Salespeople scare me. I usually avert my eyes when they’re lurking near. I figure if our eyes don’t meet they can’t guilt me into buying something I don’t need. Car salespeople are the scariest. The “I’m just browsing” response doesn’t seem to persuade them to leave me alone.
I’ve noticed people using the same eye-contact-avoidance tactic when the God topic comes up in conversation. They can tell when we’re just trying to make a sale. Having been marketed into a comatose sales stupor they just can’t stand one more pitch. Their brains tune it out.
We know that salvation is free of charge and it’s not like we get a cut from every “sale” we make, but, if we’re honest, we are rewarded for making the pitch. The kids who compete for top magazine sales don’t get paid for their efforts, but the winner wins a prize––a pony in my day, today it’s more like a video game console or an iPhone. OK, so we don’t get a Playstation 4 for witnessing, but at least in the back of our minds we consider the admiration of our peers and an at-a-boy (or girl) from the Father. Aside from what this says about our relative spiritual maturity, our “customers” can detect motives as subtle as these and want no part of what we’re “selling.” While we may not ever be entirely rid of such ulterior motives, lest our witness is rejected off-hand, we should daily submit to the Spirit’s test for pretense.
“You received without paying, now give without being paid.” Matthew 10:8
Instead of Gospel salesmen and saleswomen we might better think of ourselves as spiritual “Tour Guides.” We’re not selling anything for personal gain but showing people something we’ve found and telling them where we found it––for free! My favorite tour guides are the ones who introduce me to fascinating places and invite me into their fascination with them. They’ve seen it and given their spiel hundreds of times, but the allure hasn’t waned and their joy in sharing remains infectious. The guide that’s still enamored with the place is worth every penny.
If that image doesn’t do it for you, think of us as “Matchmakers” for Jesus. He’s the perfect match for, well, everyone, so why not try to get them together? He’s ready and anxious to be joined in holy matrimony with whoever accepts his proposal. Our job is to introduce them and leave the rest to love.
I hope you’ll tolerate one more silly metaphor. I figure maybe at least one of these will strike a chord . . .
Think of sharing Christ as a matter of “Show and Tell.” Your assignment was to show them something and tell them about it. Remember bringing your puppy named “Fluffy” to class in elementary school? You held her, or him, as the case may be (though naming a male dog Fluffy would be cruel and unusual punishment. Kids can be cruel.) Anyway, you held her in your arms and told the class about how she slept in your bed with you, what she liked to eat, and how un-housebroken she was even after six weeks. (You warned them of the proof of it she left in the hallway.)
Showing and sharing, that’s what we do. We demonstrate Jesus by the way we live and explain why we live that way as best we can. Though they’re inextricably linked, a lot of us are stronger on the sharing part than on the showing. We try to get away with telling about Fluffy without bringing her to class. But it’s not “Show OR Tell.” If it doesn’t show, we shouldn’t tell! No wonder they’re bored with our telling. There’s no puppy!
By the way, the showing part, as I said, has to do with the way we conduct ourselves, not in elaborate and professional presentations in our churches. It’s not wrong to use groovy music, impressive worship centers, and NFL star testimonies to get the message across. It’s just not enough. The kind of showing I’m talking about is the kind Jesus told us to do: “They will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5)
On the other hand, as essential as it is to show, we also have to tell it. We can’t get away with standing there in front of the class holding the puppy. They need to hear about the way she jerks while sleeping, how she hates being bathed, and hasn’t yet learned how to fetch.
It’s not either/or. It’s both. Live a good testimony and give a good testimony!
“We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians 5 (The Message)