and ramblings on everything in between
Carl Medearis spoke at my church last year and I really enjoyed his stories of sharing Jesus to Muslims in the Middle East. He lived in Beirut, Lebanon, with his family for many years, and when others asked why he was in Beirut he would respond that he had heard Jesus was in Beirut so he followed Him there. I thought it funny, and liberating, how casually he could tell people this. He doesn’t like to refer to himself as a “missionary” or his work as “evangelizing.” Both words have negative connotations with a lot of people in the world, so he avoids them all together. He simply presents himself as a guy who loves Jesus and follows Him wherever He leads.
In his book Speaking of Jesus, Carl shares his opinion on why we need to let Christianity go and embrace Jesus instead. The great commission is to tell others about Jesus, who He is, what He did, and how He loves, and if you’re anything like me, this is sometimes (i.e. almost always) where I fall flat on my face. I stumble, I nervously chatter, I shut down. But I think one of the biggest take aways I found from reading this book was that maybe I’m focusing on the wrong parts when I try to share my faith. As Carl puts it,
“Because we’re ‘Christians,’ we unfortunately feel we have to own up to Christendom. We believe that we are responsible for the entire history of Christian faith and that it’s our job to explain everything…What’s so discouraging about sharing your faith is that you tend to come away from it less sure than you went in.”
A large part of the book is a reminder that above all, we are called to love others if we are truly someone who loves Jesus and is actively following Him. We need to remember that our peers, loved ones, and friends are largely a group of “people who need to belong before [they] can believe,” and if we go about sharing our faith in a way that makes others think that they’re on the outside and we’re on the inside, then we’re missing the point. Deep down, I think everyone wants and needs to be loved. One of the reasons Jesus came to Earth was to show everyone that they are loved more than they can fathom. If we let “Christian” ideas cause us to treat someone with anything other than love, then we’re not really sharing Jesus with them.
“God didn’t put Carl Medearis in charge of deciding who stays and who goes [to Heaven]. That’s Jesus’ job, and He can keep it.
My job – no joy comes from sharing the good news of Jesus with people. I point to Him, and He does all the heavy thinking. I don’t have to convince anybody of anything.
I let Jesus run His kingdom.”
Instead of responding yes to the question, “Are you a Christian?” or “Are you a missionary?,” Carl has come up with the simple, yet complex, statement of, “We are people trying to follow Jesus.” Saying you’re a Christian is a vague statement. Carl reveals multiple times in his book that people tend to respond negatively to the word “Christianity” but time and time again respond positively to the word “Jesus.” People generally agree that He was a good guy. They might not consider what His life and death really means for them, but they accept that He spent His time here on Earth doing nice things.
“If you don’t feel like you have to evangelize someone away from their team and onto yours, you can speak of Jesus much more freely, and thus, more effectively.”
Once we change our idea from getting people to become Christians to helping people realize who Jesus is, then perhaps speaking of our faith will become easier and more enjoyable. I think I shut down when opportunities arise because I don’t want to look like a fool when I am asked a question that I don’t know the answer to. This book helped me to realize that I don’t have to have the right answer because I’m not the one that’s changing people’s hearts. I’m just a girl who should go out and show others how my own heart is continuously being changed by Jesus. He’ll take care of the rest.
Carl goes on to say, “You’re not responsible to sell [Jesus] to them. You’re simply saying what you’ve seen. You’re not the judge. You’re the witness.” I hope I can take this to heart and quit feeling like I need to sell Christianity, when all I need to do is be a witness for what I’ve seen Jesus accomplish in my own life.
The changes I’ve made in my life didn’t stem from me going to church or reading the Bible or serving in a ministry. They came from realizing how much Jesus loves me. And that’s all I need to tell people. It’s as simple as that.
Bottom line: “Be nice and talk about Jesus all the time.” Carl Medearis