I’ve always been someone who asks questions. It’s a character trait that’s helpful in certain situations, but at other times I’ve just wanted to swallow the blue pill and embrace the phrase “ignorance is bliss” (you can tell my age by this outdated pop-culture reference…!).
An area of life where questions and doubts have sometimes caused me concern, however, has been in sharing my faith. Can I really witness to Jesus on days when I’m full of doubts? How honest should I be when sharing the questions I have about my own faith?
Can I really witness to Jesus on days when I’m full of doubts?
As I’ve thought about questions such as these, it has occurred to me that the underlying premise I’m buying into is that I need to be completely sorted as a disciple of Jesus, in order to witness to Him. I somehow think that I need to have all the answers and be completely certain on all elements of the Christian faith, if I’m ever going to tell anyone about Jesus. I wonder if you’ve had similar thoughts to these?
There is a well-known story in John’s gospel that has helped me explore how I can share my faith amidst my questions and doubts. In John 4, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. They go on to have a fascinating conversation, in which Jesus makes an ordinary request for some water and before you know it, they’re having a conversation about life and faith. At the end of the encounter, the woman runs back to her town and says to the people: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
This principle of inviting people to share in our questions and responding to Jesus’ invitation together, gives a helpful insight into sharing faith.
What I love about the woman’s response is the question she asks, “could this be the Messiah?” The woman is inviting people to come and meet Jesus because of her encounter with Him, yet her invitation is also for people to share in her question. I think this principle of inviting people to share in our questions and responding to Jesus’ invitation together, gives a helpful insight into sharing faith in a way that doesn’t presume we know it all already.
The unhelpful idea that I need to know all the answers and be completely certain to share my faith, also relays a particular view of evangelism. It suggests a two-way encounter in which I’m the expert and the person I’m chatting with needs to learn from me. However, as Paul Weston explains in the great book The Word’s Out: “Our evangelistic conversations are… not two-way, but three-way, with Jesus as the unseen but real presence. The evangelistic invitation is not one in which we say, ‘Come to us.’ Rather, it is one in which Jesus says to both of us, ‘Come to me.’”
We’re not religious sales people who hide our questions and doubts to sell a product.
How do these insights help us engage in sharing our faith, amidst our questions and doubts? I think they help us see that sharing questions and doubts is part of being involved in genuine relationships with people. In witnessing to Jesus, we’re not religious sales people who hide our questions and doubts to sell a product. In sharing our doubts and questions, we demonstrate the authenticity of our faith and give space for people to share their own questions and doubts with us.
Rather than my doubts and questions being a barrier to me sharing my faith, they can become a bridge to honest conversations about life and faith with other people. To be clear, I’m not advocating we share deeply personal struggles with every person we meet. What I am suggesting, however, is that next time you’re struggling with a question about your faith, or pondering something you heard in a sermon or read in the Bible, why not share that question with a close friend who is not yet a Christian? Ask them what they think and see where the conversation goes. You may well find that, by the Spirit, you are both being drawn nearer to Jesus.
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