Have you seen those Jesus fish decals Christians put on the back bumpers of their cars?
My car doesn’t have one. I have no objection to Jesus fishes—in fact, I value the Ichthys symbol as a relic of Christian heritage—but I don’t want people to know my car is driven by a Christian. I’m not ashamed of my faith. No, I’m embarrassed by my lousy driving. Glory to God and all that, but I prefer not to credit him with my mistakes behind the wheel.
My car has no Jesus fish, but I do wear a cross on a chain round my neck. It isn’t an elaborate rosary or a crucifix with a likeness of Christ crucified—just a plain steel cross. It serves as a constant reminder of my commitment to Christ, and it’s a nonthreatening way to express my faith.
I’m not perfect. I’m most certainly not perfect. All the same, I try to live a godly life. My hope is that people will see the cross, notice my lifestyle and put two and two together. Then, perhaps, conversations can happen about Jesus and grace and faith.
My efforts to witness are rather timid, but they were once quite bold. I would go so far as to call them completely obnoxious. There were several weeks during which I handed out tracts and collared random strangers on the street to share the Gospel of Jesus.
Few thing I have ever done felt so wrong.
Shoving the Gospel down the throats of passersby seemed cheap and shallow—and it was. I wanted to share. They did not want to listen. The best solution was not to share anyway, which was what I did, but to find people who wanted to listen.
There are places where random strangers will listen to the Gospel. America is hardly one of them. In America, where people know just enough about Christianity to be inoculated against it, where Christians have a (tragically well-deserved) reputation for being shallow and judgmental, where faith is a cultural curiosity, the Gospel must usually be shared in actions before people will listen to it in words.
Evangelism isn’t quick and easy. It’s a long-term investment. Evangelism isn’t about statistics and numbers. It’s about people. Evangelism doesn’t consist of cheap tracts and three-step plans. It consists of relationships.
As usual, the Apostle Paul put it well. “Because we loved you so much,” he wrote, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”