Why I Choose to Be Public About My Faith

In my career as a writer, speaker and coach, I often find myself faced with a tension: If (and how much) to discuss my faith.

Many of my fellow writers and speakers interact with purely faith-based audiences. In spite of variations in spirital practice, sharing their beliefs from the stage or online isn’t an issue; it’s expected.

My community, however, is more diverse. Some claim the Christian faith, some claim a different faith, and others claim no faith at all. Many of my presentations are inspirational, filled with Biblical references and stories. Others are instructional—how-tos on speaking, writing & storytelling—void of any reference to God. This blog (as well as my Facebook page and other social communities) then becomes a melting pot, forcing a certain amount of tension when I speak or write.

Should I quote that Bible verse, or not? 

Should I include that prayer or story, or leave it out? 

I’ve wrestled with this more often than you know. I feel no obligation to hide what I believe, and I feel no obligation to recklessly broadcast it. I want to honor the readers and listeners who’ve become my friends, regardless of our differences.

Did you hear that? I want to honor you. 

Last week I read this article by author and Storyline Conference founder Donald Miller: Why I’m Not More Public About My Faith. It’s an older post, one he wrote January 2015. At that time, I was a bit—how should I say—preoccupied. Needlesstosay, I stumbled on it last week, and I’ve been chewing on it every since.

Before I go any further, I need to make one thing clear. Although our posts appear to be in direct opposition, I agree with Miller far more than I disagree. His writing is thoughtful, respectful. His ultimate position and how he arrived there demands more than casual review. That said, although I stand with Miller on several points, I land at a different conclusion in the end.

I choose to be public about my faith. To err on the side of expression rather than silence. These are my reasons why:

1. Faith is the singlemost defining and driving force in my life. I don’t say this flippantly. I have wrestled with doubts and uncertainty to the extent I feared my faith would end up nothing but ash. And yet, even after enduring hell, I can say I’m only more certain of what I believe. My faith trumps my love for husband and children. I’m more passionate about it than narrative and public speaking. I enjoy it more than my closest friendships. Like a cement foundation that makes it possible for a house to stand, my faith is the supporting structure for every other element in my life. To hide it would be like holding my breath. Possible, but life diminishing. If it’s acceptable to give public expression to my love of family, story and communication—even though you may not share my loves—then it would seem it’s okay to do the same with my faith.

2. I want to love you more than I want to please you. There was a time this wasn’t the case. I was far more obsessed with finding fans than developing authentic friendships. Fear kept me quiet, careful. I didn’t want to offend, didn’t want to alienate. I spent a crazy amount of energy trying to tiptoe around my beliefs—in person and online—such that my truest heart was no longer identifiable. Perhaps it’s a result of my increasing age or my many run-ins with death, but I no longer want to please or impress you. I want to love you. And the only way to do that is to tell the truth.

3. Diversity builds stronger relationships than uniformity. This has been, perhaps, my greatest revelation in the past few years. The more anchored I am in my beliefs and sense of self, the more welcoming I am to diversity and dialogue. I feel secure in what I believe. That means even if you and I maintain conflicting points of view, I don’t feel conflicted or threatened. I care about you and I want to hear your story and beliefs, especially if they’re different than mine. The beauty of this kind of exchange is a depth of relationship that dives beyond superficial pleasantries.

4. I don’t need better numbers; I need deeper friends. And a rock-solid faith. This is where I applaud Miller’s perspective. The heart of this issue isn’t the external display; it’s the internal motivation. What’s driving your position? I’ve watched public figures become near-repulsive about their faith to create a platform-building ruckus (for the record, I’ve seen atheists do the same). That has little to do with faith at all. At the same time, I’ve known others who remain silent on the subject simply because they fear losing subscribers as a result. Is one better than the other? I don’t think so. To build a fan base around a fake persona is selfish. Sooner or later the truth will blow through and the house—both your platform and your faith—will fail. I don’t need a bigger email list; but I do need friends and a faith that can stand up regardless of the weather.

This can be a complicated and emotional issue. Differences tend to do that. But differences don’t need to be divisive.

Please know this: If I’m not your cuppa tea, no harm, no foul. You certainly don’t need to waste any more time. But if you enjoy a good stretch, if you see value in spiritual conversations from time to time and desire a safe place in which to wrestle and struggle, pull up a chair.

It’s so nice to meet you.

When it comes to public spiritual expression, where do you stand? My guess is you have good reasons for your convictions, whatever they may be. I’d love to hear your take and why. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

36 thoughts on “Why I Choose to Be Public About My Faith

  1. Thank you for this post Michele – it has been timely for me as I have been wrestling with this question of late. My readers come from all backgrounds and sometimes I am unsure how to proceed with my words when it comes to my faith. It’s helpful to know that others wrestle with the same kinds of questions – your post has helped clarify some of those things for me. Thank you –

    • Thanks for sharing, Victoria. I find it fascinating that the very thing that drives me to say too much or too little is not so much my confidence in what I believe, but my insecurity in it. I could write another entire blog post about that one topic. 🙂 In short, when I shore up what I believe about myself and my faith in my private life, I’m more able to discern how to handle both in my public life.

  2. Your words resonated with me, Michelle. I, too, author a blog. It is my prayer that my faith naturally flows through my writing and actions, but there have been times where I felt led to demonstrate that faith more publicly.

    As I have aged I am so aware of WHOSE “well done” I am working for, and it is God’s. He calls me to LOVE, first and foremost, not please. (What you wrote about that really struck me, too)

    God bless you for your authenticity – in joy and in hardship. I so enjoy your site – and your book!

  3. Oh how I love this! Michelle, sweet friend, you hit the nail on the head. This is why I love God’s word so much.

    I love your statement “I don’t need better numbers; I need deeper friends. And a rock-solid faith.” I believe that there are many people who fail to see that “faith” IS the “truth” – it’s reality!

    It’s similar to when a child falls down and obtains a large abrasion on their leg. Before administering the healing ointment of “neosporin” the dirt, grim and gravel that’s become embedded in the soft tissue must be removed before any healing can occur. This is painful – but it must be done.

    Unless all of the dirt is removed, the abrasion will not heal. It will fester, become infected, and ultimately become worse leading to further complications.

    It’s much easier to bear down, face the pain of debriding 100% of the entire wound, than only remove 5% of the dirt and live in denial believing that enough neosporin will make it all better.

    My point is – every mom and doctor knows that removing the dirt is what’s needed for healing to occur. Is it painful? Yes. But it’s FOR our good. In the same way, God’s Word is ALWAYS for our good. Those who want to ignore it only elongate their own suffering and make things worse.

    The news gives us daily examples of this principle. There are those who believe they can remove only 5% of the dirt and cover the rest… but God has designed everything to be for our (the bodies) good. Anything that is not for our good, will ultimately, become infected and come to a head.

    This is why like you, I also am very public about my faith – because it’s not my opinion. It’s God. It’s the TRUTH. It’s unchangeable. It’s unshakeable. He is FOR us! And He’s GOOD!

    Love you friend! Keep up the great work!!
    Christy xoxo

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Michele. I applaud your courage and faithfulness, remembering “for those who honor Me I will honor” (1 Sam.2:30b). Love your vulnerability on all topics. Even writing a Christian blog, I fight the tendency to want to keep some of the most personal parts of my faith private. But those will often be the very things that God uses to spark a new light in others. Thanks for allowing us on your journey!

    • And thank YOU for sharing, Pamela. 🙂 It’s such a tough topic, and requires added wisdom to know when and how to share. Biblical evidence is plentiful that, at times, God commanded his people to keep silent. There’s a great example in Luke where Jesus performs two miracles back to back. In one, he tells the healed person, “Go and tell everyone what God has done for you!” In the other, he tells the healed person, “Don’t tell anyone what God has done for you.” This tells me there is a time and place for both. The key, I believe, is to be rooted enough in your private relationship with God that you can hear his counsel when the time comes.

  5. Oooooo, how I love this conversation. I only saw Donald Miller’s post yesterday, and was so relieved to see his perspective and now yours.

    My personal stance and choices on this issue have been creative as well as expressive. That is, as I began to express myself according to my convictions, I actually began to create a space to have the conversation I wanted to have. My niche emerged from my stance on this issue.

    I decided several years ago that I no longer wanted to be a “Christian author.” Though I strongly and clearly identified as a Christian and lover of Jesus Christ, I no longer saw myself represented in what had become popularly understood as Christian. I felt disconnected from the collective cultural identity of Christianity. With the fractured state of the Church, I suspect more Christians feel like me than not. In our culture, Christianity has no one clear identity and some of the more popular representations and characterizations don’t represent me.

    It was in considering this fractured state of the Church—and the reasons why—that my work has been deepened. By deepened I don’t mean that it’s moved into more nuances of biblical understanding and the implications and applications that flow from it; there are enough of those voices in the world. My work has moved more into the Romans 1 realm: understanding God, and therefore understanding and knowing oneself, by what is clear to careful and good reason.

    Unbelievers laugh at us for our rank lack of reason and our inability to show them who they are and who God is apart from the bible. Why should they believe the bible when Christians can’t even agree on what the bible means? If unbelievers are accountable to God ~without excuse~ (Romans 1) because of the things that are made, then Christians need to be working on showing that clarity that makes the unbeliever without excuse for their unbelief.

    Because I don’t identify with the public identity of Christianity, this is the course I’ve set my own work on and I can’t do that work effectively if I’m using the bible as my source material. My work never contradicts my understanding of the Word, but rather confirms the Word and (if one thinks about it) shows the necessity of the Word—all without quoting it.

    Those are some of the underlying reasons for my practices. My actual practices look like this: my About page is very clear about both my faith and some of the reasons I am no longer approaching my work from a starting point of the bible. I make no apologies for being a Christian and I am openly a woman of faith, yet, most of those who are engaging my work aren’t Christians. I desire to improve their impression of Christianity which seems to be very negative. They like Jesus just fine, thank you, but Christians? Not so much— because of their understanding of the public identity of Christianity and because of their personal experiences with Christians.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I feel called to unbelievers and to Christians who are interested in looking at their personal growth by reasonably considering what God has revealed through what He has made. This combined “audience” dictates my social media presence and my writing in general.

    That doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t tug at times to be more openly praising or promoting of my Lord. I find places to express that side of me; it’s just not as public as my work is. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the sting of being judged a “less-than” Christian because I’m not quoting bible verses or using Christian-y language.

    I don’t find my particular struggle with this issue of public faith in either your post or Donald Miller’s post, but I appreciate both points of view and it’s comforting to see others considering the issue. In an age of social media and internet living, I think we all need to grapple with it and keep grappling with it. Even when we understand our underlying principles for our decision there’s still an ongoing battle with how our decision affects us through either the approval or persecution of others, and the temptations those can bring.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, Michele.

  6. Thank you for sharing.
    I choose to be public about my faith because I am thankful for the love of Christ that lifted me. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve made some less than stellar choices,but in the inner most part of my being there is a pull to Christ, a sensitivity to holding on to what I know that keeps me sure about Him. His reputation is good with me. I also choose to point others to Him by word and deed that they would come to know Him …. a rock in a weary land, a shelter in a time of storm, an endless love. Even in all that I struggle with how much to say or whether to mention God at all. I’m learning that it’s those moments that I need to surrender and allow Him to flow. I started following you because of the transparency of your writings and because it ministered to me… because of a need to go deeper still. I’ve walked away from certain ministries because I felt the need to focus on the relationship with the person not the performance of the ministry. I believed that the struggle to walk in the love for one another is the challenge. To apply the word, that my heart and mind are in sync. To this day that is not understood or well received. How amazing God is to drop nuggets in our spirits to move in certain ways and the horizontal view becomes so distracting that loosing sight of the vertical impact is lost from view.

  7. Miller’s article and argument are very interesting, yet I disagree with him at the heart of what he is saying. I too, tend to be private about my faith; it’s simply my nature. Be it good or bad, I’m not one to try to evangelize or convert others. However, it is a part of who I am so I do tend to talk about my faith as I talk about my life (“At church we…, I prayed about…I was blah, blah when I felt God nudge me…, etc.). It has taken years to develop my strong faith, how did I get here? From observing other Christians. If other Christians in my life hadn’t been open about their faith, I could not have learned nd what a from them. I think it’s all about our motives. If we have a right heart, we are not talking for show, we are simply talking.

  8. I like the word you used towards the beginning of this post…tension. I feel the same way. I want my faith to attract, no repel. I want someone to wonder about why I have so much joy or why I can be so positive in the face of adversity. I want to attract questions…and so I try to be careful and know who I am talking to. I want to learn about them and certainly don’t want to throw pat answers their way. And…everything I think, feel, say, is infused by my faith but it is not entirely about my faith. There are universal struggles that Christians and non-Christians alike face and God is a healer for all. He died while we were yet sinners. In my private practice as a therapist, I could not talk about faith unless a client brought it up but I could still silently ask God for wisdom as to how to help a hurting child of His, whether they acknowledged Him at that point in their life or not. He already loved them. Sometimes, even my clients would ask me about my faith and open a door. In a few instances, it was life-changing. But in my personal life, my motive for getting to know someone is to get to know them, not “sell” them on my faith.

  9. Michele, Thank you for sharing this post! I had a journalism professor tell me in college that no one would ever hire me if I was public about my faith. But my faith is the defining and driving force of me life, just like it is for you. And NOTHING is worth more than that.

  10. …14″You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16″Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5

    Let it shine Michelle, let it shine.

  11. I am new to the blogging world, yet I have never given it much thought how much or how little of my faith I would share. It never crossed my mind that I shouldn’t share my faith. God and I have gone through way too much together. I have a son who has a progressive, 100% fatal disease. I often joke saying my blog should be called “Reality Bites” because, well it does!! I see what hopelessness does to people and it breaks my heart. My only hope HAS been in God. I share both the happy moments, and the struggles, because there are many of those too. For so long I felt alone. My desire is to help others to know they are not alone. That its okay to wrestle things out with God and that HE is our hope and if we purposefully seek to see, God shows us in so many little ways that he has not forgotten us. I share these every day moments as they come along. I don’t necessarily make God the center of my posts but he seems to find his way into them 🙂 I am too old and tired to worry about if people will or won’t read my blog. I hope they do and are encouraged, but if they don’t that’s okay. My struggle has not been so much sharing God things but with my sons disease, how much or how little of that to share.

  12. Very insightful and thought-provoking post, Michele!

    Expressing my faith in my writing is only a struggle for me in that I don’t want to be labeled as “one-of-those” Christians in word not action and dismissed arbitrarily and immediately as someone who doesn’t understand, doesn’t struggle, and doesn’t really care about the person only about the conversion.

    Oh, how God loves us! All of us. How can we keep that silent? The sharing of our faith needs to be authentic, yes, but shouldn’t His love permeate through us and pour out of us in all we do, not just in certain areas of our lives?

  13. Good read for my morning 🙂 I like that you wrote about this. I have been wrestling with this monster myself. It has to break down to something so simple as authenticity and truth. Yes?? Of course these words slide off the key pad much easier when leaving a comment than baring your soul to an audience.

    “Sooner or later the truth will blow through and the house – both your platform and your faith – will fail” and “What’s driving your position” are perfect echo’s in my ears as I continue to grow my outer and inner voice.
    Thank you again for chewing on the many thoughts you do and putting them into writings for others to chew on too!

  14. Michele, I just love how open, genuine, and honest you are about what your life experiences! That’s what attracts me to your blog. Down-to-earth, boldly telling your story is so very inspiring and refreshing!
    Over time…lots and lots of time…since I’m now 66, I’ve become more and more spiritual in my soul. I breathe my faith in and out like I do the air around me. I don’t want it to look like a banner I’m wearing at all! It’s just a huge part of who I am. It came the hard way…through tragedies and illnesses and typical life lessons. I want to feel comfortable expressing my faith joyfully without wondering if I have made somebody uncomfortable.
    I do have friends who are very private about their beliefs and are much more comfortable if people leave it that way. So…I realize if I want to be able to express my feelings, I’m going to have to accept that they may be quietly flinching a tiny bit.
    You have given me courage to be who I am. Thank you!

  15. Wonderful post, Michelle. As always, I enjoy your honesty.

    As my children (now both grown women) were learning to make their way in the world, first as children and then as adults, we always had a goal in our family: Let the love of your God and your practice of faith-based worship define you, your actions, and your decisions. As a family, we carried the thought that if no one could tell that you had a deep belief in One much bigger than yourself, than maybe you were not living it every moment.

    We have never been one to push our beliefs on anyone; if asked, we would be happy to answer any questions. We have had many, many wonderful conversations with interesting people about the differences (and similarities) in our beliefs. A lot has been learned along the way, by all involved.

    All that being said, though, it has been a blessing so many times to be recognized as some of those who put faith first. There is so much awful stuff going on in the world, being seen as a light that shines for righteousness is a blessing. Not everyone is thrilled with the way we live our lives or impressed by what we believe, but we cannot please everyone, right?

    At the end of the day, we are confident and satisfied that God is pleased with us. Can we ask for any higher honor?

  16. Awesome post, Michelle!

    Oh, such a beautiful wrestle… Fear of God versus fear of man.

    Isn’t God so gracious to allow us the freedom of this choice? So gracious to empower us to choose what’s best? Oh, and isn’t it fabulous that we can define it as “best,” not out of pride, but rather, upon the authority of Scripture?

    If Jesus is the light of the world and He lives inside us, then naturally He will shine brightly through us. By His nature, He’s too glorious to contain. So of course it’s BEST to let Him shine anywhere and everywhere, and never to cover His presence.

    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

    Fear holds us back from too many things; that’s why I LOVE the expression, “if God is for me, who can be against me?” Sometimes I say it like this: “What’s a person’s opinion or judgement of me next to God’s?” Or “what do people know in comparison to God?”

    I recently wrestled with the question: How far am I willing to go with what God calls me to do? If He takes me “out there,” out of my comfort zone, away from the places of safety and mainstream Christian popularity, (still within the truths of the Bible, of course) am I willing to go? And if not, why not?

    As I ponder this, it strikes me how crucial it is that we sharpen our ears to His voice and simply obey Him, embracing the assignment He gives us. Looking to the left and right only slows us down. We need only look straight ahead, at Jesus, our forever prize.

    It’s freedom to look at Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Gazing at His face, at His heart, at HIM, helps the rest of the accolades fade away. Sales, numbers, popularity, and even how much we’re loved by other people–becomes less important.

    So here’s what I want my prayer to be: “Lord, if you give those things to me, great. But if not, I will always by Your grace keep you first in My life. So please strengthen me to do stay on track and shine you bright.”

    Michelle, I feel God’s smile on you. Thank you for faithfully inspiring so many of us with your words!

    You just inspired me to write a new blog post. I hope to post it soon.

  17. even though I read your blog a lot I don’t typically comment. Today I just want to say “beautifully written and well done”. I love your thought and thank you for writing on the subject. I believe that there are many of us that have struggled with this. Where do we draw the line? What if I say too much? Your prospective is perfect, as in we were commanded to “love”. With that commandment we are free to share our faith and our stories. It doesn’t mean that we intentionally offend someone yet we can pray that through our sharing we have planted a seed of life that may grow in them. Thank you for all you do. My prayers for you and your family always.

  18. Thank you for as always nailing it. You are a true inspiration. For me, I must proclaim Christ whether I ever have the numbers or not. I may never make a living with my message; yet, I must keep writing and telling the message that God is my joy, my greatest treasure. No matter what circumstances come–He is my foundation. I believe that if one person’s eternity is changed because they stumbled onto my page, then the 5 years of writing have been worth every hour spent. I use to struggle with the “why” in the past. I do avoid controversial, politically charged subjects; but, that I do not out of fear to speak. Rather, I believe that if I can point someone to Christ; He can take care of changing the heart of those who come.

  19. Thank you! I am so struggling just finding my way spiritually and this world we are so bombarded with negative sinfulness just a struggle to live a deep faith without stepping on toes or offending! But on the other hand you see so many examples in bible of people going thru same trials of life so it gives me hope I can find my way with my spirituality and faith!

  20. I LOVED this Michele!!!!
    I face this tension soooo much myself and love what you shared, so helpful!

    Thanks for your authenticity and generosity!!

  21. This was THE post I needed to read today. I and trying to get back to my faith, been reading John Warwick Montgomery’s book Where Christ is Present, wherechristispresent.com is his site. It’s been helping me get back to the faith I had as a child when we attended church all the time. I need to get back there so I can share and discuss my faith!

  22. Michelle, this is so timely for me. Thank you so much for sharing this! I recently started a blog and was also wrestling with the idea – should I be open about my faith or not? But like you, my faith is a huge part of my life and there is no way I can omit that in my writing! Many blessings to you and welcome back to This is Your Life podcast! We’ve missed you and love you so much! xo

  23. Hi Michelle,

    This post provided me with confirmation. I recently launched a new site and was confronted with the same situation.

    I was advised by some people not to be too outspoken about my faith to avoid offending people who might not agree with me. I decided to continue as planned though. Nobody is forced to agree with me and I don’t intend getting involved in any arguments. Everybody is free to make their own choices.

    As you say, sooner or later the truth will blow through.

    Have a great day,

    Jaco.

  24. Michelle, i sincerely share in your truth because sometimes or perhaps most times being silent of our faith simply because we do not want to either offend or send away some of our followers who are not of the same faith makes us to gradually shift or drift away from our original God ordained vision and if we do not realize it and get back on line one might end up missing God’s original plan for his life.

    this has being a challenge for me as i try to fulfill my assignment in life as my audience began to grow diversified it becomes more challenging to make my faith more public in my presentations even in my social media pages. but i must say a big thank you because you have helped me correct my errors. i believe many others are being healed by this your write up.
    thank you indeed

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