“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
A new restaurant is opening near our church. While the owners of the restaurant were doing whatever they needed to do to get it ready, there was a sign on the roof announcing the impending opening. One afternoon, my wife, Charlotte, and I were leaving church and were approaching the restaurant location. From my vantage point on the passenger’s side of my wife’s Jeep, I could only see part of the sign: “asty Subs.” Clearly, I wasn’t seeing the whole word. I wondered out loud what the partially obscured word might be: “Hasty Subs?” Sandwiches served in a hurry? “Tasty Subs?” Sandwiches that are especially delicious? “Pasty Subs?” Sandwiches on extremely white or undercooked bread? “Yeasty Subs?” Sandwiches on bread made with extra leaven? “Nasty Subs?” Sandwiches with disgusting ingredients? Admittedly, that last one sounded especially unlikely.
Of course, the actual word was “Toasty,” as in “Toasty Subs.” Toasted sandwiches have become something of a fad during the last few years and it seems as if every sandwich chain offers them. And it wasn’t really that difficult to figure out what the missing word was from context, I was simply being silly (and annoying, according to my wife). But it would have been nice to know the missing word instead of guessing.
In the same way, we should be able to fill in the “missing” parts when we are in a situation where we need to explain our faith. Most people today know at least bits and pieces of the Gospel message, like the partial sandwich sign. It’s up to us to “fill in the blanks.” As most of you know, our church has been participating in a small group study called “A Disciple’s Path.” The study is designed to help us understand what United Methodists believe. But beyond making us better Methodists, it should also be helping us become better Christians and preparing us to do a better job of sharing and explaining our faith. It’s nice to be able to expound about prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace, or why United Methodists baptize infants, but it’s vital to be able to explain the Christian faith in terms people can understand.
Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, to “Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2a NKJV) to preach the gospel. He told his other friend, Titus, “Remind [the early disciples] to be . . . ready for every good work,” (Tit. 3:1 NKJV). Most of us aren’t preachers like Timothy or Titus but sharing the gospel is everyone’s job. We can prepare for witnessing, as with everything else in Christian life, by praying. Another valuable practice is to know your Bible. You don’t have to memorize it but it helps to know at least a few select verses.
Some people like to start with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV). Personally, I like Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NKJV). For me, it’s the very heart of the gospel. I don’t just go to church for the preaching or the singing or the people, although all three are excellent at Maplewood UMC. I go because, at heart, I’m a sinner seeking grace and I need to be surrounded by a community of other sinners who are also seeking grace. But regardless of where you start, start somewhere, with a verse of scripture, a personal experience or anything else the Spirit can use.
My “testimony” isn’t dramatic. I don’t have a story of addiction or prison, or a life of regrets. I’m just a regular guy who has recognized his need for a savior, and I want to share the good news of that savior. Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic either. Quite frankly, I’ll confess that I never seem to find opportunities to share my faith. But I’d like to think I’m better prepared now and that I’ll be even better prepared when the study is completed. Then we can all continue on “A Disciple’s Path” together.
“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” (1 Pet. 3:13-16 NKJV.)