Every believer has a desire to obey the Great Commission, Christ’s command to go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching to obey (Matt. 28:18-20). But what does that look like? More specifically, many of you share how you are able to start conversations with people but don’t know how to turn the conversation toward spiritual topics. How do we get beyond small talk about the weather?
If you are a master of communication, that is an easy task and you can just skip this article. For the rest of us we need tips and encouragement to go for it.
As we embark on a summer of “Life on Mission” together I’d like to offer a few articles to help shift your perspective on evangelism. My goal is to give you a few ways to help shift your mindset to make spiritual conversations more natural for you.
Any conversation is easier if you are secure in your own identity. If you aren’t confident of who you are and what your purpose is, you will always feel you need to be on the defensive. It will feel unnatural to explain a worldview and call someone to embrace a new identity if you aren’t absolutely convinced of it yourself.
When you meet someone new, what are two things people talk about to get to know each other? Usually it is family and employment. Someone almost always introduces two topics: “What do you do?” and “Tell me about your family.” It’s easy to talk about your job and your family. They are very non-threatening, but also very temporal. Understood biblically, these two things have a far deeper spiritual purpose. Knowing your true calling and family identity can help you steer a conversation to Christ and his work through the church.
Imagine if you were an orphan, you had no family to go home to, nobody to depend on when difficulty came. Then in conversation someone began to talk about their family. You’d likely get quite uncomfortable. Then they start to ask you about your family. Because it is so uncomfotable, you don’t like to talk about it so you try to shift the conversation to something less threatening like the weather. When holiday seasons come around you avoid people because you know everyone will be talking about their family traditions.
This is often the way we think about talking about our church family. We feel like spiritual orphans so we are uncomfortable talking about the family of God. We avoid the conversation because we aren’t secure in our place in the family so we don’t speak with confidence about our brothers and sisters in Christ and our heavenly Father.
But the more you immerse yourself in your church family, the more you love them and are loved by them, the more you shape your weekly life around them, the more natural it will be to talk about how God our Father is taking care of us. During holidays you will be especially excited to talk about the meals you will be sharing with your church family, or the traditions you share with them as you gather to celebrate what our Father has done for us in Christ. If you’re secure in your identity in the church family and enjoy your place as a brother or sister, you’ll be eager to tell others about this family.
Similarly, when the conversation turns to talk about your job, it is helpful to remember what your primary calling is: you are a priest (1 Peter 2:9) and an ambassador of King Jesus (2 Cor. 5:20). Both of these responsibilities have a representative role. Your job on earth is to represent the holiness and authority of Jesus on earth. You represent people before God and God before people.
For me, as a pastor, this conversational transition is easy. If someone asks, “What do you do?” I say I am a pastor and immediately I can ask them, “Which church are you a part of?” Then, we are immediately in a spiritual conversation. This transition is easy because that is my job.
But it is yours too. You are a minister in the church too (Ephesians 4:12). It’s probably a bit awkward to tell someone you are a minister, priest, or ambassador when you are actually a nurse, a mom, a counselor, a technician, a teacher, or an engineer. But you can be creative with how you introduce your job.
I heard of a pastor who avoided telling people he was a pastor because he wanted to go deeper with someone before letting the cat out of the bag. When someone asked what he does, he would respond by telling them he led a non-profit community-service organization that helps people of every cultural or economic background from every age group. He does teaching, counseling, visiting, and shares meals with people setting them on a trajectory for a brand new life. He helps hundreds of people so that they can then turn around and do it for others.
When people get really excited, then he tells them he is a pastor, explains what the church is and how it is all about building us up in Christ who shed his blood to give us new life.
No matter what your current job is, our callings are all the same. Your job is to represent the reign of King Jesus in the world, call others to enjoy his reign by surrendering to him who died on the cross and rose from the dead, and get to work equipping others to represent him in the world too. You can do that as a teacher or as a janitor, a student or a doctor, a farmer or a fireman.
If you work in IT, you can tell people, “I get the awesome privilege of displaying the creativity and order of God in the incredible world of computer technology!” If you are a fireman, you can tell people that you love to rescue people from the fire, because your love for others in need is inspired by Jesus rescuing you from the fire. You are a teacher, because God made a beautiful world for us to explore and you want others to know how God made us to enjoy it. You are a nurse, because you want to show people that the brokenness of our bodies is not the purpose for which we were made. You stay at home with the kids, because you want to pour out your life for your children’s joy as Christ poured out his life for us.
It may sound cheesy, but it is only cheesy because you haven’t embraced it as your identity. Shouldn’t Christ be the reason we all do our work? It certainly isn’t for money, because God said he would provide everything we need to be faithful (Matthew 6:33) and to enjoy the world he made (1 Timothy 6:17).
How can you rethink your family and career identity to line it up with what you were made for, with what will last for eternity? You were bought with a bloody price to be made a child of God the Father and sent as an ambassador in the world. Immerse yourself more in these truths, experience them more fully with your church family and over time you will find it easier to talk about them with others.