “I wouldn’t be caught dead doing that!” I agree – not only is that behavior rude, it is a total a waste of time. If you are having a car wash to raise money for hurricane relief, maybe. Otherwise, this act of intrusion is insulting and time-consuming.
To be honest, I love when they come to my door – they have no idea what they are in for! I have made it a point to learn about other faiths so that I can confront them with their falseness and challenge them to think differently. It is a mental exercise that I admittedly enjoy. They squirm a lot, and then never show back up at our house. I think we get put on a list.
You see, I don’t think of those activities as faith-sharing. For me, when someone brings up God, it is a perfect time to tell them why I am a follower of Jesus. I share the elevator speech version of my faith journey, and hope that they will see love and grace in the process. I never mention Hell, because it isn’t my job to do that. I merely tell them why my life is better with God and the church. Better, not perfect. I still have failures and troubles and bills to pay – anyone telling you otherwise is lying to you. Sharing our faith is one of the easiest things we can do. So why are we Mainline Christians so bad at it?
I have heard all of the reasons – faith is private – we shouldn’t talk about religion and politics – I feel awkward doing it – my faith story isn’t very interesting – yadda yadda yadda. I don’t buy the excuses, and here’s why. I have met 1000’s of people in my life who have remarkable faith stories. They have been through a lot – it is that one rare thing we all have in common – we have suffered and lost and felt pain. This is the nature of being human. We have also experienced joy and ecstasy and triumph – this gives us something else in common. No – you are all amazing people with amazing stories and the (amazing) capability to help someone in trouble find strength and support in the community of faith. If you don’t do this – if you don’t care enough about people to help them in such a simple way, then you are (sorry about this) being selfish.
Maybe that’s too harsh – or maybe not. I just know that I have, in my own journey, found encouragement and support from others who have been through tougher times than I have. I have witnessed great faithfulness and bad religion. As a kid, I was told that being hit was not my fault. I was shown love when love didn’t come from the usual places. I was also ignored and blamed. You can make a difference in someone’s life – I guess my question is, “What kind?” What kind of difference will you make? Will you help or hinder? Will you bring hope or devastation? Will you be part of the solution or part of the problem?
We share our faith because sometimes people need to have hope. They need to know they aren’t alone in the world, and that they aren’t the only one’s suffering unjustly. You can be a messenger of God – or you can help create another person disappointed with the followers of Jesus. Better decide – I see someone not far from you who needs to hear a word of comfort. Peace…
Steve Ohnsman has been the pastor of Calvary UCC in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), and M.Div. from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a D.Min. in Christian Ethics from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a PhD in Leadership from Alvernia University (PA).