When I was younger, a debilitating combination of shame and shyness frequently silenced me. While at school, I intentionally averted my eyes away from those of my teachers, and from most of my classmates, in an effort to discourage conversation. My actions at church were similar. The result was that some with whom I spent time in one or more of the same social circles probably never actually heard the sound of my voice in spite of the many hours we spent together.
It was only after I became a Christian, near the end of my first semester in college, that I had the desire to let others hear my voice.
It was only then – after I had experienced the presence and power of God in a way that freed me from my deep shame and extreme shyness and that transformed me in so many other ways – that I felt like I had something worthwhile to say. And, it was only then that I felt confident enough to say it.
I wanted others to know what Christianity is all about. And, I wanted to speak out about how my life had changed in such a profound way.
Christians should want to talk about those things, right?
Yes, we should. But, sometimes we are reluctant to let our voices be heard even when we have been invited to do so.
Why do we sometimes hesitate to speak up?
Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have to talk about the meaning of Christianity and to share about how our lives have changed because of Christ?
Recently, I spent some time reflecting on those questions in preparation for the recording of a podcast concerning Christian involvement in religious diversity activities on campus (e.g., interfaith dialogues). I remembered a time when God called Moses to serve as His spokesperson in what would surely involve several challenging discussions with others who might not eagerly embrace his message (see Exodus 3 and 4). Moses’ conversation with God demonstrates a few of the reasons why Christians might be reluctant to engage in religious diversity initiatives on campus.
1. We do not feel qualified to be a voice for Christ.
“Who am I that I should go?” asked Moses.
This was Moses’ initial response when God told him that He was sending him to the Israelites and then to Pharaoh. Later in the conversation, Moses reiterated his feelings of inadequacy when he said, “I’m not an eloquent speaker.”
Like Moses, some Christians might not feel qualified to be a voice for Christ on campus. Perhaps some believe that others on campus are better suited for representing Christ in religious diversity activities or that others would be more eloquent when speaking about Christ in such contexts. We must remember, though, that if God calls us to something, He will equip us for that work. And, sometimes, as in the case of Moses, He will provide others to assist us.
2. We are concerned that we will not know how to answer people’s questions.
“What do I say when others ask…?” Moses asked God.
In essence, he wanted to know in advance how he should respond to a particular question that would likely be asked of him.
Some Christians probably have a similar desire when thinking about engaging in religious diversity initiatives on campus. It would be so much easier if we knew how each conversation would progress prior to engaging in it. After all, such insight would give us the opportunity to prepare answers for challenging questions about Christianity that others might ask us during the experience.
While studying the Scriptures in an effort to have answers to those hard questions is an important aspect of Christian discipleship, we will never fully be prepared for every possible question that might come up. Even so, we are still called to share the Gospel and to speak up about Christ’s work in our lives and in the lives around us.
3. We are afraid that others will not take us seriously.
“What if they will not believe me or listen to me?” Moses asked. “What if they say, ‘God did not appear to you?’”
In response to Moses’ concerns, God demonstrated several ways that He would provide evidence to others that He had, indeed, spoken to Moses. If He provided such support and validation for Moses, He’ll surely do it for us. We are called to speak for and about Him. When we do, He will choose how and when to reveal Himself to others around us.
Perhaps more significant than the evidence that God said He would provide is the truth that He communicated to Moses during the course of their conversation.
God said, “I will be with you…. Who has made your mouth? I have! Go. I will teach you what you are to say.”
We can read example after example in the New Testament of times when the wisdom of the Holy Spirit came through in a profound way as people boldly spoke about Christ (e.g., Acts 6:10). Let’s review and reflect on those examples on a regular basis.
We don’t have to have special qualifications. We don’t need to shy away from structured discussions about religious diversity out of fear that we will not have answers to all of the questions that we might be asked. And, we don’t have to worry about whether or not people will take us seriously, because God can and will reveal Himself as He sees fit.
We just need to remember that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit abides within us and that He will teach us what to say.
Whether you are a student, a faculty member, an administrator, a campus minister, or someone else who is studying and/or working in higher education, take advantage of every invitation to let your voice be heard on campus. If asked to serve on an interfaith panel discussion or on a religious advisory committee, or when given the opportunity to speak with people representing diverse religious, spiritual, and non-religious perspectives, joyfully and humbly agree do to so, if possible.
Let’s be voices for Christ on campus.
The life-changing message of Christ – that we have experienced and that we want others to experience – can only be shared as we let our voices be heard.