Thursday, April 09, 2009

Share Your Faith or Preach Jesus?

I don’t like to be picky about words and phrases, but lately I have come to deplore the terms, “share your faith” and “outreach.” I cannot find any Biblical reason to use them and can think of many ways in which they are unhelpful.

First off, read through the book of Acts some day and see how many times words like preach, teach and proclaim are used in reference to the Gospel. There is a reason for that. The Gospel is news, but it is also a message to be obeyed. When we say we are going to “share our faith” it sounds like a) it is one faith among many that we want others to appreciate and b) that it is a uniquely personal religion (“my” faith). True Christianity is neither one among equals nor something that gets to be defined by the user. And the message of the Gospel, since it is both correct and intrinsically demands a response, must therefore be proclaimed... not just shared like a cup of tea.

Secondly, I don’t even know what “outreach” is supposed to mean? If it means, “reach out to people,” well, okay. But that is not evangelism. And I fear that our “reaching out” with gifts and services may start to feel like we are meeting our evangelistic obligation.

So, Resurrection Sunday is here! (Do you even know what the actual word “Easter” means?) And that makes a great time to preach Jesus.


  1. I like the expression winning souls to describe evangelism.

  2. Just a little something from the 9Marks website

    "Provide sermon outlines to aid listening. You might also consider printing your sermon manuscript and making it available before the service to aid people in listening and understanding. This becomes a good follow-up and outreach tool for your people. "

  3. I'm pretty much with you on this at least on the phrase, "sharing your faith" although I still use it because it is so ingrained. Outreach, I have little issue with except it has seemed to lose any real meaning over time.

  4. I think you're picayune. Just because sharing ones faith implies certain unhelpful things to you it's easy to see that it can communicate helpful biblical ideas too. For example, to share means to be generous and giving rather than selfish and hording. The notion of preaching in our culture today can imply pontificating and smugly harping on something. I'm not saying its wrong to use the expression preaching, I'm just saying that using the expression to share ones faith is good too. I think you should distinguish between what a word denotes and what it subjectively connotes.

  5. Kim -
    I think you are smarter than me.
    I had to look up the word "picayune" to find out that you were telling me I was trivial. Cool word!
    You wrote: "I think you should distinguish between what a word denotes and what it subjectively connotes." I thought that was what I was doing?

  6. Hey Paul,

    I think you really hit something important in this post. The gospel says that Jesus died for our sins and was raised again on the third day. When we understand how organically related the resurrection and the ascension are then we realize that the gospel is the proclamation of "King Jesus". No wonder paul could speak of "the obedience of faith"!

  7. Kerux,

    It doesn't seem to bother the apostle (Philemon 6) so I'm not going to let it bother me.


  8. Why are you so nit-picky? What the heck is wrong with sharing your faith. I try all the time.

  9. Dave & Todd,

    I think the point that Kerux is getting across is that the gospel is a message that is to be declared. Some reduce, sometimes with good intentions, evangelism to 'sharing my personal story'; but is that what the Bible teaches us about preaching the gospel. Sharing your 'personal testimony' is find and good but it is no replacement for gospel declaration.

    As far as 'outreach' is concerned. This is also very good and necessary. If you read through Acts we see how many times the apostles care for the physical needs of people. But this always leads to explanation and declaration. "How did this man become well?" Answer: "Jesus is the crucified and risen Messiah and he is reigning from his throne".

    Outreach is not an end in itself. It points to the deep reality that Jesus is reigning from heaven. We are to proclaim Jesus and then command people to repent. We are to call people to the obedience of faith.

  10. Nick,

    It's fairly clear what the Kerux is trying to communicate. However, we seem to be struggling with why the Kerux is going after the terminology as the culprit. As others have said, it comes off as "picayune" and "nit-picky." He says that the phrases "sharing one's faith" and "outreach" are unbiblical and unhelpful. Some would beg to differ - I suggested the Apostle Paul may be one.

    When Kerux imports the connotations of subjectivism, pluralism, and seeker sensitivity/servant evangelism it is easier to see his point. However, Kim wonders if these are, in fact, the true denotations of the terms.

    Kerux, do you want to set us all straight?

  11. Philemon 6: "I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ."

    I agree that evangelism is declaration, but it is also personal. Jesus has saved us, he has freed us, he is a personal Christ.

    In a culture that values experience, we can share how Jesus is not just an idea, but a person who is alive and has impacted us personally. But I agree, we do not want people to think that "my" faith means that it is an optional thing, that for some people Jesus does it for them and for others, for example, playing golf does it for them. Our experience, "our faith," can point to the truth of the objective gospel. We have the privilege of reaching out to others, stepping beyond ourselves, and loving others by telling them the truth about Jesus, who is the gospel (Mark 1:1).

  12. Dave, Nick –
    I have not had enough time to answer your queries, but will let N. T. Wright do the talking for me for a while.
    I think you are incorrect in your use of Philemon 6.

    From his Tyndale Commentary on Colossians and Philemon:

    This Greek word koinônia is difficult to translate. ‘Fellowship’ means, for many, simply the enjoyment of the company of other Christians: ‘sharing’ usually implies mutual giving and receiving of material things; ‘interchange’ itself, useful for high¬lighting the way koinonia functions, seems a bit mechanical. The idea we need to grasp — the theme that dominates the letter — is that, in Christ, Christians not only belong to one another but actually become mutually identified, truly rejoicing with the happy and genuinely weeping with the sad (Rom. 12:15; cf. 1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 11:28—29). Koinônia is part of the truth about the body of Christ. All are bound together in a mutual bond that makes our much-prized individualism look shallow and petty. This fundamental meaning of koinonia best explains its other uses, particularly that of ‘generosity’ or ‘almsgiving’ (e.g. Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4): Christians give to one another because they belong to one another. NIV, which here reads that you may be active in sharing your faith, introduces a quite extraneous idea, since the phrase ‘sharing your faith’ is used today to refer to conversational evangelism, which, though important, is not what Paul is talking about. Koinonia cannot mean ‘sharing’ in the sense of dividing something up or parcelling it out. Nor is it the language primarily of business. The key idea is ‘mutual participation’. The whole phrase then means ‘the mutual participation which is proper to your faith’. The faith is referred to as Philemon’s, not because it is different to anybody else’s (it is simply faith in Jesus Christ: that, as we will see, is the whole point), but simply because it is he to whom the appeal is being made.

  13. Todd:
    Dude. I am so nit-picky because I want all my thinking to be conformed to the Truth of God's Word. And I totally love to preach Jesus!

  14. Paul, thanks for the correction. I will not use this verse wrongly again. Yeah, if one reads the sermons in the book of Acts it sounds more what you described. In the evangelism I do whether one on one or in preaching I pretty much never talk about me or my experience but just preach Christ (e.g. Two Ways to Live). Maybe I am doing something right. :) Looking forward to more discussion on Monday at lunch.