Sharing your faith with people who look and talk like you can be intimidating. Sharing your faith with people who are overwhelmingly different from you can seem downright impossible. Two Converge missionaries who are helping reach the nations here and abroad say that doesn’t have to be the case.
Laura* serves with a multicultural congregation in the United States, but will soon join a small, growing Converge team in a Middle Eastern country that is just 0.7 percent evangelical. She says the refugee crisis there has presented an opportune time for the gospel. Hundreds of Muslim refugees are coming to church every week. They hear the gospel and are asking spiritual questions.
Dawn* serves in Europe, where she is involved in reaching out to Muslims. Before moving there, she was involved in ministry to international students in the United States, where she connected with university students from a variety of different cultures.
Sharing is biblical
Laura points out that Christians sharing their faith with people from different backgrounds is not optional; it’s something Christ has commanded us to do. She cites Jesus' own words:
Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commands.”
Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
“We share our faith to the nations because it means Jesus is that much closer to returning, and we get to spend eternity with him,” Laura says.
As you interact with people from different cultures, Laura says, it is important to get to know them before you tell them about Jesus.
“Go and make a friend," she says. Take them out for coffee. Listen to their stories. Respond in grace, love and truth. This is a person made in the image of God.
“They may be from another culture and do things differently than you, but have fun learning those differences. As you form a relationship with them, seek to understand those differences and appreciate them.”
Wherever you are, whether across the street or around the world, it's important to get out there and practice sharing your faith. You'll be amazed at how God will use you.
Adds Dawn, “Many international students never have the opportunity to enter an American home. Even just a simple activity such as inviting them to a meal, and praying before the meal, can open up a great conversation.”
Laura witnessed another member of the Converge team in the Middle East sharing his faith with Muslim men. One thing she noticed and admired about him was his willingness to interact with these men, including playing soccer, going out to eat and traveling to the beach.
Although the missionary didn’t speak any Arabic, he didn’t let the language barrier stop him. He didn’t have many chances to share his faith verbally, but the men saw the love of Christ in him through his actions.
“These Arab Muslim guys saw this American male who did not speak their language desiring to hang out with them, love them, laugh with them and have a good time,” Laura says. “That spoke volumes.”
Obstacles to overcome
Laura experiences three main difficulties when trying to share her faith cross-culturally.
The first is language, particularly when she is in the Middle East.
“Through time, patience and much frustration, the language can be learned, no matter what language it is," Laura says. "You just have to put in the effort, and they will see that.
“The fact that you are willing to learn a language that is not your own just so you can converse with them means more to them than you will ever know.”
A second difficulty Laura faces is her lack of understanding of others’ worldviews and customs. If she is not willing to learn their customs and ways, she believes she will never be effective in sharing the gospel.
“If I come at situations from my own viewpoints and not theirs, I won’t be able to make and keep relationships, and I will only cause myself much frustration and anger,” Laura says. “We must learn to recognize cultural differences, seek to understand them and come to appreciate the God-given cultural diversity among us.”
The third obstacle Laura has to overcome is fear.
“It is normal to fear immersing ourselves in a different culture. We fear the unknown. This difficulty is often ongoing. I consistently have to submit myself in prayer to God and ask him to change my heart.
"There will never be a point where I have ‘accomplished’ ministering cross-culturally; it is a lifelong process of prayer, learning and growing.”
Like Laura, Dawn found obstacles to sharing the gospel.
"It’s important to understand the variety of misconceptions about Christians, their faith and the Bible that exist among people in many cultures," she says.
“People living in countries with a small Christian presence may have never had the opportunity to interact with a Christian. They receive information from television, the media, books and other sources, which may not reflect the true meaning of Christianity.”
Laura’s advice for sharing the gospel cross-culturally is first to pray and spend time in the Word daily.
“When you seek the Lord, he sanctifies you and shapes you more into the image of his Son,” she says. “When you begin to look more like Christ, it becomes easier and more natural for you to share your faith with others.”
She continues, “It’s important to have the right mind-set when sharing your faith with someone from a different culture.
“Remember, it's another person you’re talking to," Laura says. "It’s not a number. It’s not a box to check. It’s not a high-five you can give to your friends.
“It’s a human being who craves love and satisfaction just as you do. When we come at sharing from that perspective, it becomes less intimidating.”
There is no Christian that exists on this earth – no matter how ineloquent, reserved, uneducated, flawed or sinful – that God does not delight in using to bring his gospel to the nations.
Dawn finds it helpful to ask people from other cultures about their faith, including their views on God, the afterlife, the basis of right or wrong and what God wants from us.
“Often, people are interested in discussing these topics, and they may also allow us an entry point to share some of our worldview,” she says.
She cautions, "it is also important to remember that the terminology you use may mean something different to the person you are sharing with."
According to both Laura and Dawn, wherever you are, whether across the street or around the world, it’s important to get out there and practice sharing your faith. You’ll be amazed at how God will use you.
“There is no Christian that exists on this earth — no matter how ineloquent, no matter how reserved, no matter how uneducated, no matter how flawed, no matter how sinful — that God does not delight in using to bring his gospel to the nations,” says Laura.
*Names have been changed to protect missionaries serving in high-security zones
Michael Smith, Converge Content Specialist
Michael Smith serves as Converge’s content specialist. He has nearly two decades in the newspaper publishing industry. Michael worked as a copy editor and designer for the Tampa Tribune for more than a dozen years. He also was a member of the editorial staff of Florida Baptist Witness and other publications across the Southeast.