where is your well

Where’s Your Well?

In Bible times one of the places people gathered was at the local well. Being together for this important purpose – drawing water – enabled them to achieve other purposes, like building community understandings and keeping track of those who were departing from community standards — notice that the woman in John 4 had to come to the well alone at noon, because with her background she would have been shunned if she had come when everyone else came.

Where is your well? What is the place – and maybe you have several – where you hang out with people, where you relax among friends and have come to common understandings that make you feel comfortable being together? That place can become a place where witness will naturally happen.

Look at the advantages – you have already built relationships, which is an important first step in the process of sharing faith; you already feel comfortable together; you have found common ground in certain areas that have become safe to talk about. Of course, those very advantages sometimes seem to be disadvantages. Since your togetherness has been built around one set of shared interests, it may seem awkward to suddenly throw in a new element – your faith in Christ. You may sense that this new element might make your friends feel uncomfortable. You might fear that they will start looking at you like a fanatic, perhaps shun you like the woman at the well, and thus be even less willing to consider that the love of Christ could be for people like them. You might be concerned that your message will sound hollow, since they know your faults and so they will compare your beliefs with your actual behavior. Your new life by its very nature wants to share, but perhaps you have experienced times when you saw an open door, wanted to  bring up Christ, but then experienced a blockade of some kind.

This article peels away some of these blockades by suggesting three ways to get into conversations about faith naturally, without awkwardness and manipulation. One way is through testimony.

Here I am not limiting the word testimony to the entire story of your faith life, but I am including any event in your life that has caused you to say “Thank you God!”  For example, you may have narrowly avoided a car crash, or have found some cash that you thought was missing. Your first response was one of thanks to God. These experiences can be shared with your friends without making them feel awkward, because you are not asking them to do anything.

A testimony can lead to an opportunity to share Christ, depending on what happens next in the conversation. If your friend says, “Of course, God would do something like that for you, because you go to church all the time, but stuff like that would never happen to me.” There is your opportunity to explain that you do not deserve God’s help, in fact you have let God down in many ways, but that you nevertheless know that God loves you. When your friend asks why, you can point to the proof of Christ’s death on the cross for your sin. The neat thing about a testimony is that even if your hearer says  “that was only a coincidence,” you still have presented your hearer clearly sees you as an example of someone who believes in God. That is a fact, whether or not the event was coincidence.

A second way is that your friend might bring up something in the conversation that reminds you of part of the message of salvation. You would agree with them that this point is important to you and worth talking about, and use it as the starting point for a conversation that comes around to Jesus as our savior.

For example, I was once talking to a woman who was intent on complaining about her job. Though I was praying inwardly that God would give me an opportunity to bring up faith in Christ, it seemed as though that opening was less and less likely to happen the longer the conversation went on. I can accept this, because I believe that listening to people and building solidarity with them has value in its own right, and that the opening to share Christ might come at some other time. But suddenly I realized that she had already brought up the salvation message – I didn’t even have to. She was complaining – in other words, she had brought up the fallibilities of other people. This is part of the message, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). My first step was to recognize that she had done this. My second step was to affirm that this topic was worth talking about. I did this by asking, “Why do you think people are this way?” When she had finished her long list of people’s bad characteristics, I asked, “May I tell you why I think people are this way?” She said, “Go ahead,” and I was able to share that deep down all people have turned their backs on God and are separated from Him. I said that I am one of these people. I do not deserve God’s love. Why would I talk about such an unattractive subject? Because it lays forth the problem for which Jesus is the answer. I told her that despite my sin, I know for certain that God has accepted me and will give me eternal life. When she asked how I could be so certain, that was my chance to explain about what happened on the cross.

It’s easier to notice when someone brings up part of the salvation message when you have seen how Peter and Paul talked about it in the Book of Acts. There are five chapters (2, 3, 5, 10 and 13) where we see that each time they introduced Christianity, there are four things that they never left out: they always brought up some problem that the human race has, they always showed how Jesus is the answer to that problem, including something about both who Jesus is and what he did on the cross. They always added God’s invitation to respond (Acts 2: repent and be baptized; Acts 10: believe), and they always ended with some of the blessings that God gives to those who have become his children. They knew these concepts so thoroughly that they were able to introduce them in different words each time, thus avoiding a mechanical presentation. In your conversations, you may not be able to bring up all four in a single discussion, but you have a notion for what you eventually want to say.

A third natural way to talk about faith is in response to a question. Now, it might not always sound like a religious question. If someone asks, “How can you be so calm when so many things are going wrong in your life?” you have several options. It might be true to say, ”Oh, the doctor gave me this one pill.” If you have recognized that the question is an opportunity to talk about Christ, you would not stop there, but could add that Jesus has promised, “my peace I give unto you.” Then you will want to bring up the human problem by explaining that he gives you this peace even though you do not deserve it, for you have broken his laws and deserve only his rejection. This sets the stage for you to explain that Jesus took the punishment that should have been given to you when he died on the cross.

How can you become more likely to notice when a question is actually an open door to witness? Because you have been praying regularly for that person, asking, “Lord, please open a door for me to talk about Christ with (so-and-so).” Many times a question reveals a place where someone is hurting, and Jesus is the one who came to heal those hurts.

Talking about our experiences and the reality of God in our life has great value, but it is also the entry point for talking about something of even greater value: the experiences of Jesus and the reality of God shown by His life. This message is called the Gospel – in First Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul defines Gospel as the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the same Gospel that Paul describes in Romans 1:16 as the “power of God for salvation.” When we speak Gospel, we have spoken the words that have more spiritual power than any other message we could have given. A genuine care for our friends that prompts us to really listen to them enables us to notice when doors open for sharing that Gospel.          written by Jim Found, 2008

Return to  “How to to Witness guide”