In college, the a cappella group that I was in often had a booth on our quad to publicize various auditions and concert events and I spent a lot of time manning that booth. This usually meant sitting for an hour or two at the table waiting for the occasional passerby to take notice and come up to ask a question or get a ticket. That is, unless we happened to be placed in a booth next to the one that the Mormons were using.
I dreaded sitting on those days, because I knew they would want to talk to me. I dreaded it because in everything they said, I felt like they were positioning themselves to share their beliefs with me, even if it was the most innocuous “Hi, how are you.” This always put me on the defensive because I didn’t want to hear their beliefs. I didn’t want them trying to convert me, and yet here I was publicizing a singing group whose sole agenda was to share the love of Christ to the campus.
I don’t bring up spiritual things with people because I am afraid of being like those Mormons. I’m afraid that people will react to me the same way that I react to people of other faiths who try to share their beliefs with me: by clamming up and going on the defensive. I don’t want to share my faith because I don’t like other people sharing their faith’s with me.
It’s not that I’m afraid that they may be able to ‘convert’ me or ‘defeat’ me in some way. I’m very confident in what I believe. The trouble is, I have a sense that other people are just as secure in their beliefs, so trying to talk about them in a persuasive manner is an exercise in futility. Why should I bring up a topic like faith with someone who is as set in their own ways as I am in mine?
Perhaps the issue is how much emphasis I place on persuasive speech. If my faith were as much a part of me as, say, my love of snowboarding, why should talking about my beliefs with other people be any different than talking about the gnarly slopes I hit last weekend? Any time faith or beliefs comes up in conversation, my mind immediately jumps into ‘debate mode’ (which is sad, because I’m kind of terrible at debate and I know it so ‘debate mode’ really turns into, ‘say nothing of significance so I don’t mess up other people’s witness in the future mode’). Perhaps I need to train myself to not jump into that thinking and instead just talk about my experience of faith. I could take a lesson from Paul about staying away from subtle argument and persuasive speech and leaving room for the Holy Spirit to work, because He’ll do a much better job of it than I ever could.