in·cog·ni·to—Adjective: “(Of a person) having one’s true identity concealed.”

There’s been a lot of discussion lately in the media about secret agents. Not of the fictional James Bond sort, but real life FBI and CIA agents and their work.

A recent LifeWay Research poll shows that there is another group that is often living under cover: Christians.

While the poll of Protestant Christians showed that a majority of “American churchgoers agree Christians should seek out honest feedback about their spiritual life from other Christians,” fewer are living their faith out loud.

The survey showed that “churchgoers often leave important elements of faith unspoken. Nearly a third (29 percent) agree ‘Spiritual matters do not tend to come up as a normal part of my daily conversations with other Christians.’”

The Apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).

This research suggests that many believers today are not acting unashamed of the Gospel. Yes, we love to talk about sports, politics, movies and current events. But too often we shy away from opportunities to talk about weightier matters, like faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To be sure, we do not want to be like the Pharisees who talked a good game but were through and through evil (Matt. 23:27). We do not want our faith to be a “said faith” that is not lived out in our actions.

At the same time, we need to pray for the boldness of Paul, who was unashamed of the Gospel. While discussing the survey results, LifeWay’s Scott McConnell pointed out the example of Peter, who experienced timidity.

“This research aligns with the biblical accounts of Peter’s three denials of Christ with the ever-present struggle and temptation believers face to hide their relationship with Christ,” he said.

He then “pointed out the research uncovers several characteristics that best predict being unashamed, including reading the Bible more often. Other actions that predict more spiritual maturity in being unashamed include sharing with someone how to become a Christian, being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually-mature Christian, and having a habit of confessing sins to God.”

By cultivating the practices and spiritual disciplines McConnell mentioned, we are more likely to move from secret-agent Christians to on-mission Christians. That means we can become bolder, even as society becomes increasingly secular and hostile toward Christians.

While we are fascinated by real-life secret agents, Christians cannot remain incognito with the mission Jesus has given us. We must be unashamed of the Gospel, regardless of the consequences. That is, after all, in our job description.