Monday, January 16, 2012

awkward conversations about Jesus

So I was at church yesterday, and one of our members was telling us a story about how he was hanging out with different people from work several years back.  He had one semi-awkward conversation about faith with one of his good friends from work, and then moved on to the other friend.  Though they were pretty good friends and had things in common to talk about, one day he kinda just busted out with "can I tell you about Jesus?"  And the guy responded, "I'd really rather you not."  Not quite the response he was hoping for.  And how in the world do you recover from that?

When I was growing up in church, we were given these little tracts and sent on out to start conversations with people about spiritual things, basically by asking them to reveal real and deeply personal things about their spirituality and beliefs.  I'm not sure where we got the impression that this would work out well, but somehow this was supposed to force a realization that people were lost, and that would give us a segue to sharing how Christ would meet that need.  Then and only then might we give some kind of personal story about how Christ had been involved in our own hearts and lives.

Perhaps that worked in a different time and culture, but I can hardly imagine a situation in which that would actually work today.  I can't say that I have all the answers about what we should do, but I can tell you what I've had the opportunity to do and how that has seemed to work out within the context of my relationships.  And I think that story-telling is the essence of talking about faith in today's context.

For me, the conversation has tended to start when we're just talking about something else, and because my faith is so central to my life, I naturally bring it up when I'm talking about why I'm doing one thing or not doing another.  In that moment, I have never then tried to apply my own experience to another person's--I'm just sharing out of my own life and context, telling my own story about my own life.  Pile enough of these conversations together over a long period of time, and you've had hundreds of opportunities to tell the story of Christ in a really natural and relevant way.

Who knows where things will go from there?  Sometimes I then get a question like, "so, how did faith become such an important part of your life?"  And then I get to tell another iteration of my story that's more clear and cohesive, where I get to also really tell the story of the gospel.  Sometimes we've become such good friends over that period of time that I'm able to ask questions and speak into all kinds of aspects of their lives, as any friend would.  Sometimes together we uncover a certain longing for spirituality that then puts me in a position where I'm seen as a sort of spiritual mentor where I'm able to more specifically connect someone with resources or ideas to encourage them to explore that part of their lives.

Conversations about Jesus don't have to be huge, scary, mysterious things.  They don't even have to be awkward.  If we are truly building relationships with people, seeking to know them and love them as Jesus would, sharing out of our own experiences, and looking for opportunities to pray and serve, we can be the light that we were called to be.

What stories do you have to tell about who Jesus has been in your life?  How do those stories relate to mundane things like laundry and child-rearing and working and playing?  Where has God met you in the difficult places of your life?  Pray that God would bring to mind the stories that you have to tell when and where it would be appropriate in the context of your relationships.

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