The Bible instructs Christians to tell others about Jesus, yet modern research shows only 17% of churchgoers know what the term The Great Commission means. Social fear, Bible ignorance, or other reasons stymie believers from sharing God’s love with others. What if God created you with your own particular and natural way of discussing spiritual matters with your friends? What if all you need is to be equipped to talk to people about Jesus in ways that fit your God-given personality?
Bible Gateway interviewed Mark Mittelberg (@MarkMittelberg) about his book, Contagious Faith: Discover Your Natural Style for Sharing Jesus with Others (Zondervan, 2021).
In light of the global pandemic, what do you want the word “contagious” to communicate in the title of your book?
Mark Mittelberg: If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the potential for things to spread quickly, person-to-person, until what started in one corner of the world can soon go all the way around the globe. This happens with bad things—but it can also happen with positive things, like our faith in Jesus.
I wrote Contagious Faith to explain that God wants to use all of us—ordinary Christians like you and me—to spread his love and truth to the people all around us. The small risks we take to talk to people about Jesus can have ripple effects throughout our circles of friends, our communities, and ultimately around the world.
And that’s not just talk. Jesus commanded all of us, his followers, to “go and make disciples of all nations”—and he assured us that we wouldn’t go alone. “I am with you always,” he explained. “To the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Why are most Christians, according to research studies, afraid to talk about their faith with people who don’t share their beliefs?
Mark Mittelberg: I think there are two main barriers. The first is the fear that we’ll have to act like someone we’re not, and the second is the feeling that we’re not prepared.
I address the first problem by showing that there are a variety of ways we can share our faith. In fact, there are at least five different Contagious Faith Styles we can see in the early church—and discovering which of these (or combination of these) best fits you is vital to being liberated to tell others about Jesus in natural ways.
The second problem can be minimized by learning a set of Key Skills, which will help you share your faith more effectively. These include knowing how to deepen trust within a relationship, initiating spiritual conversations, talking about your spiritual journey in ways your friends can relate to, and explaining the gospel clearly. I introduce these skills in the book, but then give practical training through the 6-week video course for small groups and classes that’s releasing in December.
How does the Bible stress the importance of telling others about Jesus?
Mark Mittelberg: Right before leaving earth, Jesus explained that “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). And what was Jesus sent to do? “To seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). That’s why he told us to go into our world and make disciples. And he added, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Our central purpose is to nourish a contagious faith, and to let God unleash us in ways that can reach others with the life-giving message of the gospel, “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Why do you say it’s necessary for people to be grounded in the Bible in order to lead others to the Christian faith?
Mark Mittelberg: Because what we spread to others will be an overflow of what we ourselves have. If we know and love the true Savior, then we’ll spread his knowledge and grace to others. But if we’re steeped in confusion, or if we have a muddled idea of who God is and what he’s really like, then we’re going to communicate that misguided information to the people we talk to (or we’ll lose the motivation to share him altogether).
That, I believe, is why Paul warned Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely.” Because if you persevere in them, “you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Mark Mittelberg: I’ll respond to the second part of the question first: It takes all kinds of us, as believers, to reach all kinds of people out there who desperately need to know God. Here are some examples related to the various faith-sharing styles.
For people who need a friend, the Friendship-Building style of Matthew will be ideal (see Luke 5:29). Friends listen to friends—so when you build authentic relationships with those around you, it’s natural to talk about the most important part of your life: your relationship with Christ.
For those in need of tangible help, the Selfless-Serving approach of Tabitha (Acts 9), will probably be the best way to reach them. As Jesus said, we should let our “light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Others want to know if following Jesus is really better. A great way to reach them is through the Story-Sharing style—following the example of the blind man who Jesus healed in John 9 by telling them about how God has worked in your life and the difference that has made for you.
Still more have doubts and questions about our beliefs. They need the assistance of those with the Reason-Giving style who, like Paul in Acts 17, can give a reasoned explanation for what we believe and why.
And finally, there are many who know what’s right but are resistant to it. They’re sitting on the spiritual fence. They need a Truth-Telling type like Peter who, in Acts 2, challenged his listeners to wake up spiritually and to act on what they knew to be true.
Those are the five Contagious Faith Styles and I believe all of us can do at least one of them (or a combination of several). When you do, you’ll start to feel the exhilaration of being used by God to impact the lives of the people around you.
What is the gospel?
Mark Mittelberg: The gospel message is, simply, the story about Jesus and his redemptive work on our behalf. It is summed up in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15 and in several other places in the New Testament. In Contagious Faith I give an entire chapter to unpacking that message, and I explain several illustrations that will help us explain it to our friends.
What is one way a person could illustrate the gospel in everyday terms?
Mark Mittelberg: John 1:12 says, “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We can draw a Faith Formula from the three active verbs in that verse: Believe + Receive = Become.
What does that mean? That we need to first come to terms with what the Bible teaches about Jesus, our Messiah, Savior, and divine King, who gave his life for our sins. We need to Believe the story about Jesus. But that’s not enough. We also need to Receive Jesus as our forgiver and as the leader of our life. And when we sincerely do that, the verse promises us that we Become his dearly-beloved child. It’s an amazing truth—but it’s not hard to explain.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Mark Mittelberg: I often lean into 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Why? Because I sometimes feel timid and I know I need more of the power, love, and discipline Paul describes.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?
Mark Mittelberg: I use Bible Gateway every day. I get the “Verse of the Day” in my email box each morning, and the Bible Gateway website is the homepage on my web browser. I used to have a newsfeed as my homepage, but it would distract and often depress me with all the bad news. Now I have Bible Gateway set as my default page, so every time I open up a new page I get a glimpse of the good news of God’s Word.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Mark Mittelberg: Don’t miss out on the unexpected adventure of sharing the world’s greatest news with the people around you. God wants you to develop a highly contagious faith—one that will be attractive to your family and friends and that can, through his power, impact their lives for all of eternity.
Contagious Faith is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Mark Mittelberg is a bestselling author, international speaker, and the executive director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University (StrobelCenter.com). Mark wrote the new book and training course, Contagious Faith: Discover Your Natural Style for Sharing Jesus with Others. Prior to that he was the primary author of the Becoming a Contagious Christian training course (with Lee Strobel), which was translated into more than 20 languages and helped nearly two million people around the world learn to share Christ in natural ways.
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