What Is Your Style?

What Is Your Style?

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Above Image by Mircea – See my collections from Pixabay

I finished a book titled “Contagious Faith” by Mark Mittelberg where is explains five common or natural styles of evangelism Christians have. 

When I first heard of this book on a podcast, I immediately thought of Gary Chapmans 5 Love Languages. Though they don’t correlate in any way, the five styles of evangelism are our go-to natural ways of sharing our faith, just as the various love languages resonate with each of us and are the most natural way we feel loved and secure. 

For most Christians, sharing their faith is daunting, even if they are serious about their beliefs. Besides, churches are full of nominal Christians who, aside from any particular Sunday, never discuss their faith with others. Couple that with their lifestyles, and sometimes, you can’t tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians, myself included. 

Most of us can relate to doing things our own way without giving any consideration to God. Like everyone, I want to live my life my way. I think back 50 years to Frank Sinatra’s hit song, I Did It My Way. My rules, my exceptions to the rules, bend them or break them as needed. 

Thankfully God can use us where we are, new or old Christian, actively sinning or walking in His forgiveness. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to clean up your act before God can use you. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. You will never lead a perfect, sinless life this side of Heaven, and if you are waiting to arrive at that spiritual level of enlightenment before you share your faith, you will have a long wait. 

We all want to do things that count, to make a difference in this world. We want to matter to others and positively impact their lives. In that process of working toward doing things that ‘really’ matter, we often get caught up in the things of this world and forget that the car, boat, motorcycle, house, etc. can’t go with us. Mittelberg points out, “Deep down, we all want our lives to count for things that last. But think about this: the only things in this world that we can take with us into eternity are people.”1

With that in mind, it would be good to know your natural style of evangelism. Mittelberg covers five styles, and I will briefly touch on each one. 

Friendship-Building 

Friendship builders enjoy being around people and, as a rule of thumb, get along with almost everyone. They would much rather hang out with some friends having some coffee, tea, or lunch together than go on a hike by themselves or spend any time alone. 

Some may like large groups of people, mingling in and out of the clusters in a large party. Others who are friendship-builders may prefer a smaller setting and focus on one or two people at a time, but the common denominator is being around others. 

Mittelberg gives the example of Luke 5:29 when Levi held a large banquet for Jesus in his home. People don’t have parties or banquets unless they enjoy being around people. If you read the whole chapter, you will see Jesus calling his first disciples. Simon Peter caught more fish than his boat could hold; Jesus healed a man with leprosy and a paralyzed man. Miracles were happening, and no doubt word was getting out, so when Jesus called Levi to follow Him, Levi did just that. Then he threw a party. Colossians 4:5

Mittelberg encourages those who are friendship-builders to not only start new ones but work on the old ones, something friendship-builders may not do naturally. There is an old saying in teaching circles that says, ‘Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.’ A wise saying and applicable to this style of evangelism. In time as you develop a relationship, you can bridge the topics of conversations to spiritual ones.

Finally, I should point out you are not becoming someone’s friend so that you can share Jesus with them. Making friends is what this type does naturally. It is not forced, but they genuinely care about others and want to get to know them. Making friends is what they do naturally. 

Selfless-Serving

Those who have this natural style don’t like to be the center of attention, but they are tuned into the needs of others around them. Helping others feeds their soul much like friendship-builders are energized by being around people. Selfless servers are often working in the background and find joy and satisfaction in serving behind the scenes. Mittleberg puts it this way, “…because they are others-centered, they don’t mind serving without a spotlight or any kind of fanfare to keep them motivated. They find joy in simply serving…”2

Serving others and meeting their needs sends the message they are valuable and loved. Mittelberg shared the story of a wealthy Jewish man named Morris and his family that lost everything during Hurricane Harvey when it dropped about 60 inches of rain on Houston, Texas. A mother and her daughter named Grace reached out and began to help this Jewish family. Over the weeks and months, God’s love became evident through this woman and her daughter. The two families became close, and eventually, Morris and his family began to attend church with Grace and her mother and ultimately gave their lives to Christ. 

This kind of selfless serving often ministers to the hardest of hearts. Many of us sometimes serve with the hope of getting something in return, but those who serve selflessly and genuinely, serve others because it brings them joy and satisfaction. They set aside their concerns and worries about the world to help others. Mark 10:43 Philippians 2:3-4

A quality that is inherent to those who serve selflessly is empathy. They are sensitive to the needs of others and understand naturally what their needs may be. Over the years of teaching, I have met several teachers who would fall into this category, most of whom I have found in special education or working with special needs children. 

Often greatness is not measured in what you have but in what you give to others. 

Story-Sharing

Is it easy to share what is going on in your life with others? Do you look forward to telling someone about your day? Those with this style are good at telling stories. They generally are good at communicating and can share details and experiences with others and hold their interest. 

Many of us have a testimony, and Revelation 12:11 says that often spiritual battles are won because of our testimony. Testimonies are powerful, and I think of the 2017 movie, The Case for Christ where Lee Stroble, an atheist, came to believe in Christ due to his investigation of the claims that He rose from the dead.

J. Warner Wallace is another example of an atheist who shares his story in Cold-Case Christianity of being a cold-case homicide detective that decided to use the tools of his trade to bury the absurd claims of gospel accounts. 

Both of those men shared their stories and impacted millions with their experiences, which is one of the positives of the story-sharing approach. We live in a culture that often values experience or feelings over facts. Ben Shapiro wrote, Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, a look at American politics and culture, but as our progressive culture evolves, and this is especially true in Gender Ideology, we are finding that feelings don’t care about the facts. 

Aside from the cultural shift, a scriptural example of the story-sharing style is found in John 9, when Jesus healed the blind man. The blind man, who had been healed by Jesus, was brought repeatedly before the religious leaders who did not believe him. He had already explained what happened twice, and even his parents were brought in to testify. He finally says, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” John 9:27 After that, the Jewish leaders just insulted him and accused him of being a follower of Jesus. The blind man shot back, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John 9:30-33 

The Jewish leaders became angry, insulted him, said he was a sinner (my mom used to tell me once someone insults you, you have won the argument), and threw him out. 

Mittelberg points out that before any of this happened, Jesus’ disciples asked if the sin in the blind man’s life or the sin of his parents caused him to be blind. Back then, when someone was blind, it was believed to be due to sin in their life, but Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:3 Mittelberg writes, “I believe this included not just the restoration of his sight, but also the testimony this man would be to his fellow countrymen – especially to the religious leaders who were sure to take notice.”3

All of us have a story, a testimony we can share. If you are not a natural storyteller, you can use a simple three-part sequence to share yours. Think of your story in terms of what did you discover, what did you decide, and finally, what difference did that make in your life?

Reason-Giving

1 Peter 3:15 Is the apologists go to verse. People who fall into the reason-giving style of evangelism are often are more interested in what people think than what they feel about something. The montra, facts don’t care about your feelings resonates with the reason givers. Both Lee Strobel and J Warner Wallace are reason givers despite my example of their sharing their stories. So I will state the obvious, most of us will have more than one dominant style of evangelism. 

This is the style that suits me because when I have conversations with people, I always enjoy asking questions, and I am genuinely interested in what they know and why they believe it. 

The need for reason-giving is rising to new levels in our culture today. In 2011 David Kinnaman published You Lost Me looking at why Christians are leaving the church. He found that 59% of young adults leave the church and are no longer involved in any kind of Christian activities. Eight years later, after interviewing thousands, that rose to 64%.4

Another example can be found in the Pew Research Center. In 2012 75% of the U.S. population identified as Christian. Ten years later, 63% of Americans self-identify as Christian.((Smith, Gregory. “About Three-inTen U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated.” Pew Research Center, pewresearch.org, 14 December 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/12/14/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-are-now-religiously-unaffiliated/))

John Stonestreet points out in his book, A Practical Guide to Culture that kids today are growing up in an information overload environment. “Access and exposure to new ideas are just a billboard, commercial, song lyric, or mouse click away. A questioning and spiritually vulnerable child who might never have encountered atheistic arguments in another day and age may very well come across a Richard Dawkins video on Facebook feed… That’s why it’s more critical than ever that parents, church leaders, and mentors create an environment where kids can ask tough questions and wrestle with controversial topics.”5

Jesus suggested to those who did not believe him to look at His works, His evidence, as reasons to believe He was the Son of God. See John 10:37-38. In other words, believe in what they saw, the miracles that Jesus performed. There are multiple examples of Jesus giving examples and reasons for doubters to believe in Him. 

When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one or should John be looking for another. Jesus’ response was to perform miracles and give evidence to John’s disciples and then told them to go back to John and report what they had seen and heard. Matthew 11:3-6 

Just remember, the goal is to win people, not arguments. 

Truth Telling

Those who are truth-tellers are often bold, confident, and direct with those they encounter. More often than not, they enjoy the encounter and are not afraid of conflict. They don’t like small talk or beating around the bush but say what they have to say and wait for a reaction. 

Peter was a truth-teller and the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem is an excellent example. The Jews were questioning the wonders of God and recognized that something supernatural was taking place. Peter stood and addressed the crowd. He was bold and direct, pointing out the miracles Jesus performed and how Jesus was handed over to the leaders and then put to death by nailing Him to a cross. 

Peter went on to explain that death had no hold on Jesus and God raised Him from the dead after three days. Peter quoted Old Testament passages that were references to Jesus and that He was the Lord and Messiah they were all waiting for. Peter ended his message with, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Acts 2:36 

Scripture records that God used Peter’s bold truth telling to bring over 3000 to Christ.

Another example was in Acts 4, when Peter and John were brought before the Jewish leaders and told not to talk about Jesus. What was their response? They asked which was right, to do what God tells them or what they tell them? Peter and John explained they couldn’t help but talk about what they had seen and heard. Acts 4:18-20

Someone once said evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Mittelberg writes, “It reminds us that we are not better or smarter or more deserving than the other person – we’re just fortunate enough to have received a great spiritual blessing, along with the privilege of sharing it with others.”((Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 140))

Those with this style can make the mistake of encouraging others to be bold when talking to others when it would make them uncomfortable. Every style has strengths and tools that can be used depending on the individual they are engaging or the situation they encounter. 

Most Christians will gravitate toward one of the styles I mentioned above. Learn what your style is and look for opportunities to use it. Ephesians 3:20-21 Naturally, those will work best because it is the one you are most comfortable with and enjoy using. Would you like to take a quick assessment and see which one is yours? You can take the simple assessment here and see what style fits your personality. 

 

  1. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 5 []
  2. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 65 []
  3. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pgs. 84-86 []
  4. Kinnaman, David. “Church Dropouts Have Risen to 64% But What About Those Who Stay?” Barna, barna.com, 4 September 2019, https://www.barna.com/research/resilient-disciples/ []
  5. Stonestreet, John. Kunkle, Brett. “The Information Age.” A Practical Guide To Culture, David C Cook, 2017, pg. 82 []

Dirt and Whiteboards

Reading Time: 6 minutesI had a conversation recently with a friend that does not believe Jesus is the only way. He believes that many religions offer many paths that will lead to heaven or some nirvana afterlife. We batted around ideas and thoughts for about 40 minutes, and we both enjoyed the conversation. He was not defensive in the least but was more than willing to hear what I had to say on the matter, so I asked questions trying to understand his views and reasons.

The atheist or agnostic will fall into one of two categories concerning their unbelief: Reasons and/or Causes.

If someone has ‘reasons’ for their unbelief, you will find them open, considerate, and thoughtful when discussing their ideas. They believe what they believe solely for intellectual reasons. In other words, the evidence or data is insufficient to warrant a belief in God or Jesus. They are not angry, wounded, betrayed, resentful, or have any other internal emotion that is steering the direction of their unbelief. Simply put they don’t see enough evidence to believe.

Some may see the belief of Christians as subjective. Michael Horton explains it this way, “To such people, belief is completely subjective. The question is not whether it’s true but whether it works for you. That might be a legitimate assumption for other religious and self-help philosophies, but Christianity rests on historical, public claims. These claims are either true or false; they can’t be true for some people and not for others.”1

Someone who views religion that way may not have a cause, they just never gave it much thought. Life is going smoothly, and a need for God is not something they have seriously considered before. They pick and choose from the various religious options and adopt some commonly accepted set of morals and ethics they try to live by.

Others may have hit a difficult time in life and believe in God, but still select elements of other religions to build something that comforts them in their trial. All religions preach love and acceptance do they not? All religions encourage us to love our neighbor and to give to the poor, don’t they? No, not really.

What matters are the differences in religions, not the similarities. Let me give you a simple example. What if I was to draw two little pills on a whiteboard and ask you if they were basically the same? The answer would be yes; they are both small, round, and white. What if I then drew an arrow to one and labeled it aspirin, and the second arrow to the other pill and labeled it arsenic? Would you say they were still basically the same? Obviously not, one is a remedy, and the other is a poison.

Most unbelievers fall into the second category of having a cause for their unbelief. Evidence has little or no impact on the unbelief of this individual. Unlike someone with a reason, a person with a cause may be angry at the church, their Christian parents, or God. They may have been wounded by Christians, or even non-Christians and blame God for their circumstances. Often they may be in denial for the reasons of their unbelief. Admitting they are wrong would expose the true condition of their heart, the reason for their anger, or wound. Causes have to be dealt with before you can address their unbelief.

When we have conversations about our faith with unbelievers, it is essential to recognize what is going on in their heart or you will be casting pearls before the swine. Matthew 7:6. In His sermon, Jesus uses pigs and dogs as representatives of those who not only reject the gospel but mock and ridicule it for their own motives and purposes. We are to share the gospel, but we have all met someone who enjoys belittling and insulting believers of Christ. I have heard it said we are responsible for sharing the good news, but we are not tied people’s response. Pigs have no use for pearls and don’t even recognize their value, the same can be said of some people and the gospel.

John Coe, a professor at Biola, said we were made to have a transparent heart, but so often early on in our life, we began to avoid self-awareness. Remember the times in grade school when there were two team captains, and they choose who was to be on their team? Of course, the more athletic students had no problem with this method.2 I can remember a time or two when I was dreading the picking teams and being the last one chosen. Maybe you have experienced that.

Can you picture someone in school who was often the last one chosen? What were they doing? More often than not, they were kicking the dirt, not looking up, and engaging possibly for the first time in their life, repression. They were avoiding self-awareness. Who at the tender age of 8, 10 or 12 would want to think about and consider why they were the last one picked? Repression is the father of self-deception.3

Where are they the next day during lunch or break? They are asking the teacher if they can help erase the whiteboard. If they can stay in and push in the chairs. If they can stay in and pass out papers. If they can stay in and help with anything, anything at all so they could avoid being picked last. Of course, most teachers welcome the helpful student, but may not even reflect on why they are asking if they can stay and help. A mistake I have made more times than I can count.

People love to tell their own story. Many of the best conversations we have had with others were because they listened with interest on what we had to say. There is an old saying in the teaching circles that states, student’s don’t care what you know until they know that you care. How much more enjoyable is a conversation with someone that wants to hear what you have to say.

When engaging others don’t start with your story, listen to theirs. Don’t start by speaking into their life, start by pulling out their life. Take your time and show you care.

To be able to do this successfully we need to peel back the layers of our own heart. This kind of apologetics must begin within. Psalm 139:23-24 Ultimately love is the final apologetic. How can we possibly share Christ’s love for us if we don’t understand how much He loves us personally which is vital for a healthy identity. Then we can allow Him to work in our hearts, and then on our hurts, hangup’s, and habits.

Brandon Heath wrote the song “Give Me Your Eyes.” The chorus
goes like this;
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

Timothy Keller addresses our identity and writes, “If anything threatens your identity you will not just be anxious but paralyzed with fear. If you lose your identity through the failings of someone else, you will not just be resentful, but locked into bitterness. If you lose it through your own failings, you will hate or despise yourself as a failure as long as you live. Only if your identity is built on God and His love…can you have a self that can venture anything, face anything.”4 I would add something my sister said to me recently; courage is fear that has said its prayers.

I have realized in recent weeks that my identity has been based on the approval of others. The more important the person was in my life, the more I needed their approval. I have never looked intently at what my identity is based on and facing that fact was a huge step in healing for me and has allowed me to move that much closer to the Lord. Genesis 1:26. If I did not get their approval, I was very dismissive of them, and they no longer mattered to me. I began kicking the dirt and erasing whiteboards, protecting my image.

Sharing my failings and risking the criticism and condemnation of everyone I care about has been the most difficult trial of my life. I would never have thought this would be tied to apologetics but I see it is. Sharing your faith at times may start with answers, but always ends in love.

Do people have reasons or causes for their unbelief? Think about that as you share your faith. As you explore causes, also consider what their identity is based on, they may not even know themselves. And always look at your own heart and explore your own motives and actions. What is your identity based on? Remember, God loves a transparent heart.

 

 

Sources:
1. Horton, Michael. “God’s Story and Ours, or Why Doctrine Matters.” Core Christianity Finding Yourself in God’s Story. Zondervan, 2016, pg.15.
2. Coe, John. “Apologetics and the Spiritual Life.” Apologetic Lecture Series. Biola University, La Mirada. n.d. Lecture
3. Ibid.
4. Keller, Timothy. “The Problem of Sin.” The Reason for God. Riverhead Books, 2008, pg.171

 

 

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Dirt and Whiteboards by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

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