Have you been watching the debates? These are some of the most intriguing I remember. In the first debate, Romney grabbed Obama by the neck, jerked him out of his shoes, put him on a stick and mopped the floor with him for about 90 minutes. Obama admitted as much. In the VP debate, Joe Biden spent most of the time smirking, laughing, and patronizing his younger opponent, Paul Ryan. Most considered that debate a draw. In debate #3, the President came out swinging and scored his share of points in a town hall format that looked almost like a WWF Grudge Match without the cage. They invaded one another’s space and each delivered verbal body blows and head shots. It reminded me of the old hockey joke: “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.” A debate broke out in the town hall meeting, but it felt more like a fight. It appears to me that Obama and Romney just don’t like one another, maybe even hate each other. No matter which candidate is your man, it’s been interesting.
And as I was driving home for lunch, thinking about tonight’s debate, wondering what might unfold in this third and final rematch, an idea came to mind. I got to thinking about presidential debates and sharing Christ. My mind raced back to the mid-70s when Evangelist Bob Harrington (“the Chaplain of Bourbon Street”) debated famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair about the Christian faith on the University of Arkansas campus. It struck me then that sharing Christian faith is not really designed for debate. Sharing Christ is not about making points; it’s not about winners and losers. It’s not about playing to the crowd either.
So with all that in mind, what can we learn from these debates about sharing Christ? It’s kind of a mixed bag of dos and don’ts. What do you think of these observations?
1) Be prepared. Peter encouraged us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet 3:15). Know who and what you believe, and be ready to share it when asked. This doesn’t mean you have to have every answer to every question, but at least be ready to share who Christ is and what Christ has done for us all.
2) Value the person with whom you’re sharing—not just in flattering word either, but in heart and in deed. Not only will this open ears, it will communicate in non-verbal ways the love of which you speak.
3) Sharing Christ is not a “talking point” dump. Sooner or later all of these debates descend into talking point blather that the candidates’ surrogates have been spewing every chance they get. Sharing Christ involves the sharing of information, but don’t just back up the truck and dump the whole load on person. Maybe that person is ready for just a piece right now. Trust the Holy Spirit with that. Be content with that.
4) Answer the question you’re asked, not the question you wish had been asked. Have you noticed that no matter whether a moderator or Jane Q. Public asks the question, the candidates essentially answer whatever question they want to answer? They just want to push their own agenda on the questioner. In sharing Christ, don’t you think it’s best if we limit our answers to the questions that are raised? That way the discussion stays more focused and more other-centered than self-centered. It makes our sharing Christ an act of service.
5) Don’t interrupt to make your points. That says, “I’m not listening.” That says, “What you have to say is not as important as what I want to say.” Interrupting is rude in any conversation, and all the more rude when we represent our Lord Jesus.
6) Don’t patronize the person with whom you’re sharing. Does it advance the love of Jesus to treat people as if they are unimportant, uninformed, or less important than oneself? Does talking down to someone open their ears to the Gospel?
I don’t share these ideas as a means of being overly critical if you share your faith in a more aggressive fashion. Evangelist D. L. Moody once said to a harsh critic of his evangelism methods, “I may not always get it right, but I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.” Touché! If you’re a faithful witness for Jesus, more power to you.
But these things I’ve learned about sharing Christ from these presidential debates just seems like common sense to me. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10). Let’s join him in that journey. And let’s do it in such a way that when we tell a person Jesus loves them, they will find it easier to believe because they experience His love through us.