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In Fulton, Maryland, Members Learn to Share Faith
Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden; Photos by Elizabeth Moore
Kumar Dixit, administrative pastor at New Hope church in Fulton, Md., teaches a class on sharing your faith.
“What scares you about sharing your faith?”
The question posed by Kumar Dixit, administrative pastor at Chesapeake Conference’s New Hope church in Fulton, Md., drew a myriad answers from attendees to his Sabbath afternoon workshop.
Confidence, a better command of Scripture and knowing how to approach people topped the list of reasons cited. One woman posited, “We all have opportunities to share faith every day, but how do we open that door without knocking on doors?”
Many of the young and young at heart gathered, nodded or sent glances of agreement her way and then looked to the presenter for answers.
Pastor Dixit, perched on a stool in the center of their semicircle and using a music stand as his pulpit, smiled confidently and launched into his “Say What? How to Share Your Faith Seminar.”
First, he needlessly pointed out that learning to share faith was not a popular topic in Seventh-day Adventist churches and scored low on the totem poll in surveys conducted about local church priorities. Although Dixit promoted his seminar on the church’s website, in the church bulletin, through social media and even in last week’s Visitor News Bulletin, only 19 people took advantage of the promise of free childcare and a lunch buffet of chili, cornbread, salad and home-baked desserts. There were more people in the baptismal class held simultaneously by senior pastor David Newman. In addition, the three-hour seminar was held in the tiny upper room above the church’s sprawling—and empty—sanctuary.
“We have 700 members and only four among this group are here,” Dixit admitted. The others were from area Adventist churches, and two were not church members at all but came to learn how to share their faith.
And Dixit, a master presenter, didn’t disappoint. Clad in his typical uniform of dress shirt, dress pants and, on this day, red dress socks (he often sheds his shoes during presentations), he led the group through a 32-page outline. “If you want to share your faith, this is your job description,” he declared. “You must genuinely care, you must be a sort of spiritual social worker and you must be a resource. In other words, you must build relational bridges.”
He punctuated his teaching points by sharing stories of people he met and helped bring to Christ using that approach. There was Zac, an Apple Store employee who fixed his computer, accepted an invitation to attend a God Encounters weekend and now visits periodically; Kareem, who joined after his girlfriend brought him to New Hope because she didn’t think her Adventist church was a safe place to introduce people to her faith tradition; and the Buddhist he commandeered to teach Sabbath School hoping she would study her way to the truth. (She did and he baptized her.) And just last week, there was the suicidal man who texted their pastor-on-call cell phone in desperation. “He came home, and his wife sat him down and handed him a piece of paper saying that after 10 years of marriage, she wanted a divorce,” Dixit recalled. “He was devastated and has texted me multiple times this week, but I was there for him. ‘Dude,’ I said, ‘don’t do anything stupid.’”
So far he hasn’t, and Dixit used the best option he knows to draw him and the others to Christ—sharing his personal testimony of where God found him, how his life changed and what’s happened since. On Sabbath afternoon, he encouraged attendees to do the same, and, through practice sessions, slowly helped allay their fears of witnessing for Christ.
“It was nice to hear the testimonies,” said Lynitta Karley, a member of Potomac Conference’s Remnant church in Silver Spring, Md. “I learned that it’s not our job to convict, and God has a way of helping us relate to others; He brings the right people to us.”
For Dixit, that revelation meant he had succeeded. Nineteen down, many more to go.