Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. They fished till darkness fell, after which they built a campfire, grilled the fish they had caught, ate their fill, and drank their coffee. Then they turned in. During the middle of the night, Holmes awoke Watson and said: “Dr. Watson, look above you. What do you see?” Watson peered into the night sky and answered: “Well, Holmes, I see millions and millions of stars.” Holmes continued: “And, Watson, what does that tell you?”
Watson replied: “Well, astronomically it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically it tells me that Saturn is aligned with Leo. Theologically I can see that God is all powerful and that we are God’s creation. And meteorologically I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What do the night sky and all the stars tell you, Holmes?” Holmes answered: “It tells me that while we were sleeping, somebody came and stole our tent!”
How often we miss the obvious! Such is the case with sharing our faith. We know that we need to ... that is obvious ... but we struggle to witness to those outside the walls, probably because we also struggle to share our stories inside the church.
And then there is the fear factor. Many are convinced that in order to share their faith, “they have to do things they don’t like, in places they don’t like, saying things they don’t like with people they don’t know.” They fear that sharing their faith story will turn out badly for them. Yet, Jesus expects us to do this. If we don’t, the very stones in the ground will cry out.
One key for dealing with that anxiety may lie in looking for affinities and commonalities with those unconnected with church, hanging out where they hang out, finding out how their interests and ours intersect, and starting a conversation from that point. Build relationships, and trust that eventually that moment will come, when we have a chance to share our faith story.
We don’t share our stories in a vacuum, but in the context of a world where people are hurting, broken, and lonely. Most people don’t need advice from us, they get plenty of that. They don’t need us to preach to them, or to argue with them, or try to convince them of some theological truth; they need love, and isn’t that the Gospel?
John Killinger once wrote, “We and our church need to be sharing our faith in order to stay alive in Christ. The minute we receive the good news of Christ and fail to pass it on in the course of daily living, we become like the Dead Sea, that remarkable body of water that is dead precisely because it receives lifegiving water and doesn’t pass it on.” The church is the same way. Its only life comes through sharing what it has received. If we don’t do it, who will? If not now, when?
Peace, Pastor Joel
Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell