In working with Christians for over 20 years, I believe the number one hindrance most believers have to witnessing to people, is a belief that they do not know enough scripture to share their faith.
Because so much of Western Christianity has been based on logical reasoning (and so little has been based on the miraculous leading and demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power), Christians usually feel paralyzed when it comes to mustering up fine sounding “arguments” for why others should come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus prophesied to his disciples regarding what would happen to them once he departed, and addressed this very concern he knew his friends would have in Matthew 10:17-20;
Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Remember that Jesus walked with his disciples and taught them much regarding the nature of God, how the scriptures pointed to his coming and purpose on earth, and how they were to administer the knowledge of the Kingdom of God to anyone they met.
Yet, in spite of all their preparation, Jesus knew there would come a time, when all logic and reasoning would fail and they would have to rely on the Holy Spirit to give them the exact words to say at the proper time.
One of my favorite stories (and I believe one of the most inspirational stories from the New Testament) is found in Acts chapters 6 and 7, and illustrates Jesus’ precise point regarding how the Holy Spirit would guide us in challenging instances of sharing our faith. It is a story about a disciple named Stephen.
As you may recall Stephen is probably most well-known for his tragic end in which he was stoned to death by the ruling Jewish council. Equally remarkable was that the young Saul (later known as “Paul the Apostle”) stood by and watched the stoning of Stephen while holding the cloaks of those who would murder him.
While many are familiar with Stephen due to his ill-fated and tragic end, most miss the circumstances which led to Stephen’s arrest and subsequent condemnation.
Early on in the church the disciples began getting a first-hand look at the challenges of ministry, namely taking care of the needs of those who were part of the fellowship.
Rightly so, they appointed “deacons” to assist with administration of the church affairs, so that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. One of those deacons was named Stephen.
While today I’m not even sure the term “deacon” is used much in church circles anymore, the position of “deacon” and the perquisites for becoming a deacon in the church have most certainly been reduced to something much less than it was in the early church.
For example, notice the description of Stephen used in Acts 6:5, “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,’ and 6:8 “…Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, [who] performed great wonders and signs among the people.” In fact, it was these great “wonders” and “signs,” which got Stephen arrested.
Can you name a deacon at your church? Do any of your deacons get “called out” in the community because of their bold, powerful, and Holy Spirit-led ministry demonstrated with signs and wonders?
Stephen, on the other hand, had been known for such things before he uttered one word in defense of his faith. Even though he was “only” a deacon, his ministry landed him right in the middle of the most contentious group of critics that existed at the time. By today’s standards such activity rarely even describes a lead pastor.
Nothing about what ultimately got Stephen in trouble with the law was necessarily correlated with his knowledge of Scripture or ability to persuade people to logically believe in Jesus. What qualified Stephen to share his faith and ultimately become chosen as a deacon, was his willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to work through him.
Of course when Stephen was given an opportunity to defend himself against the false accusations being levied against him before the Sanhedrin, he systematically walked the onlookers through the Gospel using their own history, traditions and culture to help them see the glory of Jesus. So don’t get me wrong, there is a time, manner, and place in which we are called to know enough scripture to defend our faith, but sharing of our faith happens with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
As we can see from Stephen’s story, being able to recite verses from the bible is not only NOT a prerequisite to telling someone about Jesus, or having a leadership position in the church.
Rather what qualified and empowered someone like Stephen was the personal revelation he had of the resurrected Christ, and his willingness to be used as a vessel for the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s power and validate his testimony.