By Abby Robert
In 2020, introducing yourself as a “Christian” may put you at a disadvantage in sharing the gospel. Why? Christians do not have the best reputation.
My peers (I am a senior in high school ) view Christians as the crusaders who were sent to kill in the Middle East and the people who spilled blood all over Europe in the Hundred Years’ War. Several of my friends see Christians as the people who stole land and forced conversions, the people who allowed slavery to thrive. Some are quick to call Christians “bigoted,” “intolerant,” and “hypocrites” before they even know us.
In 2014, Pew Research conducted a study to see how Americans view different religious groups. Evaluating the results of the survey, Pew summarized, “Christian groups and Jews receive higher ratings from older Americans (those ages 65 and older) than from younger Americans. By contrast, other non-Christian groups receive their highest ratings from younger Americans.”
My experience tracks with this statement. I have encountered several members of my generation who do not view Christianity in a positive light and are hard-hearted toward our faith and want to avoid its message. This preconceived understanding of Christianity makes sharing the good news with my non-Christian friends very difficult, even though they need to hear it.
Sometimes evangelism feels so impossible that we give up and stick to our Christian friends instead of reaching out. At times like these we must look back on instances when Christians failed to follow the Great Commission so that we can learn from their mistakes. Even more importantly, we need to look at Scripture and Christ’s example closely.
There is a way to share the gospel to our generation, and Christ is very clear on how. It is not as simple as handing out tracts, drawing a bridge, winning an argument, posting a Bible verse on our Instagram story, or recommending a theological book to a co-worker, although the Spirit works in many ways. Let’s remember that we are called to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). Disciple-making takes time, patience, compassion, and effort. In order to share the good news, you first have to earn the person’s trust and respect, especially if he or she already has a false idea of who you are because you are a Christian. You have to become close enough to people so they feel comfortable hearing your testimony and the good news of hope and redemption.
Think about all of your non-Christian friends. How many do you have? What are their names? Take a moment to consider them. Should they have any reason to trust you? How have you shown them Christ’s love? What are their needs and how can you help them? When was the last time you talked to them? Perhaps some non-Christian “distant acquaintances” come to mind.
Seek those people out and make them your friends. Text them that you are thinking about them and ask them how they are doing. That will go a long way. Start conversations with them and keep those conversations going. Figure out how you can serve them. This may be a one-way relationship where you pour love into someone’s life and you receive nothing in return, but that is the love of Christ. Eventually, Lord willing, the moment will come where you can share your testimony and the good news.
You cannot start deep relationships with everybody, but you can start investing time and love into the relationships God has already given you. Pray for them; pray that God would give you more opportunities to make disciples; pray that God would give you the strength to disciple well.