I worked in customer service for years; first at restaurants and then in finance and insurance. Customer service is an interesting industry because regardless of what you’re selling, the service you provide is a product in itself. Even more, it is the most important product. That’s why I’ll never eat at Popeye’s again … I went there once and got horrific service. If your service is terrible, nobody wants your product. It’s not worth it. Everyone knows that.
But when it comes to selling Jesus, we throw that knowledge right out the window.
In my experience, we Christians are reluctant to acknowledge that the way we conduct our lives may actually make or break someone else’s decision to follow Christ. I get it. We don’t want that responsibility. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes … that doesn’t give others an excuse not to believe.
Or does it?
Of course, that’s a question we can’t answer. But we do know this: as followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to represent him well. We may not be able to do it perfectly, but that is no excuse for apathy. Whether we like it or not, non-Christians see Jesus as a product and we His salespeople. Think about it … unless you’ve experienced God in some way all you have to go off of are His so called followers. And if their actions don’t match their professed beliefs, they are shams—as is their God. We would say the same of anything else. Jesus is no exception.
So how do we do it? How do we not make Jesus look like a jerk? The following are a few ways I’ve found to be helpful…I think.
Ever have those moments when you act more Christian than you really are? Yeah, me too. Its like we go into this witnessing mode where we are super holy people who never watch R-rated movies or laugh at dirty jokes … because somehow non-Christians find that irresistible? But grace is grace precisely because it doesn’t require us to perform.
Of course the solution isn’t for us to live just like everyone else. The solution is for us to live like us … whoever we are. Here’s my strategy: whoever I am when I am alone or with my closest friends, is the person I’m going to be when I’m with non-Christians, too. That means I talk about my faith sometimes and sometimes I cuss, too.
And in my experience non-Christians appreciate that kind of authenticity. They already know we’re not perfect. They just get annoyed when we pretend like we are.
Soak the Truth
I’m one of those people who is extremely passionate about truth. I think most of us are like that if we’re Christians. We have to be. But sometimes, if you’re like me, we become prideful because of it. So we climb up on truth-pedestals and tell others that their actions make baby Jesus cry as if God is counting on us to make sure people know they are wrong. I sometimes get so concerned with being right that I forget my responsibility to love. But the more I think about it the more I realize the truth means nothing if it is not soaked in love. Truth divorced from love is fruitless. Love, on the other hand, never returns void.
Be Loud For…
Remember how I said I get passionate sometimes? Yeah, well, when I say “passionate” I mean, “verbally violent.” That is no more true than when saying what I’m against. Why is it so easy to be loud about those things I am not for (abortion, James Dobson, diet soda) and so difficult to be loud about those things I am for?
Maybe its because being against things draws more attention. Crowds are attracted to controversy and there’s no such thing as bad publicity … just ask Tiger.
But at some point, I need to figure out what I’m for, and be loud about it. Its not that we can’t be against anything, we can and should. But we need to be even louder about what we’re for because, at the end of the day, we’ll be remembered for something and history tells us that it will be whatever we were loudest about, whether good or bad.
Walk It Out
A college professor of mine used to say something like this, “If you say you believe something, but don’t live like its true, you don’t actually believe it.”
Feel that? It’s called conviction. Like a kick to the head.
The truth is that many of us act like so long as we’re saying the right things, our actions don’t matter. We sometimes live like the only thing that matters when it comes to witnessing is our words, like Jesus’ name is magical or something. But it’s not true. It is our actions, those things we really believe, that others put stock in. And to the extent that we’re not living what we say we believe, we are pushing people away from God.
Once we start representing Jesus well, it really is not hard to get people to buy in. Jesus sells himself—not by promising instant satisfaction or making life easy (Psht! Yeah right …)—but by promising us real life, the only life worth living. Plus, it only costs us our lives.
And that, my friends, is a steal!