Most of us know people that we want to positively influence toward Christ but we aren’t sure exactly how to go about it. Talking to someone about faith or the gospel can be pretty intimidating and so the temptation is to shrug our shoulders and go on about our busy lives. But I don’t think it has to be that way. I think that there is another paradigm, another way of thinking that makes sharing your faith a lot more realistic and a lot more enjoyable.
Let’s start with a story.
Colby Rasmus played baseball for the Cardinals from 2009-2011 when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Now if you don’t know anything about baseball, don’t worry. Because this isn’t a story about baseball. It’s a story about how Jesus changes lives.
Rasmus’ tenure with the Cardinals was rocky partly due to the fact that he never played up to the expectations people had for him and partly because he and the manager, Tony LaRussa, were never on the same page. The Houston Astros, Rasmus’ new team, faced the Cardinals in a spring training game which led to this article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. This is where it gets good.
But Rasmus said he was at peace now because he said found Jesus Christ last year.
“I was lost for a while,” he said. “I can remember (former Cardinal) Lance Berkman sitting next to me on the bench, talking about Jesus Christ and I didn’t really understand it. At the time, my family hadn’t really bought into that.
“Looking back, I see Albert (Pujols) and Lance and (Matt) Holliday and (Adam) Wainwright and I see this aura, this presence they had about them. I always wondered how they got that. Now I see what it’s about and it’s changed my life big-time.
“I focus on my family and I don’t get caught up in all that stuff like I used to. My time in St. Louis … the fans were always good to me and it tore me up a little bit when I didn’t play well, so I went through some rough times.
“Surrendering my life to the Lord helped me relieve those demons, so to speak.”
6 Principles For Influencing Others For Christ
1. Friendship Matters. When talking about coming to faith in Christ, Rasmus mentioned by name four guys who reached out to him, sat next to him on the bench, and cared about him as a person. Oftentimes the first step to influencing others for Christ starts with being a good friend.
2. Teammates Not Pastors. The people who pointed him to Jesus were guys he worked with not a pastor. You have far more opportunity to influence someone you work with or live next door to than I do. God has put you in your office, neighborhood, on a team, or in your school to be a light to people who would never be interested in talking to a pastor. Insiders (like teammates) often have far more power to influence than outsiders (like pastors).
3. Like and Unlike. Tim Keller points out that Christians need to be like and unlike people who don’t follow Christ. Rasmus’ Christian teammates shared the same job, same temptations, same struggles, same lifestyle he did. Your friends should look at you and think “You can be a Christian and be normal, have a family, be successful at work, have fun, etc…” And yet Rasmus also said that he noticed that his Christian teammates were different than him. Christians should be different in the areas of integrity, generosity, hospitality, and how they handle adversity.
4. Adversity. Everyone eventually faces times of adversity and it’s often in those times that they are willing to consider the gospel in a more serious way. For Rasmus adversity came in the form of disappointing performance on the field. Maybe for your friends it will be a broken relationship or infertility or a miscarriage or marital struggles or depression or job loss. In those difficult times they will turn to someone to talk to. Have you built a good friendship, have you expressed your care and concern, have you proven safe and trustworthy so that in their moment of need they will turn to you?
5. Talk About Jesus. Rasmus says that his teammate Lance Berkman used to sit on the bench with him and talk about Jesus. I don’t know what those conversations were like but I do know that at the right time, it’s necessary to talk about the gospel. Maybe it’s best to put it in the context of your life. Explain how you became a Christian and what Jesus means to you. Most people will be interested in hearing your story.
6. Time. We get discouraged when people we care about don’t immediately respond to Christ or even just come to church when we invite them. But as Rasmus’ story proves it often takes time. Based on the article it seems that several years elapsed between his first exposure to his Christian teammates and him becoming a Christian. That’s pretty normal.
Be patient. Love people. Be a good friend. Follow Jesus.