So in my last post, I explained that in my first year in Buenos Aires, I’ve encountered difficulties. Things I’m not good at. Things that hurt. Missionary issues. Let’s call them Missues.
And I think talking about those things is healthy. I’ve had friends of mine tell me “I wish I could have your faith.” As if I’m somehow a spiritual giant or I’ve got some special gift. So after one year on the field, I’m writing you a short series of posts to de-glamorize any ideas you might have about the journey of a missionary. Chances are you’ll be able to relate to what I’ll share.
So I have a confession to make. And it’s kind of embarrassing because I’m a missionary and it’s basically the core function of my job. And if any of the higher ups see this, I might get fired.
But well, sometimes (and by “sometimes” I mean basically all of the time) I find sharing my faith with my friends a tad bit . . . scary.
I can start conversations just fine while doing surveys with strangers I’ll never see again. I can teach and preach and disciple all day long to my friends who are already Christians, but put a non-Christian friend of mine in the room and I get all scared that they’ll be offended, that they’ll judge me, that they won’t want to be friends with me because we disagree. Because there is this stigma—and it is one that we might have earned, I’ll add—that Christians are judgmental, intolerant, and that they will stop at nothing to force you to convert to their camp. And I don’t want to be lumped in with that.
But in the past year, mostly through trial and error, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about talking to friends about . . . *deep breath* . . . Jesus.
Something I’ve found here is that Argentina isn’t so different from America in its ideas of diversity and tolerance. And in societies like BA and like the US, people don’t often shun you for what you believe. They’ll shun you for being a total weirdo about it.
So the first step to sharing your faith is simple: Don’t be weird. Weird behavior includes but is not limited to:
-Using Christian lingo to non-Christians (e.g. “I’ve been sending some knee-mail up to the Father with some fellow prayer warriors on your behalf.” More on that here.)
-Delivering a memorized speech.
-Awkwardly manipulating conversations. (e.g. “What beautiful weather today! If you were to die tomorrow, where would you go?”)
So often we rush in to proclaim to the world what we think. So often we barrel into conversations that our friends aren’t ready for. So often we prescribe medication before there’s a diagnosis. We want the privilege of talking without having to listen.
It has taken flying halfway around the world and moving to another country to do surveys in order to teach me the value of asking questions. Everyone has their reasons for what they believe and if you had lived their experiences, perhaps you’d believe the same way they do. So when the time is right, when the conversation naturally turns to deeper topics (as it eventually will if you’ve followed step one) ask questions. Find out your friend’s story. If they were raised in church, believe in a higher power, have experienced loss, have come across some weirdos… etc.
This knowledge is not only invaluable in sharing your story, it lets them know that you care, which leads me to my next point:
Be a good friend.
Remember Christ’s greatest commandments? Love God, love your neighbor. Resolve to love your friend whether or not he/she ever agrees with you, ever comes to church with you, ever believes or loves the God that you believe and love. And make sure your friend knows it too.
Side note: Check yoself before you wreck yoself. You aren’t selling a product here. If you’re sharing to put another check on your good Christian checklist, then you’re doing it wrong. If anything but love motivates you, you’re doing it wrong.
I think my problem is this: I overcomplicate it. I try to have an answer for everything. But there is no magic phrase to win people over and people can tell if you’re delivering a speech you’ve rehearsed. It really is just as simple as sharing the difference that your faith has made in your life, owning up to your mistakes and failures, and admitting that you don’t know everything. So what’s the last step? Just be honest.
In the end, you can’t save people. You can just love them. That’s your part. That’s obedience. Don’t lose interest in your friend. Don’t give up on them. And also, don’t be weird.
I am anxious to hear from you: Have you ever shared your faith with a friend or had a friend share with you? Do you have any do’s or don’ts to add to the list?