“The power to share our faith humbly and effectively… comes from our sure knowledge that we are God’s sons and daughters. This knowledge takes root as we carefully and constantly apply the message of the cross to our own consciences.” – C. John Miller
This past week I’ve been out in Denver for a library conference and took a few books along with me to read on the plane. The first one was a book by C. John Miller called A Faith Worth Sharing: A Lifetime of Conversations About Christ. Jack Miller taught practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and was also the founding pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church outside of Philadelphia, PA. Miller’s book is a nearly 50-year long journey of sharing his faith with friends, family, strangers, students, co-workers, and many others. He begins his story in San Francisco in 1949 as a breakfast cook in a boarding house, continues through his college days, with later stops in Oregon and northern California in the 1960s, and finally into Pennsylvania in the 70s on.
What I found so interesting about Miller’s stories is that he documented his failures as well as his successes of bringing the gospel to others. He talked about speaking with a non-believing professor in college and his attempts to bring the professor to Christ unsuccessfully. He also explains how his own daughter left the faith for a while, and admitted that his ministry and “being perfect” for others left him little time for his daughter and brought on an estrangement between them.
I think the main point that Miller was trying to get across to his readers is that we have to take time to build relationships with others first before preaching to them. He spoke of a fellow student named Gus who he had difficulty reaching, but who later came to Christ when Miller asked him to join him at church. The sense of community and the members’ care for each other (and the Holy Spirit’s work) was what softened Gus and changed him into a Christian. And Gus later became Miller’s best man at his wedding !
Miller tells many other delightful stories in this book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about sharing his or her faith. One story that’s stayed with me since I read it was about a man named Mel, who was unemployed and a borderline alcoholic and who lived at the boarding house in San Francisco. Mel noticed that Miller spent most of his spare time reading the Scriptures. He was intrigued by this and finally asked Miller about it. I loved Miller’s response, and it’s what I would say to anyone who asked me the same question:
“Why do you read the Bible all the time ?” asked Mel.
“Mel, it’s the only way I’m going to make it.”