Once again in our conversation about noise, the things that interfere and distract us from out vibrant relationship with Christ as followers, we address noise that comes from within. This time the noise is the sound of our own minds and hearts that convinces us to be afraid.
For Christians, fear comes in many forms. Some of us are afraid of making truly meaningful Christian friendships because we are sure that people, no matter how much they love Jesus are destined to hurt us. Some of us are afraid to worship in one particular style or another. I don't believe that this fear is actually about style as much as it is an expression of fear of true intimacy with God: either emotional closeness, or intellectual closeness, or even physical expressions that cause us discomfort. Maybe we fear praying aloud (or people's response to us doing it). Maybe we fear reading the Bible and studying because we don't feel like we're good students or because we think it takes some special skill to rightly interpret the Bible. But I think the noisy fear that grips most American Christians is the fear of sharing our faith with someone and/or inviting someone to respond to Christ's invitation to newness of life.
I know that I have had certain fears about it over my Christian experience. I have feared that I would do it wrong. I have feared that I was too wrong to do it. I have feared that it was the wrong time for someone. I have feared that I would be judged through the filter of the bad press Christianity sometimes gets. I have feared that if they rejected my invitation they would also reject me. I have feared that if I shared my faith in some circumstance that was deemed inappropriate, somehow my life would be completely derailed some official administrative committee somewhere.
I don't think that many of us would argue that it's not part of our Christian faith to be witnesses for Christ. In fact, most of us feel an obligation or responsibility to share our faith as part of our Christianity. However, our fear has become a louder noise in our head than our faith. In fact the noisy fear in our head has become more authoritative in our lives than the Biblical injunctions to be witnesses.
In the book of Joshua God warns his people against fear and instructs us to be bold and courageous. Now is the time for courage when it comes to Christians sharing their faith.
I recently read a statistic that listed the US as the third most "unreached" nation in the world. Whereas once the US was the leader in missionary sending, it is not quickly reaching the top of the list of missionary destinations for the rest of the world's Christians. And as far as I am concerned the real tragedy is this: the US is already full of missionaries. Every Christian here is a witness and a missionary. Unfortunately we are not bold or courageous. We are fearful and quiet.
Here is the good news. The Barna institute recently released a study that showed a few encouraging signs for American Christian missionaries (all of us who follow Christ). First, less than 1% of Americans think of Christians as offensive in their witness. That means that our perception of resistance to the gospel because of negative previous experience or pre-existing negative perceptions is inaccurate. Almost no Americans expect a negative experience in the witness of a Christian. Second, more that 1/4 of non-Christian Americans think that Christians have a positive effect on our country.
Perhaps it is time to take on our fear and silence the noise that keeps us silent. Perhaps its time to fulfill our missionary calling. Yes, we all have one. It's known as the great commission. Missionaries are not a subgroup of Christians who travel far and wide to establish foreign works. Every Christian IS a missionary right where we are. Some of us are just inactive in our calling.
Pray for your neighborhood. Commit to walking around your neighborhood 2x/month and just praying silently as you walk. Commit to make a friendship with someone in your neighborhood who is not an active Christian. And commit to look for an opportunity in that new friendship to share why you follow Christ actively.
Don't be afraid any longer.