It's tempting to make sure people know who we're NOT - but wouldn't it be so much more effective to simply love others into seeing who we ARE...and Who we belong to? Read on as Jessica Leep Fick offers hands-on help in shattering stereotypes.
By Jessica Leep Fick
I don't think anyone wants to be "that Christian." Do you know the kind I'm talking about? It's the kind we see in the media: stereotypes of Soapbox Sally ranting against certain people groups or behaviors; Judgmental Jenny, who is quick to judge others but not willing to examine her own life. It's even Hipster Hailey who is #blessed on social media but doesn't seem to live her life any differently than people who aren't Christian.
Stereotypes are tricky. They exist because some people have behaved in these ways. Stereotypes can creep into our imaginations and make us believe that's how we'll be perceived as Christians if we say anything about Jesus. That can make us afraid to freely express who Jesus is and what faith looks like in our lives. We downplay the importance of Jesus in our lives because of fear that people will see us as naïve or judgmental. We remain silent when certain issues are brought up because we don't want to be viewed as "one of those Christians." Rather than pointing people towards Jesus and what he is like, we begin to defend ourselves and how we aren't like "those Christians."
It's exhausting trying to prove what you aren't. Thankfully that's not the life that Jesus invites us into when he calls us to follow him.
In the first chapter of John, Jesus invites several people to become his followers. They are so enamored with Jesus that they can't help but talk about him with their friends. After each encounters Jesus, he immediately leaves and invites his friends to "come and see" Jesus for himself. I believe the Holy Spirit wants to show us how to invite people to come and see Jesus in our lives. He can guide us into moving beyond fear to talk about how Jesus has shown up in our lives in a way that is intriguing to people who don't yet know him.
In my life it's looked like praying for the people around me and inviting them to come and see Jesus for themselves. When my husband and I mentioned our church, a neighbor going through a difficult family situation expressed interest in coming with us one Sunday. A few months have gone by since that invitation and she's been coming with us each week. Recently we celebrated with her as her two sons were baptized.
When I've listened to moms from my son's school share about marriage or parenting challenges, I've offered to pray for them (sometimes on the spot!). Even if they haven't shared my beliefs they've expressed their gratitude that I would care enough to offer to pray for them.
Getting to know many of the single moms who work across the hall at my office has moved me and my colleagues to care about them in practical ways. One week we pooled our resources and treated their team to coffee and breakfast burritos. We left a small note that said we were glad they were our neighbors and that God loves them. They were shocked that we would do something just to let them know we cared about them. Boom. Stereotypes shattered.
When we have positive experiences talking about Jesus and faith it begins to shatter Christian stereotypes in our imaginations and in our conversations. We move past fear and begin to see that talking about faith and Jesus doesn't have to be scary, weird or push people away. It can help people see who Jesus is in real life. A Jesus who they want to come and see for themselves.
Jessica Leep Fick is a writer, speaker and trainer for Stonecroft, living in Kansas City with her husband and two sons. She is the creator of the Story of Now, a resource which empowers women to discover their story and share Jesus in normal, everyday ways. She hosts the Ears to Speak podcast. She'd love to connect with you to help you and your friends learn how to become comfortable inviting others to come and see Jesus. You can find her online at www.jessicaleepfick.com and on social media @jessica_leep_fick