How Do I Share My Faith?

Brandon Clements  and Dustin Willis
header for How Do I Share My Faith?

The end goal of hospitality is not that you simply host people in your home as much as you use your home as a place to display and speak the gospel. Paul, who repeatedly pointed us to the practice of hospitality[1] also boldly proclaimed his desire to be valiant about the good news of the gospel: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Clearly the aim of hospitality is more than merely inviting someone into our home, sharing a good meal and a few stories, and calling it a night. We are missionaries, after all. Paul reminded us, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). And pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian . . . is either a missionary or an imposter.”

Our mission, as ambassadors of Christ, is to share the good news of Jesus’ work through His life, death, burial, and resurrection. This is the true hope for the world. As a result, we can’t keep from speaking the gospel to those we love—or at least we should not be able to.

The Good News Is Motivating

I (Dustin) remember vividly the weeks following my conversion when I could not help but talk about Jesus. I was young but bold, and the change in me was real. I had a new heart and I could not help but tell those around me about it. Everyone who knows Jesus has a story of how He rescued us—how He helped us see our folly and need for Him and brought us to Himself.

As a Christian, you were dead and were made alive—and will live forever. You believed and confessed and, as a result, you are saved. Our salvation is the fuel that fans the flames of a hospitable lifestyle.

As a Christian, you were dead and were made alive—and will live forever.”

God has changed your life, and you long for others to experience that same transformation. You know that if they believe and confess then they, too, can come to know Christ’s goodness, satisfaction, and eternal love. Think about that for a moment—the coworker who gets under your skin, the neighbor whose dog won’t stop barking, or the stranger you meet at the bus stop—these people can be saved and enjoy an eternity of God’s hospitality, all because of the work Jesus has done. And you can be part of helping that to happen.

The Good News Is Hope, Not Advice

The world’s overwhelming answer to hurt or pain or sorrow or disappointment is “do better, try harder, be good, stop making bad choices . . .” and the list of advice goes on and on. Dr. Phil and Oprah have made a fortune off these concepts alone. We can safely assume that these are the voices that shape the worldview of those who will be sitting around our tables. They understand life in these terms and deal with their failures by following these principles.

Thankfully you understand this worldview. Apart from God’s grace, you likely also lived according to these mantras and false hopes. In reality you have much in common with your neighbors and those you rub shoulders with daily, because at the core we are all sinners in need of Jesus. If you see your neighbors and friends in this light, you will be motivated to share the life-changing hope of the gospel.

That is because the gospel is altogether different from the views of most. The gospel is not advice for how to live, but rather an announcement of good news. And this perfect One died to pay the price our sin deserved and offers us a relationship with the true and living God. This is the hope we have the opportunity to share with our friends, neighbors, and coworkers—and it’s much better news than the pressure-filled mantras they are used to turning to. The gospel has the opposite effect from the white-knuckling, behavior-modification-focused advice— because the gospel states that the perfect behavior of Jesus is what saves us, not our own efforts. What a freeing, revolutionary concept grace is!

What a freeing, revolutionary concept grace is!”

Yes, as you take the bold step of speaking the good news, you may feel nervous and reluctant for fear that you will be rejected, but understand that the gospel you have is so attractive to the hurting who live right next door to you. It is the good news their souls long for deep down, even if they resist it. The more you share this good news, the more you will discern how hungry people actually are for it. People are way more eager to hear about God’s grace than we are to speak of it.

How to Make the Most Impact

We encourage you to speak the truth of the gospel any and every chance you get. As you do so, we also encourage you to share with grace and understanding. So we have a few tips and insights that will help you share more successfully.

Avoid the Bait-and-Switch Approach

Everyone hates this. Someone asks to drop by because he hasn’t seen you in a while. You anticipate a casual conversation with an old buddy. After a few minutes of polite banter, he abruptly changes the conversation: “What I really wanted to tell you is that I’ve started a job selling dinner knives. I’d love to show you the sheer magnificence and cutting power of this bad boy.” No!

Not only do you not want to see the knife, but you feel manipulated. Your buddy fed you a line to get in the door, knowing full well that all he wanted to do was hawk his product. Wouldn’t it be better if he were just up-front with his motives in the first place?

The same is true for our efforts at biblical hospitality. The first time you have a new friend into your home, it’s rarely wise to declare, “Well, new friend, you know the real reason we had you guys over is so that I could tell you a few things about God.” This type of backdoor approach feels as manipulative to your neighbors as the knife salesman feels to you. Not only that, but you may lose any later chance to winsomely speak of the gospel.

Avoid Forced Presentations

Not all gospel presentations are bad, so we aren’t suggesting that you not go that route. Keep in mind, however, that using these presentations over a meal rarely feels natural or authentic.

If after thirty minutes of post-dinner conversation you break out your gospel tract, your actions may have the same effect as the bait-and-switch approach, except now you appear like the marketer of a chain of time-shares at the beach. “You have to listen to my presentation if you want dessert, buddy. We’re not letting you out of this house to enjoy your night unless you grin and bear it.”

Hospitality is not a new program or the latest evangelism kit, but an ancient practice and a way of life. There is no need to overcomplicate this idea or force it into a preprogrammed package. As author David Platt wrote in Radical:

If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations. . . . But Jesus is so different from us. With the task of taking the gospel to the world, he wandered through the streets and byways. . . . All he wanted was a few men who would think as he did, love as he did, see as he did, teach as he did, and serve as he did. All he needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.

Learn how to speak the gospel naturally in the overall flow of relationship, and your friends and neighbors are much more likely to listen attentively. If they can tell that you love them and believe what you are saying, you’ve gained credibility and gotten their interest.

Consider the “I Have Good News for You” Test

If you really believe that the gospel is good news, it will show in your life and will be applicable to the real struggles your friends and neighbors mention. Internalize the gospel in such a way that you work its truths into all types of conversations. One quick tool is to check and see if the statements you say still work if you put the words I have good news for you in front of them.

For example, if you know a neighbor is dealing with loneliness, does it work to say, “I have good news for you: you really need to get better at making friends if you feel so lonely”? No, of course not. However, does it work if you say, “I have good news for you: I hate that you feel lonely, and I think God hates that too. Maybe part of the reason we met is because He loves you and wants you to have a new friend”? Yep, that’s good news. That’s a way to insert gospel truth into conversations naturally, without a forced or awkward presentation.

Our neighbors have great intuition—they know when they are being used.”

One more: if you have a coworker over for dinner, and he mentions that his marriage is in a rocky place, does it work for you to say, “I have good news for you: if you weren’t a heathen sinner, your marriage probably wouldn’t be this bad”? Nope. Not good news for him. However, if you were to respond, “I have good news for you: I believe God created marriage to teach us how much He loves us, and that even when it’s hard, we can find beauty in His design. I’d love to talk with you more about that and help in whatever way I can”? Yep, that passes the test!

Learning how to speak of the gospel naturally and apply it as good news to people’s real issues may take work. But over time you are likely to be surprised at how well you do.

Avoid Lovelessness

Obviously, we know that people are not objects for us to use so we feel better about ourselves or to prove that we’ve been obedient for once. Our neighbors have great intuition—they know when they are being used. If we rush through a conversation to get to a point we are trying to make, people will know that we don’t really care about them.

Our friend Matt, who is a pastor, recently told us a story about avoiding lovelessness:

One Sunday I was preaching on evangelism, and in the course of the message, I shared a story about my attempts to love a neighbor whom God had placed on my heart. I emphasized how little I had in common with this neighbor, making a couple jokes about how challenging it was for me to find points of commonality with him. Then I proceeded to publicly pat myself on the back by declaring that I had pushed through my fears and boldly spoken the gospel to this pagan. (I didn’t use the word pagan, but the implication was clear.) Once I finished my story I looked up, and to my horror, this neighbor was sitting in the third row. He had finally taken my invitation to come and check out our church—just in time for me to mock him and exalt myself.

We can all be guilty of this type of loveless folly. We discuss our unsaved friends as though they are targets. We tell stories about them to flaunt our obedience. We share prayer requests designed to make them look bad so that others will be impressed that we’d invite someone like that into our homes. In so doing, we epitomize Paul’s principle that without love we are merely a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1). Who wants to have dinner with someone like that? The aim of hospitality is to forge relationships strong enough to bear the weight of truth, but our relationships will never get to that point if we do not offer genuine love.

Getting to the Gospel

Assuming you’ve avoided the aforementioned land mines, let’s move on to how you shape everyday normal conversations into life-giving gospel conversations.

Trust that God Goes Before You

The nature and character of God is your greatest help when practicing hospitality. You can rest assured that God goes before you. He has been preparing the hearts of those you will engage. Sure, some may reject the gospel, but that does not mean that God is not at work. You never know how your hospitality may play a role in those people being receptive to the gospel ten years from now. Whether they trust in Christ at the first meal or many years later, we can rest in God’s sovereignty, trusting that He desires—far more than we ever could—for our friends and neighbors to accept Him.

Let the truth expressed in Deuteronomy 31:8 be a grounding reality for you: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (NIV).

I (Brandon) realized this about my neighbor Stuart, which I shared in chapter 1. When he said, “I thought maybe God sent you to talk to me that day,” it became very clear that God is at work ahead of us. We can join God in what He’s already doing, and we can experience a lot of freedom and confidence in that.

Listen Carefully

We do have incredible news to share with the world, but it is essential to listen to and learn from the people we seek to love. The reality is that everyone knows that life is broken and they need some source of salvation to make their lives right and whole. They might find their hope in sports, money, marriage, pleasure, or any host of pseudo-gods. But we can rest assured, they have something. The key is to listen for these false sources of hope.

We do have incredible news to share with the world, but it is essential to listen to and learn from the people we seek to love.”

These modern-day idols are merely the pursuits to fix the brokenness that all of humanity feel and experience. Be attentive to the places of pain that exist in their lives. Jesus is in the business of healing, so find their wounds, care for them, and watch Jesus cure their souls. Listen when they share the things that bring them joy. Listen when they talk about what they hope for the future. When people allude to these aspects, ask more questions and seek greater clarity. These types of conversational markers are like big rocks in a muddy river. Kick them over and you never know what you might find.

As you simply listen well, you practice Christ’s compassion. The world is full of people who halfway listen to others just so they can take their turn talking next. When we forsake this shallow self-interest and focus on truly hearing and understanding others, we model the truth that God sees us, hears us, and knows our troubles. Loving and following a compassionate God will produce compassion in us for those we encounter.

Ask Good Questions

Good questions aid you in understanding your neighbor’s heart. We’ve probably all been in conversations with someone when it was clear that they were not really listening to what we were saying. At a break in the conversation, when it would make sense for them to ask you a question, they ask the most random, off-the-wall, unrelated question you’ve ever heard. Conversation over!

Or perhaps you’ve met the person who has the unique ability to kill every conversation by asking questions that go nowhere:

“So you’ve been married five months?”
“Yes.” . . .

Instead consider arming yourself with simple questions that foster further conversation. Before Renie and I (Dustin) were having people over to dinner for the first time, no lie, I sat with my journal and wrote question after question to ask them, and then went over those questions again and again.

That night went well, and I only had to resort to a couple questions before we found some common ground. The questions got everything going and worked well as a starting point.

The point is, doing hospitality well and asking strong questions that lead the conversation takes time and practice, but it’s worth the effort because it offers them the opportunity to share something they might not normally would have.

Make sure, though, you ask open-ended questions, because nothing is more frustrating than asking something that the person can simply give a yes or no response to. You have to train yourself at asking these types of questions until it becomes a natural rhythm. They can be as simple as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or, “That’s interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way. What makes you think that?” Open-ended, leading questions drive the conversation forward, demonstrating that you are genuinely interested and listening. Try questions like:

  • How long have you lived here? What’s your experience been so far?
  • Do you have pets? Tell me about them.
  • What’s your favorite sports team? How did you begin cheering for them?
  • What’s your favorite local restaurant? How often do you get to go?
  • Do you have kids? How many? What are their personalities like?
  • What do you like about this area? What would you change?
  • Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
  • What kind of hobbies do you like?
  • What is your favorite movie? Music? TV show?
  • What do you do for work? What’s your favorite part about your job?

If you already know certain things about the people you are having over, do some quick research on what you know about them so you can ask better questions. For example, one time I (Dustin) knew that a neighbor was Wiccan, so I did a quick Google search to figure out some questions based around her beliefs—not in a demeaning way, but rather in a loving way to show that I was interested.

Tell Your Story

Hospitality presents a wonderful way to get to know other people—and what do people do when they get to know one another? They tell stories. Your neighbors will do this. They will tell you where they grew up, went to college, and met their spouse. They will likely tell you about significant details that shaped them into the man and woman they are today. Then it’s your turn.

But please, wait your turn and do not be “Captain One Up.” If they went on a trip to the Caribbean, refrain from telling them you have been to the Caribbean seventeen times in the last five years.

Let them be the focal point. Then when they turn the conversation toward you, be intentional. This is a softball pitch for you to hit out of the park. After all, the most significant part of your life is the work Jesus has done to transform you. You’ll be able to share about the person you were before you met Jesus, how He saved you, and what He is doing in your life now.

Don’t waste this opportunity by rambling about silly, nonessential things. Don’t be so scared of the bait and switch that you don’t talk about the most important thing in your life. Speak up. Tell your story. Trust God with the rest.

Talk about Jesus

We heard a story from a small group leader that illustrates a problem many Christians have. This leader found that the members of his group were super awkward when it came to talking about Jesus. They’d act as though they were at a middle-school dance every time it came up. So one night he began their meeting by saying, “On the count of three, we are all going to say Jesus’ name ten times.”

His point was clear. Jesus should not be hard for Christians to talk about. Jesus isn’t a crazy uncle we want to keep hidden at the family reunion. He’s our Savior and Lord. He’s the most important person in our lives. Because this is true, talking about Him should be second nature, like talking about our favorite sports team or band. Yes, some of your neighbors may think you’re a bit weird, but who cares? Author Russell Moore says, “As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.”

Jesus should not be hard for Christians to talk about.”

Our friends Micah and Laurie, who live out hospitality, were recently having dinner with some friends, Clark and Mallory, whom they’d initially met by throwing a block party in their neighborhood. Through more than a year of building a strong relationship, many meals, and a lot of sitting together on their deck while their kids played, Clark and Mallory eventually became part of a weekly small group that meets in the neighborhood, and they even host it at their house from time to time. Neither of them is a believer, yet through the gateway of hospitality, they are now reading the Bibles that Micah and Laurie gave them.

The group is currently discussing the book of Revelation (we do not recommend this as the first book of the Bible you bring up with the people you have over!) and talking about Jesus’ return. Mallory had no idea that Jesus was coming back one day and that those who believed in Him would experience no more pain and no more tears (Rev. 21:4). She said, “If all of this is really true and Jesus really is coming back one day, then why don’t you talk about this more?”

The interesting part is that Micah and Laurie talk about the gospel with both Clark and Mallory on an almost-weekly basis, and yet they were asking for more. That admission should speak volumes to those of us who carry this incredible news.

Our desire is not to guilt you into talking about Revelation with your friends or being the annoying Christian who wears T-shirts with odd sayings on them. We want to encourage you toward speaking boldly about Jesus through genuine love and concern for others. Most people value authenticity, so they’d rather you speak about things that you love than keep them hidden.

Additionally, some of Scripture’s primary metaphors about our spiritual need are actually those of hunger and thirst. Isaiah 55:1–3 is one such passage that poignantly describes God as the only true source of satisfaction for humanity, yet acknowledges He is the last place we look for satisfaction in our broken state.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.

God will take our feeble efforts, multiply them, and bring far greater results than we can ask or imagine.”

As you gather with people over food and drink that replenish your physical needs, you will often hear about what others think meet their spiritual needs. You’ll find out what particular things have become “that which is not bread” for them—money, control, approval, sex, power, or comfort—the things that will never truly satisfy them. This knowledge gives you a perfect opportunity to speak the truth that God not only created the desires they seek to fill, but that He alone can fill them. Gathering around food and drink is the most ideal time to talk about Jesus and ask piercing questions from the mouth of God, such as Isaiah 55:2: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Keep It Going

You are likely going to get more than one opportunity to speak to your neighbors. That’s the beauty of developing rhythms of hospitality. You are likely to see them the next day on the way to work or when they’re taking their dog for a walk. This allows you to keep the relationship, and the conversation, going. In fact, you might imagine a yearlong relationship with a friend or neighbor like one big, ongoing conversation. Each time you meet, pick up where you left off. This means you need to remember essential points in the conversation.

This may seem weird to you, but embrace it. We have a friend who uses the notes app on his phone to keep records of his conversations with neighbors. It helps him pray for them specifically as well as allows him to look back at the notes when he knows he’s likely to see them again. If they speak of pain, then you have a built-in chance to say, “Hey, I’d love to hear how things are going with that situation you mentioned last night. I prayed this morning that God would provide for your needs.”

If you are like us, you are also likely to think of things you wished you had said once the night was over. You remember a great story or think of an inroad to the gospel that you missed. Well, guess what? You’ve got another chance. Since the person is still in your life, you can simply spin back into the conversation: “You know, after you left last night, I had another thought about that thing you mentioned . . .” Just like that, you are right back in the flow of the conversation and you can keep it going time and time again.

There’s no one right way to speak about Jesus. The important thing is that you take advantage of any opportunity biblical hospitality presents. Thankfully, God will take our feeble efforts, multiply them, and bring far greater results than we can ask or imagine.

[1] For example: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13) and “Having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:10).

For Further Reading:

The Simplest Way to Change the World

by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

Deep down, every Christian wants to make a difference. But for many of us, the years come and go and we never do. The good news is: change can...

book cover for The Simplest Way to Change the World