Since we change so much at college, the old patterns of home can create friction when we try to bring the two worlds together, especially when it comes to witnessing to our friends. We want to start by hearing their story and sharing our story.
Share your story
Your story is a powerful act of witness! In Revelation 12:11, it says that the believers overcame the accuser “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Because Jesus’ death and resurrection is true and is at work in our lives, our story has power when we speak into painful situations or hard questions. If we want to share the gospel, we’ve got to do more than list off points about sin, crucifixion, and resurrection. It’s about how those things are transforming us into God’s likeness. So how can we share?
Authenticity is a good witness.
We often think of a “testimony” (telling our story) as some grand victorious experience with Jesus. But while we may have experienced Jesus’ work in wonderful ways, following him isn’t always easy or comfortable. It can feel unsavory to share our doubts and struggles. But our life with God and his work is no less true because our story is messy.
We have to find ways to share what’s really going on with us or fall into the Christian stereotype of an airbrushed spiritual high where we’re above reality. Jesus matters to life, not to some fantasy on cloud nine. That doesn’t mean you have to make up hard things that aren’t true, but don’t clean up your story so it’s tidy and perfect.
Sometimes your story will speak directly to some deep need or issue even if your friend hasn’t said it. But even if it doesn’t have an insanely awesome effect, being real with your friend is important because your real story shows a real God for a real person living a real life. And that’s the God your friend might consider.
Clarity is a good witness.
Unfortunately, Christian groups sometimes have their own inside language. Our figures of speech make sense to those who know Jesus, but are inscrutable to an outsider. Terms like “broken,” “love on,” “discipleship,” “Bible study,” or “prayer” don’t make sense on their own. We need to cut down on Christian-ese phrases and explain things in clear terms. It takes practice and effort to articulate our experience in plain language. Think of it as introducing your friend to Jesus. Instead of using inside jokes (Christian-ese), explain things clearly so that your non-Christian friend isn’t alienated, but can be acquainted.
Clarity helps non-Christians see that Christianity isn’t some ethereal intractable spiritualism. Instead of saying “I’m not religious like that,” our friends might say, “Tell me more!” or “I can relate to that.” Jesus’ witness was full of analogies, stories, and similes—let’s make the same effort to make God’s love clear to those we share with.
Our actions are a good witness.
One of the major effects of sharing our story authentically and clearly is that people can begin to see God for themselves. Often, your friend has to see you believe the things you say about God before he or she can believe the things you say about God. They become acquainted with the reality of Jesus and grow more open to pursuing or investigating him for themselves as they hear and see you living in response to him.
God’s the one at work.
Before you try any of these things, stop and pray! God is the only one who changes hearts. He’s the one who makes seeds grow and people’s eyes open. So pray and ask God to work in your friend’s life, in your time spent together, and that he’d move as you hear your friend’s story and share your own. After all, God’s work is what we’re living for and hoping that our friends will recognize. So trust and seek him when you share God’s love with your friends.
Greg Hsu is a campus staff member at the University of Virginia, planting an Asian American chapter this fall. He loves basketball from his alma mater (Duke University), playing the piano, full-Windsor knots, and barbecue ribs. He blogs at http://hsuva.wordpress.com/.