Many moons ago I served as College Pastor at Ninth & O. One benefit of serving alongside young people is that they keep us older folk up to speed with the latest jargon. I remember one instance when a group of students were huddled in a circle and someone made an awkward comment. Without hesitation, one of the students raised his hand in the air, pretended to spray an aerosol can, and blurted out “Awkward Spray!” Smiles ensued. I was unfamiliar with the expression, but based on the students’ reactions it was obvious that he was attempting to interject some levity into an uncomfortable situation. It was a pretty effective tactic. In fact, to this day I still find myself using Awkward Spray from time to time.
The reality is most of us do not enjoy uncomfortable situations. But I’ve noticed most of the spiritual growth in my life has occurred when I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone (and into my “growing zone”). I bring this up because the March emphasis on the LIVE THE VISION Roadmap is to “find one way to move outside our comfort zone to amplify Christ’s name.”
There are two things I know to be true for myself and probably true for most of us. First, we genuinely desire to amplify Christ’s name to unbelievers. We sincerely do! Second, we genuinely desire to remain in our comfort zone. The rub here is obvious in that most times our amplification of Christ’s name to unbelievers occurs squarely outside our comfort zone. As best as I can tell, we have two options for reconciling this situation. Option #1 is to not share Christ with others. This option, while perhaps popular, doesn’t align with Scripture, so we should probably eliminate it from consideration. Option #2 (which is really the only option) is to share Christ with others in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8) and to depend on the Spirit to give us courage (2 Timothy 1:7) as we enter into conversational spaces that make us uncomfortable.
The beauty of living a life marked by evangelistic obedience is that the more we practice the discipline of moving from our comfort zone to our growing zone, the larger our comfort zone grows. So what we once considered to be paralyzingly awkward now becomes manageably awkward! But, if you find yourself squarely in the “paralyzed by evangelism” camp, I want to share with you a three step approach that helps me feel more comfortable as I share Jesus. And for me, this simple approach is like spraying Awkward Spray as I engage in spiritual conversations with unbelievers. Of course, every evangelistic encounter is different, taking on a life of its own. Regardless, having this approach in mind as a template as I share Christ helps calm my nerves and fosters within me greater confidence. I hope it will do the same for you as well.
Step #1 – Use a Keyword to Infuse Spirituality into the Conversation
- Turning everyday conversations into spiritual conversations is easier than you might think. In the natural flow of conversations, I look for opportunities to drop keywords into the discussion. Keywords I commonly use include “prayer” and “church.” For example, I might ask my neighbor what he did over the weekend. Then, as I respond to the question, I will talk about our family’s experience at church on Sunday. By simply mentioning church, I have infused spirituality into the conversation and opened a doorway into a spiritual discussion.
Step #2 – Ask If They Are a Person of Faith
- Truth be told, the transition from Step #1 to Step #2 is often the most awkward moment in the entire conversation for both you and the other person. Just be prepared for that uncomfortable 3-second transition and push through it. Most often after I mention one of my keywords I will say something like, “[Name of person], you know that church and faith are important to my family. And I know we’ve never really had a spiritual conversation before, but are you a person of faith?” I’ve never had someone respond negatively to this question, probably because of its unassuming nature. Making no assumptions about their spiritual background puts people at ease to openly share. Responses will vary depending on their comfort level. On rare occasions, the person may want to shut down the conversation, and that’s okay. Trust God’s timing in all things. But most will be open to discuss, so be sure to listen to their words and watch their body language carefully. Doing so will help you discern how best to respond.
Step #3 – Discover a Connection Point and Share
- As the person shares their spiritual story, I try to identify something they’ve said that I can use to connect their spiritual story to my own. Once I’ve discovered that point of connection, I use that as an entry into sharing the gospel. Without exception one of two themes will surface as they share, either 1) their spiritual upbringing, or 2) some element of brokenness. If they mention either, I have transitional comments that flow into sharing the gospel. If they mention their spiritual upbringing, I will say something like, “I grew up going to a Baptist church. The reason I’ve stayed Baptist is because they simply teach the Bible. It can be confusing with so many churches teaching so many different things, but can I share with you what we believe at my church?” I then transition into sharing the gospel. If brokenness is a strong theme of the person’s spiritual story, it’s easy to flow into the gospel with comments such as, “To some degree every person experiences brokenness, but one of the reasons I’m a Christian is because the message of the Bible makes sense of brokenness in the world.”
This three step approach has worked for me, and I hope it’s helpful for you as well. But one question you might still have is, “I know this approach ends with me sharing the gospel, but how do I do that?” I recommend learning 3 Circles because of its straightforward approach highlighting the themes of God’s design, brokenness, and how Jesus heals brokenness. You can learn 3 Circles as well as walk others through it by downloading the “Life Conversation Guide” app (iOS, Android) to your smartphone.
Evangelism is uncomfortable and understandably so. After all, by its very nature, it is spiritual warfare as light collides with darkness. But as we move outside our comfort zone, let us go with a simple plan and with the understanding that we witness not in our own strength but in the strength of the Holy Spirit.