Most Christians believe God has called them to tell others of forgiveness and new life in Jesus. Most Christians want others to have the hope and joy they have found in God’s rescue. But research shows Christians aren’t actively, regularly sharing their faith. When Christians were asked if they had shared the gospel in the past six to twelve months, just 39 percent and 52 percent said they had.
If these statistics are true, then many Christians (48 percent to 61 percent) are disengaged from evangelistic efforts, despite feeling the need to do so. You might think it’s a lack of training or the discomfort of personal conversation or the fear of rejection. But LifeWay’s research shows that Christians actually feel comfortable (75 percent) sharing and few have anxiety (eight percent) about faith conversations.
So what gives?
A contemporary empathy crisis
One clue can be found in Sherry Turkle’s research. Turkle—who is a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age—connects our busy lives and overuse of technology with eroding our ability to have conversations that count. This is, as Turkle claims, “a contemporary crisis in empathy” that can be traced back to a decrease in face-to-face exchanges. Our near-constant screen time—phones, tablets, computers, TV— has dire consequences in our ability to relate to and communicate with others:
“In the past 20 years, there is a 40 percent decline in empathic capacity among college students, with most of it taking place in the past 10 years.”
This is significant because empathy is a key motivator for sharing the gospel. Empathy allows us to enter into the life of another person. Only in meaningful, heartfelt conversation do we begin to understand the joys and sorrows another person bears. Screen time steals away the connections that prompt us to share God’s Story. As face-to-face conversations decline, we miss opportunities to enter into others’ lives and see their great need for the gospel. Screen time steals away opportunities to see firsthand the hurt, fear, loneliness and emptiness people face without Jesus. We miss out on hearing stories of loss, betrayal and abuse that have left people confused about God’s love and mercy.
Without face-to-face conversations, we simply lack the empathy and motivation to share the gospel. Without empathy, our wonder of God’s Story grows dim; we forget the beauty of rescue and redemption. We don’t share the Good News.
Entering others’ empathy
If we are to combat this empathy crisis, we must purposefully, intentionally enter into the lives of others. We must renew our own wonder at the gospel, of God’s coming near in Jesus, and how it changes everything. We must seek out meaningful conversation that opens space for people to share what’s really happening in their lives.
At Spread Truth, we address two crises: the crisis of communication that hinders us from effectively sharing the gospel and the crisis of community that limits our interaction with those who need the hope of rescue in Jesus. Our community-building initiatives promote empathy through meaningful conversations and give Christians opportunities to display God’s love and share God’s Story with people in their midst.
Both empathy-driven community and effective gospel witness should be foundational to Christians today. To that end, Spread Truth designs creative and innovative gospel-sharing tools and resources, including our latest release, The Story Short Film:
This film purposefully places the beauty of God’s Story on display. For when Christians are in awe of the gospel, they will be motivated to share it with everyone, everywhere. When Christians cultivate meaningful community where empathy thrives, the love of Christ will be made manifest. In all, God will be magnified.
So how can you turn those Barna Group and LifeWay research numbers around in your own life? Here are a few things to consider.
Push back against the crisis of communicating the gospel by cultivating your awe of God’s Story. Recognize God’s great mercy in Jesus, for you. Increased awe naturally leads to increased sharing. Have gospel-sharing tools at-the-ready—for example, our free mobile app gives you 24/7 access to The Story in film, booklet and conversation tool formats.
Push back against the crisis of community by cultivating deeper friendships with non-Christian friends. Break out of your Christian friendship bubble, and build true, solid friendships with people who think differently from you. Don’t treat them as projects; learn from them, care for them, let them care for you. Sow gospel seeds and honor God as you care for people who may have no other connection to him.
Both of these efforts, sustained over time, will make all the difference in the regularity and effectiveness of your gospel engagement.