In evangelistic conversation, start with the Side Door
In witness, when you begin a statement with the words, “As a Christian, I . . . ,” you’re using the Side Door. That is, you’re telling something of your story and beliefs. You’re being testimonial.
For example, you might say, “As a Christian, I pray for the sick . . . “
“As a Christian, I believe in the God-given dignity of each person . . . “
“As a Christian, my life is so different than it once was . . . “
It’s called the Side Door because you’re entering the arena of witness in an indirect way. It’s what Paul does in Acts 22, telling the story of his conversion on the road to Damascus.
And of course, you don’t have to use the exact phrase, “As a Christian, I . . . ” You can drop it altogether. The point is to assume a posture that is testimonial or autobiographical.
Since your main identity is in Christ, when you use the Side Door you’re simply being honest about who you are and what you’ve experienced.
The Front Door is more direct. Now you’re comparing and contrasting various beliefs. You’re asking the other person why they hold to their view or if they’ve considered other views, such as Christianity.
My friend Fahad opened the Front Door to our conversation a few months ago when he went from informing me about Islam to questioning my Christian convictions. I welcomed this move, and soon returned the favor.
The Front Door usually involves more risk. But that’s OK. Risk is (and should be) part of our witness.
In Acts 26, Paul begins with his conversion testimony (Side Door) before King Agrippa but then turns to the Front Door, with these words:
“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
That’s pretty direct! Addressing the King of Judea in such a way came with considerable risk.
Whichever Door you choose . . .
Whether Side Door or Front Door, God is the one who goes before us to swing open the gates (see Colossians 4:2). God is the chief evangelist, and he invites our participation in his work. This usually involves some little (or bigger) risk on our part. And that’s the adventure of being a Jesus devotee.
It’s called an unsafe life.
Remember: The Side Door is testimonial and autobiographical. It’s about your experience, your church, your beliefs. Anyone can do this. You’re just being yourself. It’s where I usually begin.
The Front Door is a place where you question and perhaps even challenge the other person in witness. I tend to enter the Front Door with my atheist and Muslim friends.