Sharing Your Faith with Pre-Believers
Richard D. Dobbins
The people in your world can be divided roughly into four categories: Atheists, agnostics, non-Christian believers, and Christian believers.
Who Are Pre-Believers?
Generally speaking, pre-believers are agnostics who want to believe and believers who are not Christians. Non-Christian believers are people who believe in Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and other faith systems. These groups of people are those toward whom we should be directing our efforts.
In the New Testament church evangelism sprang from two sources. First of all, Jesus commissioned every believer to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person (see Mark 16:15). This is sometimes referred to as the Great Commission. Here, evangelism is the responsibility of every believer. But second, Paul identifies one of the gifts Christ bestows on the Church as evangelists (see Ephesians 4:11). The Church in America has a tendency to defer evangelism to those called to be evangelists. But if we are going to reach our nation for Christ, we need to be involved in every-member evangelism. So as Christians, every one of us should be on the alert for people in our environment who are pre-believers. Although we do not want to exclude anyone from the good news of the gospel, we should ask the Lord to guide us to those who are ready to believe.
Let Your Light Shine
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says His disciples are the light of the world. When the light of Christ’s life continues, it will shine through us. You do not have to make light shine. It is the nature of light to shine you just have to let it shine. The light of Christ’s life shines through our good works.
Many times Christians think that “good works” mean “religious works.” But if you want to make your life shine, you have to think in terms of good works that the people in your environment see as unselfish. For instance, you look for unselfish things you can do for the people with whom you work, your next-door neighbors. After you have let your light so shine before them and unselfishly given evidence to the presence of Jesus in your life, then you let them know who it is that lives in you that makes you this kind of person. You tell them how that life can become a part of them, how they can find Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
The Scriptures say that everywhere the Lord went, He was doing good (see Acts 10:38). Now we are not saved by our works, but it is by our works that other people know we are saved. This is the way to witness to pre-believers. Be kind to them. Be loving to them. Let them know that kindness and that love is coming from your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let Your Life Speak
Of some people it is said that what they do speaks so loudly that we cannot hear what they say. This kind of Christian keeps people away from Jesus; they do not attract people to Jesus. When I was a teenager, I had a Sunday school teacher who, when he led the class, seemed as though he was Jesus personified. Then we found out he verbally abused his wife, physically abused his children, and swore in front of his employees. That kind of contradiction was almost enough to send me from the kingdom of God.
There is a difference, you see, between your testimony and your witness. Your witness is your life and is much more important than what you say in your testimony. The proof of what Christ has really done for you is shown in your home and where you work. Your testimony is the story you tell people about your life; your life is your Christian witness defined by your deeds. To really grow up in the Lord and develop a kind of life that reflects the presence of Christ, you must desire the Word and learn to speak the truth in love (see 1 Peter 2:2; Ephesians 4:15). Let people see Jesus in you before you try to tell them about Jesus. Then, if you want to know who is ready to hear your testimony, listen carefully to the conversations of the people with whom you live and work.
Identify the pre-believers in your life. Go out of your way to be kind to them. Look for opportunities to do them good. Establish a relationship with them and let them get a close up view of your life. You never know how painful their past experience with organized religion has been. But when they see the consistency of your life over time and the unselfish way you serve them and others, the soil of their hearts is being prepared for the seed of the gospel truth.
Let Your Lips Speak
Today when a Christian begins to share his faith with someone, it is important to remember that in all likelihood, that person knows absolutely nothing about God, Jesus Christ, or the Bible. We are living in the days of this nation’s greatest spiritual ignorance. Even among believers, if people do not attend Sunday school or Bible classes, they know very little about Scripture.
In the world of pre-believers and unbelievers today, the biblical and spiritual ignorance is overwhelming. Remember, when you talk to people who grew up in the 1960s, you are talking to people who were without any moral or spiritual training in their public education. We must see that people are living really in a state of spiritual starvation. They are looking for something that will give meaning to their lives, value to their lives, direction to their lives. We have that in Christ. So remember, regardless of how little you may know about the Bible, you will know more than the person you are talking to in the vast majority of cases. How do you begin talking to someone like this about their eternal well-being?
1. Determine where the person is in life. They may have had someone close to them die. They may be having marital problems or be experiencing other kinds of personal pain. Meet people at their point of need.
2. Take people’s needs to the Lord in prayer. Sometimes just telling them you will pray for them can open the door. Be sure to ask them to let you know when your prayers for them have been answered.
3. Rely on the Holy Spirit’s help. Peter was so timid he denied Jesus and fled in fear when Jesus was arrested (see Matthew 26:69-75). But when the Holy Spirit came upon Peter and the other believers on the Day of Pentecost, they witnessed boldly (see Acts 2).
Lead Them On
Once you have introduced someone to Christ, it is important to introduce him to a healthy family of believers. If the person lives close to you or the church where you worship, encourage him to join you. Be sure you meet him and introduce him to a number of people in your church. Assist him. If you notice he is uncomfortable after a few weeks, help him find another good evangelical, Pentecostal or charismatic church to try.
When someone is obviously not comfortable in our church, our desire to see them grow and develop spiritually should be larger than our desire to see the numbers of our local church increase.
In looking for a healthy church, you need a combination of prophetic confrontation and pastoral care. You need preaching firm enough so the truth of God’s Word pricks your conscience and makes you aware of the things in your life which you need to have the Holy Spirit work on. Jesus had times when He confronted people’s sins bluntly and boldly. But He had other times when He gathered the sheep in His arms and nurtured them and pastored them. Take personal responsibility for those you lead to Christ. Keep working with them, relating to them, praying for them.
Dr. Richard D. Dobbins is the founder and President of EMERGE Ministries, Inc. Akron, Ohio.
This article Sharing Your Faith with Pre-Believers by Dr. Richard D. Dobbins was excerpted from: Guidelines for Good Living a publication of the media ministries of the Assemblies of God. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.