Uncomfortable Faith Conversations

Episcopalians are great at a lot of things—throwing a party, organizing a meeting, worshipping together despite theological differences (usually).  But one thing we Episcopalians tend to not do terribly well is talking to people about our faith.  But our reticence to talk about our faith stems from good intentions.  We don’t want to be pushy or preachy.  We don’t want people to feel uncomfortable.   We don’t want to come off as door-to-door salesmen trying to sell someone on our faith.  And so we think it’s safer to just not bring up faith in any of our conversations, unless it’s with family or a few really close friends.  And we’re certainly justified in these concerns.  You’d be pretty hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t had an encounter with an overzealous Christian evangelist that just couldn’t seem to take “I’m not interested” for an answer.  We don’t want to come off as one of “those” people.

Yet there is a downside to our conscientious avoidance of faith talk.  We’re so often worried about making people uncomfortable that we forget there are a lot of people who would appreciate someone sharing their faith stories.  Every single one of us came to the faith because someone was willing to introduce us to it.  For most of us that person was a parent or maybe another close relative or friend.  But there are people in our community were not introduced to any faith traditions while growing up or who have not yet found one that they feel comfortable with.  And these people likely won’t find one unless there are others who are willing to talk about faith.

It can be difficult to discuss something as personal as faith with others.  But even if we were to put aside Christ’s commandments to help spread the Gospel—If our faith is important to us, if we believe our faith has value, it’s only right that we try to share it so that others may benefit from it as well.  That doesn’t mean we have to knock door-to-door asking people if they have found Jesus, or that we have to staunchly defend our faith against anyone who believes otherwise.  But it may mean we need to be willing to talk about the fact that we are Episcopalian, and be willing to explain to others  why we are Episcopalian.  It may mean we have to be willing to tell someone who is struggling with finding a denomination about ours.  As I mentioned in a recent sermon, the church universal is currently shrinking.  But there are areas where it is actually growing.  Yet it’s hard for something to grow if there aren’t people willing to help it grow.

If we have the chance to share our faith and we do it, the worst case scenario is probably that the person will look at us funny and tell us they’re not interested in hearing us out.  If we have the chance to share our faith and we don’t do it, the worst case scenario may be that that person never comes to the faith.  Are we willing to risk being uncomfortable, even over and over again, if it means that we may bring even one person to the faith?  Let’s start having these conversations.

I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.   –Philemon 1:6

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