How Do I Represent Christ Without Turning People Off?
When analyzing the question in the title of this article realize that no matter what you do you will not please everyone. Let us look at some things that will help us represent Christ to others. To do this I’m going to tell you a little story about my early experience with this very question.
I was about 17 years old at the time and I had become aware of the pagan origins of many of the customs of the Greek Orthodox Church, which was my church at that time. I remember one incident when I began to express to my older cousin all the problems with “our” church. I remember him looking at me like I had lost my mind or something. My views seemed to have no impact on him at all.
I would like to analyze what I did wrong. Hopefully this will help you in your future attempts to evangelize.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
The first thing I did wrong was I did not know my audience. My cousin had no real interest in religion at this time in his life. Rattling off a number of facts relating to pagan survivals had none of the impact on him that it did on me. That is one of the keys. Know the person you are going to talk to if possible. What motivates him, what is he really interested in? You have to start off with people at their level of religious knowledge and begin to build from there.
My second major blunder was I was attacking something (the Orthodox church) that my cousin had a vested interest in due to the fact that all our relatives and family held to the beliefs of the Orthodox Church. I didn’t display any respect for his tradition. This was partly due to my shock and surprise for the new truth I was learning. But what I forgot was my cousin was not at a point where his mind was being opened like mine. If I had the opportunity to relive that exchange I would state the new things I was learning in a non-threatening manner rather than attack the belief system he adhered to.
My third mistake was I didn’t listen to my cousin. In fact I never really even gave him the opportunity to express what his views might have been. Rather I just launched into a one sided diatribe against the Orthodox Church. Today I would do things differently. I would begin by asking someone general questions about his/her belief system and find out why they believed the way they do. Something in what they tell you may provide you with an opportunity to provide them with some of your information.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
You: Hey what’s new?
Your Friend: Oh I just got out of church today.
You: Oh yeah, what was the message about today?
Your Friend: Oh he was talking about this saint who lived on a pillar the last 20 years of his life.
You: Wow that sounds like a tough way to live. Do you think you could do that?
Your Friend: No way, it seems like a waste of time to me.
You: Yeah, I think he could have done more for people if he interacted with them.
Your Friend: Yeah.
You: Hey do you know what the Biblical definition of the word saint is?
As you can see here, the strategy is to build upon what your friend already knows and begin to slowly add to it. Too much information too soon will have a tendency to overwhelm people and turn them off to more. Another advantage with this method is you can begin to gauge how interested the other person is. If they add to the conversation, keep going. If they don’t, back off and try another day.
The point is to stay in the relationship with the person. The moment you begin to turn somebody off you need to back off or you can jeopardize the relationship. Maintaining the relationship will give you the opportunities to share the information at the right time as the Holy Spirit leads you.