Brenn from Hughson, California writes this: “I want to be a bold witness for Christ before the men I work with, who are all unbelievers. My heart is breaking for them, and I am so frustrated at how hesitant I am! I don’t speak when I should speak, my plans to make opportunities come to nothing, when I do speak, I look back dissatisfied and wonder if I said anything worth saying or hearing. I second guess myself and hesitate myself out of an opportunity. I leave work most days feeling like a failure and doing nothing for the sake of winning souls. I feel like I don’t love those men like I ought to love them, and I don’t love God like I ought to love him. I can’t really think of how to state my question, other than, What would your advice be to me?” Pastor John, what would you say to Brenn?
Well, here is just one simple suggestion. I don’t feel like an authority in this. I don’t consider myself to be a gifted evangelist like some friends of mine — some pastors who are just so wonderfully adept. I just spent time recently with one of those friends, and I watched him manage conversations in a most natural, loving way. And I was filled with envy — I hope godly envy. O Lord, I want to be more like this. But here is what I have thought and tried over the years.
Finding Room for the Gospel
One of the things that hinders speaking of Christ often in casual work-related environments is that those environments seem so unsuited at the moment for the seriousness of what we need to talk about. In other words, you may be talking about a game or a movie or some style or fashion or a new technological device. And you want to talk about heaven and hell and sin and righteousness and justice and forgiveness and death and life, and they don’t fit. They are like oil and water. And they really don’t. Some strange change in tone would have to take place in order for the weight of what is at stake in the gospel to fit into that situation. I think that is one of the big obstacles to why we don’t go there.
So instead of beating ourselves up about that, let’s just recognize that, and think in a different way. Namely, am I willing to go ahead and participate in those conversations and make my comments about the new phone that somebody bought, or the movie they saw, or whatever — and that might tip people toward what I believe about my worldview — but, am I willing to befriend one or two or three of those friends and say to them, “Could we do lunch together sometime?”
In other words, you are being proactive in trying to create a situation where you could talk to them on different terms, just the two of you, or maybe three. You have got to be careful here about manhood and womanhood things, but I am thinking of two guys, for example. And over lunch you would just be right up front and say, “Could we trade stories? I would love to hear the story of your life, the fifteen-minute version of how you got here, and I would love to share my story, because there are some things in my story that have just blown me away and have been such good news to me that I would love for you to know about.”
And you just take it where you want it to go and you might even be right up front and say something like — I mean, this all depends on the kind of person you are talking to and what your relationship is — “You know, I would love to know more about what makes you tick, and I would love to tell you some of the things that make me tick. Because I can tell maybe in our conversations, we are not ticking exactly the same, and I just love some things that I would love for you to hear.” And so on.
“God would like us to use ordinary moments to draw people into situations where it feels more natural to talk about ultimate things.”
You just be right up front, and the point is not trading stories. The point is intentionality and the openness of your life. You’re doing it on your dime, and they volunteered. And if they say to you, “No, I don’t want to tell you my story. I don’t want to hear your story.” Well then, you are not going to go there. You are not going to push in on that at all. You have offered yourself to them. You want to share your life with them, and if they invite you in — and most will, I think — then they have invited you, and you haven’t done anything inappropriate to press yourself in on them.
So that is my simple suggestion. Instead of constantly thinking, “I have got to figure out a way to turn a Twins baseball game into a lesson on life and death” — it is so difficult — I think God probably would like us to use those ordinary moments in life to draw people into situations where it feels more natural to talk about ultimate things.