I recently started going to church regularly and now consider myself a Christian. I keep hearing how important it is to tell others about Jesus, but I’m wondering if I can do that in a world that seems so hostile toward Christianity?
—Afraid to Come Out
The fact that you even asked this question tells me two things: you’re braver than you feel right now, and you’re sensitive to God’s mission to show love to the world around you.
I can understand your anxiety. Many Christians are afraid that if they speak up, they’ll be labeled anything from “ignorant” to “extremist.” It seems the critics have become more vocal recently, and news about helping the homeless and discovering hope doesn’t sell quite as well as stories about hate and abuse. But as with many issues, a few angry, vocal anti-Christians can make enough noise to seem like a multitude. Most who don’t believe in God often don’t care enough to launch verbal attacks.
You’re also in a tender time of your faith where it can be difficult to discern God’s voice from the shouts of instruction all around you. You may feel pressure from culture telling you to stay hushed, while your Christian community may be telling you to go big and loud. It’s confusing.
I can only imagine Jesus’s disciples also felt a little confused. And like you, maybe even a little scared. In the Book of Matthew, as they’re standing together on the top of a mountain, Jesus basically says to them, “Tell everyone about me and teach them everything I have taught you.” And then he leaves them with this final word, “I am always with you” (28:19–20). Story over. Perhaps they thought “Great, Jesus. That’s cool. But, like, how should we do that?”
So, let’s start small. Begin with your circle of influence—your friends, your family, your coworkers. While the world may seem hostile, the people in your life with whom you’ve built trusted relationships are not. These people probably notice you’re a little different now, and they might be curious why. No, you don’t have to go all Christianese-Blood-of-the-Lamb on them. Just be yourself.
A few years ago, I wrote an article titled Coming Out Christian, which talked about the various ways celebrities and average Joes share their faith. I’ll skip to the conclusion: Sharing your faith—much like living it—is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It is as unique as you are.
Speak simply and honestly. Allow yourself to be a little vulnerable. Saying, “I struggle with anxiety and I’ve found praying to Jesus gives me peace,” or “I’ve been really angry at my dad for leaving when I was a kid and the Gospels are teaching me how to let go of my anger and forgive him” are often more effective than shouting about Hell from a street corner. And, sure, you can talk about Hell too—but maybe save the shouting.
I’ll also say one thing about the whisper of fear holding you back: Don’t ignore it. Fear tries to sneak around, throwing paralyzing shame darts. Coward. Wuss. Chicken. Just say hello and view it as an invitation to start a conversation with God. “Hey God, did you hear what that guy said about me? The truth is I’m starting to believe it, and I need you to remind me what’s really true.”
Because this faith thing is still relatively new to you, learning how to connect with people about it takes time. And practice. You can share about yourself and your decision to live like Jesus in unique ways, the ways God created within you. Maybe you’re a great writer or lyricists. Or maybe you’re really good at listening. Live in a way that supports Scripture—walk humbly, seek justice, love mercy (Micah 6:8), be patient and kind, and speak truth (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)—and you may just find that people are drawn to your light.
It’s safe to come out now, my friend.