When I was in graduate school, my wife Heidi and I — we had just gotten going, it was a seminary, and the summer was coming and we found out about an opportunity to go overseas and serve in a church for the whole summer. And we thought what a cool deal to kind of get a cross-cultural experience and help build a church and make a difference. And we didn’t ask a lot of questions until we got there; it was in London, England. We were in South London. And I finally asked the team captain. I said, “so what are we going to be doing?” And he said, “well I’m glad you asked, we’re going to go out,” and he’s all fired up about this. “We’re going to go out and we’re going to knock on doors and tell people about Jesus all around the neighborhoods all around the church.” And I’m going, like, “all day?” He says, “all summer! It’s going to be great!” I tried to be cool but this doesn’t sound great to me. I just didn’t know what to think. I was kind of torn. I’m thinking, “I love Jesus and I want people to know him. But knocking on doors of strangers?”
And let me just tell you something: Americans fresh out of Heathrow Airport knocking on doors in London to tell people about Jesus was not a real popular thing. The reception was often not very warm. I’d knock on the door and a lot of times people just yelled through the door or maybe open it a crack and look out. I remember one woman who opened the door and asked what we wanted. I replied, “well, we don’t really want anything, but we’re from the church over on the corner and we’re just going around the neighborhood and talking to people about matters of faith.” I’m trying to be real cool about it and she said with an accusatory tone, “you know, you have an American accent.” Again, trying to keep it light I said, “well, what a coincidence. We are from America! This is my wife—” She cut us off. “Why don’t you go pester people in your own country?” And you know what? At that moment, that sounded like a pretty good idea to me.
We got through those eight weeks but it was tough. I mean, it was an uphill climb for me. But let me tell you the innovation that we discovered that really helped get through that summer and actually helped us become a little bit more effective. What we figured out is that people were more open to talking to my wife Heidi, who has a real outgoing personality. They would talk to me, but they were more initially open to Heidi. We had lots of conversations, got invited in for some tea, and just had a pretty good experience after we began to take that approach. Then, often, they would start asking deeper questions and I began to feel more natural.
I didn’t really realize it then, but we were on the cusp of discovering what this whole “contagious faith” thing could look like. What a natural approach could look like in my life and in Heidi’s life. After that experience, I still had kind of mixed feelings about this whole outreach evangelism idea. I kind of thought maybe I had done my bit and I was finished. But after we flew back home, we went to a church service and heard our pastor talk about something that surprised me. He began to talk about evangelism and I thought, “Oh, no. This is not my deal. This is not my gift. I’ve already been there, done that, done my time. But I guess I’ll take notes and see if maybe I can help someone else with this or something.” Well, he began to teach and unpack an idea that really resonated with me. I think, again, because of that innovation that Heidi and I had discovered where we began to divide our approach according to our own personalities.
The pastor said, “in the pages of scripture they didn’t all share their faith the same way. They took different approaches.” And he began to teach and go through these different what we now call “contagious faith styles,” different approaches. And I want to share these with you. I’ll just list them quickly right now, but I unpack these over six video training sessions is to help you discover what your contagious faith style might be. The first one is called “Friendship-Building,” and this is what Heidi is. This is someone who’s more relational and connects with people in natural ways, but through those relationships then begins to share their faith. A second style is what we call “Selfless-Serving,” and that’s someone who serves people. They help people, they make a difference in people’s lives in tangible ways, and that helps open doors to also share about the love and truth of Christ. The third example is the “Story-Sharing” style. That’s someone who tells their testimony, their story. They kind of talk about their experience with Christ in a way that can influence and affect the experience of the other person. The fourth one is the “Reason-Giving” style. This is someone that gives reasons, they give evidence, they give answers to questions. They kind of help with more of the cognitive side, the intellectual side, of Christianity and help people to realize that Christianity is true and it makes sense. And guess what? That’s my style. And that’s how Heidi and I began to work together. She opened the doors and built the friendships, I’d answer questions. And then the fifth contagious faith style is the “Truth-Telling” style, and that’s someone who’s more direct and hard-hitting. It’s someone who probably would like knocking on doors of strangers or walking up to people and doing surveys in the shopping mall or meeting new people that just moved in. This type of person is more bold about getting to the point, talking about spiritual matters, and so forth. And that’s a really important style as well.
Mark Mittelberg was the primary author of the celebrated Becoming a Contagious Christian course, through which he helped nearly two million people around the world learn to communicate their faith. Now, with clear teaching, compelling stories, and inspiring motivation, Contagious Faith will help you share the good news of Jesus effectively—even in our increasingly resistant culture. Mark introduces you to the five Contagious Faith Styles and helps you discover which of these approaches (or combination of them) will enable you to naturally share your faith in Jesus with the people around you.