– Henry Neufeld
1Again he began to teach beside the sea, and a substantial crowd gathered around him, so that he got into a boat that was in the sea, and all the people were on the land by the sea. 2And he taught them in many parables, and here’s what he said as he taught them: . . .Â — Mark 4:1-2
In churches today one of the key problems people have in sharing their faith is getting an opening to talk about it.Â Jesus didn’t seem to have that problem.Â He would appear and people would crowd around him to hear what he said.
In our passage today he simply stops by the sea, and enough people gather around him that he needs to get into a boat and teach from there, with the crowd gathered around the sea shore.
I could say many things about why it would be that people would crowd around to listen to Jesus.Â He engaged their attention.Â He healed people.Â He challenged them.Â He was a light in a very difficult time and place, especially when teaching in Galilee.
But there was something about Jesus that can be imitated by every Christian who wants to share his or her faith.Â Jesus was how he was.Â He was genuine.
I’m going to make a few suggestions.Â Please don’t use these to simulate being a Christian witness.Â Making an â€œevangelismâ€ face may allow you to talk about your faith, but unless your face is genuine, and presents the real you, you’re lying.Â People are interested in the genuine.
But for those folks who have allowed society to steal a part of them, because â€œwe just don’t talk about religionâ€ or â€œyou don’t want to be too pushy,â€ or â€œyou don’t know enough to talk about Christianity,â€ I do have some suggestions.
1.Â Â Â Â It’s not about being pushy.Â You don’t want to be pushy.Â When you push people, you push them away more often than not.Â Your faith should have the same place in your conversation that it does in your life.Â For most things, this is easy.Â I have no problem keeping my baseball talk normal.Â My stepson is a pitcher, and I like to watch his games and talk about them, so you can expect me to bring them up in conversation.Â If you’re not interested in baseball, I’ll back off.Â But we’ve been told by one group of people that we shouldn’t talk about our faith at all, and by another group we’ve been told to push it.Â Give your faith the same place in your conversation as you do in your life.
2.Â Â Â Â Allow your life to talk.Â Behave like a follower of Jesus, and people will want to know why you are like you are.
3.Â Â Â Â Stick with your experience and your testimony.Â My experience and testimony includes a good deal of theology, Greek, Hebrew, history and such things.Â Thus my conversation about my faith will include those topics.Â For most people, those are not topics that are central to your life. If your faith consists of â€œI love Jesus!â€ and not much theology, don’t push beyond your knowledge and experience when sharing.
4.Â Â Â Â Be alert for the call and opportunity to learn more and to deepen your faith.Â Your experience may be â€œI love Jesusâ€ now, but you may want to add some more knowledge as well.Â Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
5.Â Â Â Â Make it all genuine.Â Don’t share your faith because you have to get someone to go to church, or you feel compelled to lead them to Christ.Â Share your faith because it is your faith, and it’s important to you.
6.Â Â Â Â Be aware of the person you’re talking to.Â Communication involves two people.Â How much you talk about your faith to a particular person depends on how important it is to you, but also on how interesting it is to them.
In Mark 4, Jesus goes on to talk about planting seed.Â I’d suggest reading the parable and stopping at verse 9.Â Don’t go forward to read the explanation that Jesus gave (verse 13ff).Â Just think of all the applications and lessons that might be possible from this little parable.Â Make a list.Â Experience this parable as the disciples did, with a time for reflection and questioning after they heard the parable but before Jesus applied it.