In the last blog we wrote about the 10 reasons we don’t invite other people to church. Often the biggest barrier is the first reason: we haven’t “outed” ourselves as Christians. It is far easier to be “undercover” Christians. So in this blog we’re going to go a little deeper in that subject and talk about the “do’s and don’ts” for making it public that you are a follower of Jesus.
The fact is that our society has become increasingly secular. There are places where the percentage of those attending church in America is below 10% (See Barna, Pew Research etc). Christians are increasingly viewed by society as judgmental, hypocritical, too political and only after your money (Unchristian by Kinnaman & Lyons etc.). All of this adds up to significant conscious and unconscious pressure to stay “undercover” as a follower of Jesus. If you “come out” as a Christian, you might be criticized, maligned, judged (unfairly?) in return, isolated or even lose friends, etc. So it is easier just to “go along to get along” and just be a “silent witness.” (Now isn’t that a contradiction in terms?) Yet remaining undercover is to deny our true identity in Christ and in fact denies Christ. Jesus in fact tells us to “let our light shine” in Matthew 5:16. So how do we do that? The following are some "do's and don'ts."
Do: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12. When you are an undercover Christian it’s easy to slip into “un-Christian” behavior. If you make it public you’re going to have to watch yourself more closely. That makes life more challenging. But God is with us, He loves us in Christ. Grace not only forgives but empowers following Christ in attitude, word and deed. Get on with it. Quit making excuses like “that’s just the way I am” because in saying that we are discounting what God can do to mature people in Christ.
Don’t: give people an opportunity to criticize you because of your words or behavior. In other words, don’t do sloppy work, cheat people on time or quality. Don’t cut ethical corners. Don’t get involved in gossip and talking about people behind their backs. As Luther says in the explanation of the 8th commandment, “We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, nor defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.” No we are not going to be perfect. Yet we can grow in self-awareness and self-management about our words and behavior. “Do unto others” fits in well here. So don’t be “that person.”
Do: Be the one who is kind, who gives people a break, who doesn’t join in the criticism or gossip or talking negatively of others. Be the one who is compassionate. Model what has been modeled for you in Christ. “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” 1 John 4:11.
Don’t: be lax on your own worship and Bible reading and prayer life. If we are to be salt and light then we need to continually be filled with God’s grace through His means of grace. We are “leaky vessels” who sin much and are in need of forgiveness. So don’t be spiritually malnourished. We might be well nourished physically but we ought not be spiritually anorexic. There’s no good excuse not to have a full spiritual “gas tank.”
Do: Be involved in the servant hearted ministries of your church and with other Christians. If our world is skeptical at best about Christians then we need to be involved in ways that serve others. It gives credibility to what we say we believe about love and Jesus who loved us all the way to the cross.
Don’t: keep to your life a secret. Such as: what you did over the weekend whether it is worship, the servant event you participated in (food pantry, community service, homeless shelter, etc.) People often ask “how was your weekend?” or “What have you been up to?” Why not tell them the truth about how you have been helping others in the name of Jesus? This can turn into something to invite them to so they also can “make a difference” in the community. This is far easier (for you and for them) than inviting them to something they may not be ready to do yet, which is go to church. Note well: they may make friends with other Christians while they are there and so even more believers can be involved in planting, watering and sowing the seed of the gospel for them.
Do: ask about them. Ask about their family while respecting their privacy or boundaries about what they are willing to share. Ask them about their weekend. Be more concerned and curious about their well being than telling them about you.
Don’t: be uninterested. Don’t talk about yourself! If you look closely, people’s eyes glaze over after a couple minutes listening to how great you or your family are or how you did something wonderful. Be different from other people who are all too willing to tell all about their aches and pains or what wonderful thing they did. You will be the refreshing alternative to all the self absorbed people out there. You will instead focus on them and not yourself. Shocking!
Do: Remember what they said about themselves. Do ask permission to put them on your prayer list. Do remember to ask them again about that thing you have been praying about. Yes, that means you will actually pray for them specifically in private and possibly in public with them if they give permission to you. They will be shocked that you remembered and that you have been praying. They will then see how not only you care for them but how God cares for them and how He ultimately cares for them in Jesus.
One more do: remember to tell them that God loves them in Christ and show them that you love them too. Let you be the first Christian that actually embodies an authenticity and humility to know you are a sinner but you are grateful for your forgiveness in Christ.
Stop keeping the secret that you are a believer in Jesus. It might open you up to some criticism. It might be uncomfortable at times. Yet what a joy to “not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ” 2 Cor 4:5.
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
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