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FIRST-PERSON: High-profile Christians & their public testimony

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — About a year ago, a friend of mine committed himself to Jesus Christ. He happens to have a high-profile occupation. The conversion was genuine and the spiritual growth over the past year has been consistent. A few weeks ago, he shared his faith in a public forum for the first time. It was a short testimony — powerful not for its length, but for its clarity.

It may surprise you that I encouraged my friend to grow for a while in his commitment to Jesus before making too many public statements about his faith. While he has been very open about his new faith with his family and friends, it was important his commitment be stabilized before he made a public statement.

Over the years, it has frustrated me when athletes, politicians, actors or other public figures were rushed into public pronouncements about their faith. In too many cases, these new believers were expected to be public witnesses just because they are well-known. That is a poor qualification for taking the responsibility to speak out about the Christian faith.

Before a person takes that responsibility, they should mature enough in their faith to handle the expectations of public life as a believer. Christians sometimes get caught up in the celebrity culture and think any well-known person who commits to follow Jesus should immediately start speaking, preaching or singing about their faith. That does them a disservice and leads to embarrassing gaffes by people not yet ready for that kind of responsibility. Worse, it hurts the reputation of the Gospel and the credibility of the church.

Every person who commits to follow Jesus should be willing to share their faith. But why does it have to immediately be from behind a microphone? Let’s encourage people to start with their family and friends, maturing a bit before we rush them into a public venue.

So, the next time a high school athlete, city councilman or business owner in your community becomes a Christian, let them grow a while before you have them speak at your church or otherwise go public with their faith. They will be served by your patience, and when they finally begin speaking about their faith the impact will be even more profound.
Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif. This column first appeared at his website, JeffIorg.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).