If you are like me, the very mention of this subject brings you a bit of internal fear. As I have spoken with people about sharing their faith with others over the years, a usual set of anxieties invariably comes to the fore: "What if I get it wrong?" "What if I do not say the right thing?", "What if an argument ensues?" and most of all, "What if I don't know the Bible all that well?" But what I have discovered, after three New Church Developments, a stint as a College Pastor, and 15 years of ministry, is that the exact facts of the faith are less important than the conviction and the passion of the faith sharer. And that, in the end:
It's OK To Get It Wrong
One of the most compelling faith sharing stories from he Bible is the story of Stephen's sermon before the Sanhedrin. Don't worry if you don't know it, or don't remember it. Stephen, one of the first Deacons of the faith, is standing before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and being asked to defend himself and his faith. It's a beautiful speech and testimony (Perhaps one of the most beautiful ever given). But it isn't perfect. Actually most scholars think that Stephen probably made a few Biblical errors in his attempt to share his faith.
Not to beat up Stephen, since that is the opposite purpose of this blogpost, and since poor Stephen was already beaten up to the point of death by those who listened to him, but these may be a few of Stephen's Biblical errors. Stephen says that, "After the death of Abraham's father, God sent him to the land where you are now living" (Acts 7:4). But Genesis 11:26 seems to say that Terach (Abraham's father) was 70 when Abraham was born, and Genesis 12:4 says that Abraham was 75 when he left Charan. This computes to Terach being 145 years old. But Genesis 11:32 says that Terach died at 205, sixty years later. Perhaps Stephen made a mistake...
Another possible mistake is where Stephen says, "After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy five in all" (Acts 7:14). The Old Testament text from Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, however, says that there were not 75 but 70 in all of Jacob's family. Again, did Stephen make a mistake?
What's quite incredible is that even though Stephen may have made some Biblical mistakes (although some scholars are in dispute about this), in the sharing of his faith, God still used it for great purposes. Stephen's testimony has stood as a bedrock of faith for centuries of Christ followers and the Bible says that after his sermon, "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56)
It's OK To Get It Wrong
Not too long ago, I was offering a sermon when I made a mistake of my own. I said that James, the author of the book of James in the Bible, was one of Jesus' disciples. This, of course, is a mistake. There were two James' who were disciples of Jesus (James of Zebedee, and James the Alphaeus) and neither one of them wrote the book of James. James, most scholars think, was written by James the brother of Jesus and later a leader of the Jerusalem church. Incredibly, God used my sermon for good even though I made a mistake. After the sermon, a woman came up to me and said that she wanted to make a renewed commitment to Jesus Christ and her faith.
It's OK to Get It Wrong
Of course it is optimal to try to get all of your facts correct when sharing your faith. It's just that none of us is perfect and God can use all things to His glory. So, don't be deterred. Share your faith with someone who doesn't know who God is. God cares way more about lost people than about precision of Biblical detail. And if you make a mistake, remember, you will be in good company:-)
All For Now,