Jesus told his disciples to go out and spread the word of God. We are all disciples of God, and as such, we should be spreading the word of God as well. How would you suggest a normal, everyday person go about sharing our faith with others?
Pope Paul VI and the United States Catholic Bishops addressed this very question in some of their writings. They suggest a threefold process. First, of course, is that you should be “converted” to the gospel yourself; not just being a Christian in name, but in you your deeds as well. Second is to “witness” to the gospel and your faith by how you live your daily life. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. Strive to speak and act with compassion to others. Practice justice and generosity in how you spend your money and your time, being especially attentive to the outcast and those normally invisible to much of society. Put gospel values ahead of secular values of commercialism, over-consumption, and an idolatry of the body. Cultivate quiet time for prayer and simply “being” instead of always “doing.” (John’s gospel is emphatic about the need to “be,” “abide,” and “rest” in Jesus.) Cultivate a community around you that will support you and challenge you in living out this faith. Like Pope Francis, strive to live as a person of hope and joy in a world that is often rife with darkness and despair.
When Christians live like this in a kind of wordless witness, other people will notice, so the third step is to share by explicitly proclaiming your faith. When someone asks you why you seem so peaceful compared to how they feel, or how you manage to remain hopeful, or why it is you seem content living with less than those around you, be ready with your answer (1 Peter 3:15). You can say truthfully that you are trying to live out the gospel. You are trying your best to follow a counter-cultural Jesus.
You can elaborate more about your faith life if they seem interested, or invite them to come to church with you. If they aren’t interested at that time, know that their curiosity has been piqued and keep your eyes and ears open for further opportunities to share about your faith. Depending on your relationship with the person, you may feel comfortable mentioning the role that your faith plays in your life even if they don’t ask about it. Either way, you needn’t be strident or pushy about it because that often has the opposite effect of turning people off of Christianity. Think of sharing your faith and the Bible as an invitation to others, not wielding it as a weapon. Finally, pray that God will use you as a channel of grace to introduce other people to the faith that has proven to be so life-giving for you.
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.