For some people, you may be called to plant a seed of faith in their lives. For other people, you may be the one walking along side helping that seed to grow. This post is for those long term commitments we make to people, and how to get it right. I’ve learned a lot from the people who walked alongside me and these are the five keys they all had in common.
- Be giving. My biggest experience with this giving was in my men’s retreat weekend. I was literally served and lavished upon for an entire weekend. Non-stop giving from people I had never met before, and from people who stood to gain nothing from doing so. It made a life-changing impression on me. Generosity is often the first door opener in inviting someone to build a relationship with Christ. But it needs to be selfless giving. If someone needs help moving, we’re there. Help with a broken computer? On it. Need a ride somewhere? No problem. Simple things usually. We give relentlessly because Christ gave relentlessly to us. But there is a catch. This giving must be pure giving without an agenda. If you give solely for the purpose of trying to accumulate enough “giving points” that this person in your life will eventually “owe you” a transformation, you’re doing it wrong. The only thing Christ cried out from the cross was a prayer that we be forgiven. He never said, “You had better all convert. Look at everything I’ve done for you!” It is a delicate balance. We give for the sake of giving, all the while praying for transformation, but remaining committed to giving regardless. The end goal of the giving is to give. That’s it.
- Be present. In the days of Twitter and Facebook, being “present” is different than it used to be. The people who made an impact in my life spent time with me. They interrupted their schedules for me. It is easy to lose track of this. Some of the guys from that retreat weekend still get together and they refuse to let it “die out.” They send out the call to meet every couple of weeks because they know that emails are good, and Facebook is fine, but there is nothing to replace spending real time together face to face. Our goal in fostering a relationship with Christ is to let the person know how valuable they are. Our time is the only thing in our lives we can never increase and never get back. Giving that most valuable resource to someone sends a message. Christ was the same. He poured three years of His life into the disciples. Sure, thousands of people heard Christ only once. Just like many people will only receive a seed from us. But for Christ, and for us, there is that select group that warrants our time, and lots of it. Give this time selflessly.
- Don’t judge. I am very thankful for the lack of judgment in those people who have transformed my life. At some point, I will write more about my various confessions. I have a spiritual rap sheet just like everyone else. I recently wrote a post call Band of Brothers which was partially fictional but relayed the essence of a very real experience I had with confession. My confession was not the amazing part of that experience. The reaction I received changed my life. Instant acceptance. Real acceptance. Never a split second of judgment. I think as a church we’ve returned to a posture of judgment. Most churches would claim to support the homeless, but I heard a recent story about a pastor who had professional makeup artists transform him into a vision of ragged homelessness. In his first Sunday at a new church, he walked in looking convincingly homeless. Not a single hello. Not a single handshake. No offer of coffee (which was offered free to everyone anyway). He sat very alone at the back of the church until the one council member who was in on it announced his arrival. He stood up in the back, walked to the front, and stunned the congregation with their own judgmentalism. If we want to foster a relationship with Christ in someone in our lives, we need to do that without judgment of their sins, and with recognition of our own.
- Live scripture, don’t recite it. The people who brought Christ into my life did so by living scripture instead of constantly reciting it to me. As always happens, I eventually became curious. And the answers I was looking for were in scripture. We don’t need to be ashamed of scripture and hide it. But when the time comes to talk about scripture, it has to be coupled with our lives. Let me explain. I remember one conversation with a family member about money and both of us being buried in debt. Without launching into a sermon, I simply said, “Yeah I wish I had read the book of Proverbs before getting this deep in debt.” I had other options. I could have busted out my Bible and started reading through Proverbs (which really does have a lot to say about smart finances). But instead I made a simple comment, and coupled it with my own story, and let it go. It created curiosity. We forget how long it took us to get to a place where scripture was our source of answers to everything. We need to give the people around us that same time. We can bring people to scripture so much better by living it and leading them toward it, as opposed to reciting Bible verses in place of genuine connecting conversation.
- Be ready for questions. This is the holy grail of the months or years you spend giving into someone’s life. Eventually the questions start. And the questions will not be easy. “Tell me how wonderful Jesus is please.” No. It’s more like, “Why would you believe in a God who destroyed the earth and everything in it?” “How can I trust a God that lets people die of cancer?” “Why would I go to a church that spends $8,000,000 on a new sanctuary?” Or, “Why do you believe?” That one is harder than you might think. The biggest mistake you can make in this situation is to be offended by these questions. To get angry. These questions are fair. These questions are honest. And they are being asked by someone who wants answers. And you have them. Be patient. And have your answers ready. The answers they want are not Bible verses. They are your personal answers. Our faith needs to be genuine and strong. It needs to be able to stand up to the test of honest questions with answers that come from the heart. At the very least, these hard questions should be the start of an in depth conversation where true soul searching takes place.
This list is certainly not complete, and definitely not perfect. What have you learned as you walk alongside new believers? What have you learned by walking alongside those who brought you to where you are today?
We were built to be heroes.
It’s about time we started acting like heroes.
Related post: Band of Brothers
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