There is a distinction between sharing Christ over sharing Christianity. An effective gospel message needs to move beyond our story.
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7)
When was the last time you told someone that you were a Christian? Can you remember the context?
Perhaps it was with someone else that you knew, or at least perceived to also be a follower of Christ. Or perhaps it was by way of explanation for a good deed you performed.
Have you ever attempted to share the gospel by telling people you were a Christian?
While that can be a natural introduction to the conversation, we should be intentional in how we do so. There is a distinction between sharing Christ over sharing Christianity. Let’s explore that for a minute.
The Difference in Sharing Christ Over Sharing Christianity
The difference in sharing Christ over sharing Christianity comes down to the level of personal risk between the two.
Telling someone you are a Christian can be personally risky. We should expect encounters where we will be argued with, made fun of, or ostracized. However, this reaction shouldn’t surprise us when it happens. Christ told us to expect rejection for His sake (John 15:18-21).
When we share Christ and why it was necessary for Him to come to earth and die, the risk is increased. Because if we’re going to tell the whole story, then we also have to explain that every single one of us are born with a sin nature, sinners who stand condemned (Romans 6:23).
Do you see the difference? When we share our Christianity, we may irritate someone, even make them angry. But to share the message that Christ came to die for them because they are sinners with no hope outside of Christ is offensive to a non-believer. Someone who doesn’t follow Christ, even unintentionally, probably feels some agency over their future. Or at least, believes they have accepted their future on their terms.
When we share our Christianity, even if someone doesn’t like it, they can still see it as our “problem”. When we share Christ, we are putting the other person to a decision. They have to either admit Christ must be heard or come up with a reason why Christ’s divinity and sacrifice doesn’t impact them.
This puts many people out of their comfort zone of personal acceptance. To be told there is a standard outside of themselves encumbers their safely established personal choices. The Bible tells us that people lean towards “being right in their own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2).
The Power in Sharing Christ Instead of Sharing Christianity
Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not being critical of someone who shares their Christian identity. Especially if you are doing it as a lead-in to share Christ with someone else. My intent is to encourage you to be emboldened to move towards the greater risk of sharing Christ Himself.
It’s true there can be value in sharing your own story, but much like today’s passage says, the true power in sharing Christ comes from God, not from ourselves. Sharing the reason for our hope in Jesus Christ is the “great power” of the gospel message.
Should we expect our stories will help someone overcome their objections to setting aside their own way, to take up their cross and follow Christ in absolute surrender?
Of course, it will invite stronger negative reactions from those who reject Christ. This might be why it feels easier to keep it on ourselves when it comes to sharing Christ or sharing Christianity.
Again – this is meant as an encouragement. You are not sinning or failing Christ if you are sharing your Christianity. But there is even more power in sharing Christ. If you are going to lead with your personal testimony, I encourage you to connect it fully to the full gospel of Christ.
Yes, you risk more rejection. Better to be rejected for Christ’s sake and ensure others understand the gospel, rather than to your story. Being accepted by Christ starts with our repentance; our testimony comes as a by-product of our repentance.
How to Share Christ Instead of Christianity
So if we choose sharing Christ over sharing our Christianity, how do we do that?
I don’t think there’s any one formula for how you put yourself in a position to share Christ. Some are called to be evangelists. There are some people who will become missionaries, sometimes going to faraway and even dangerous places, for the express purpose of sharing the gospel.
There are also those who are willing to go to some public space and speak on the need for Jesus Christ, inviting criticism and harassment just to reach that one person who will listen.
Both of those cases, God bless them, are in the minority. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t all missionaries of a sort. For most of the rest of us, I would like to suggest two avenues to share Christ’s hope of salvation with others.
Sharing Christ in Personal Relationships
Whether it be friends, family, co-workers, people we share hobbies with, or others, we have great potential to be heard by those who already care for us and respect us.
As it comes to our relationships, we want to be careful that we aren’t entering into them with the ulterior motive to share Christ with that person. If we have reasons for forming a relationship, no matter how altruistic, it is disingenuous and will actually damage our witness. However, if we have taken the time to get to know and learn to care for another human being, it stands to reason we would be very interested in their eternal destiny.
But talk about upping the personal risk! Christ warned us that faith in Him would cost some of His followers even their closest family members (Luke 14:25-26). Yet if we truly love them, it is worth the risk.
As one with a personality that just wants everyone to get along, these words are hitting me at least as hard as they may be hitting you.
Sharing Christ by Loving Our Neighbor
Sharing Christ through loving acts is just as sacrificial as risking our personal relationships for the cause of Christ. However, the sacrifice looks a little different.
Because when we help our neighbor, meet their needs, comfort them in times of heartache or failure, we are putting their needs over our own. We are taking on the role of a servant, just like Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.
When we love our neighbors, we are addressing one of the two greatest commandments Jesus shared with us. So we are already called to do this. Our first motive should be obedience to Christ.
At the same time, we can be up front with why we are doing what we are doing. Make sure that people know the reason for your kindness is not your own merit, but because of your devotion to Jesus Christ.
If claiming to be a Christian is how you approach conversations of faith, that’s highly preferable over not talking about your faith at all. But I hope you now see the value in taking it a step further, to sharing Christ over sharing Christianity.
More verses about sharing Christ over sharing Christianity:
Matthew 5:14-15; Romans 1:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Galatians 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 3:17