Friday, August 11, 2017

Sharing Good News: Getting Beyond the Awkward and Talking about Jesus Outside Our Comfort Zones

Not only is God on His mission to return people into relationship with Him – He calls everyday people to join Him in doing so like the woman at the well in John 4 and the demoniac in Mark 5; they both returned to their villages and spoke about Jesus and many came to believe in Him because of the testimony of these two. + Beau Crosetto

In complementing our last post on N.T. Wright's Simply Good News entitled, 
"Praying the Good News: Why It's Simply Good News to Pray the 'Our Father' or Lord's Prayer," this post will focus on "Sharing Good News" based on Beau Crosetto's book Beyond Awkward: When Talking About Jesus Is Outside Your Comfort Zone

This summer, there have been plenty of things I've heard people share with me about. Patty Jenkins' and Gal Gadot's "Wonder Woman." The Piyo workout plan. Jay-Z's 4:44 vulnerability and authenticity. A Japanese woman's brilliance to decluttering and organizing books. The Warriors super team potential and competition. Etc., etc., etc.

All these things are good. Some may be great. Some may even become part of history. Time will tell. But what time has told us thus far is that the story of Jesus has, is, and will be told again and again. 

For those who love Jesus, believe He is who He says He is, and follow His words, works, and ways, we will share about Him a bit in the summer of 2017.

If you're not a follower of Jesus, do you have a friend who says she or he follows Him? Why do you think they share Him with you? Or if they don't, why do you think they try to keep Him under wraps? Maybe because in the U.S. in the 21st century, it's a little awkward?

Beau Crosetto shares about this in Beyond Awkward, as well as why He loves sharing Jesus enough to get beyond the discomfort in the third chapter of his book, "Evangelism is Awkward". Below are some excerpts from Chapter 3; for a good collection of awkward and exciting stories of sharing about Jesus and people seeking Him or receiving Him, definitely check out the entire book.

The Puzzle of Sharing Good News: Evangelism is Awkward

Awkwardness usually precedes God moving in a powerful way.

Most of the time when God asks us to talk to someone in His name, it will be awkward at some point. But right after some of the initial tension is released, some kind of breakthrough comes, whether in the other person, in us, or in the conversation.

Evangelistic moments will freak us out. But if we bail out early we will miss the breakthrough moment that God, the other person and we were longing for the whole time.

The reality is that most people don't share about Jesus because they don't want to make others uncomfortable, they don't want to feel pushy, or they anticipate being caught without words in the moment. So we don't even start, or we bail at the first sign of trouble. It is important to ask ourselves regularly, Am I tempted to bail because of how I might look or feel, or is this genuinely a bad time to bring up Jesus?

The overwhelming reality in sharing Jesus, however, is that most of the encounters God sets up will be unnerving and uncomfortable. So why should we even bother? We do it because we know it may be awkward now, but God is going to move. If we want to see God move, then we need to enter into the awkwardness. Breakthrough is coming, and we don't want to miss it. 

Sharing the Good News: Awkward Moments Lead to Breakthroughs

The funny thing about awkward moments is that you and I have them all the time. Not just in sharing our faith, but in dating relationships, marriage, at work with our boss, and even with friends. I would make the case that those tense moments often are the way we pass through a certain threshold to gain more intimacy in our relationships.

Sharing Jesus is no different. Incredible tension comes into play with people we know God wants us to talk to about Jesus. We are nervous and scared because we don't know if it will be weird or pushy or uncomfortable. We don't want to alienate them, and we don't want to get rejected.

But some of the time when we pop that question, Would you ever want to talk about Jesus? there is an incredible response at the end. They actually want to talk about and seek God. The uneasy moment precedes a breakthrough experience.

What makes things awkward? The genesis of awkwardness is social rules being broken; the more social rules that are broken, the more awkward encounters become. There are three main social norms we have to break repeatedly if we are going to share Jesus with others regularly, and because we have to break them, most of us don't share.

1. Don't talk to anyone you don't know "well enough". It is not socially acceptable in Western culture to engage in "religious" conversations with people we don't know that well. This differs depending on where we live, but for the most part it is a social rule that when we don't know someone that well, we should keep to ourselves about our beliefs. 
2. Don't say things that make anyone feel uncomfortable. We are becoming more and more conditioned to comfort. If something doesn't feel good, don't do it. If something doesn't sound good, don't say it. It is not normal to "press through" when things feel uncomfortable to ourselves or others. It is normal to avoid them, get rid of them, and do something different.  
3. Don't question people about what is real or true. It is not okay in our culture, especially the more experience-based it becomes, to say Jesus is the way God comes to us or to ask for more detail as to why people they think what they think is true or real. We live in a more relativistic culture which embraces the mantra "What is good for you is good for you, and what is good for me is good for me." 

So any kind of encounter that presses us to break one of these rules will create awkward tension. When we break all three rules  talk to someone we don't know that well, step into an uncomfortable question, and consider with the person that Jesus is true or real  then we are on our way to a more intense moment than is often regularly lived and pushed through.

We want to be socially acceptable now, which makes it hard to be a witness to Jesus has done and is doing. We want to fit in and not be disruptive. But the reality of being a follower of Jesus is that He asks us to be His witnesses, and this often means breaking one or more of the social rules above.

Out of His redemptive and restorative love for people and the world, Jesus calls for us to push through many of our social mores. He says, "Go and tell" as opposed to keeping quiet where you are, "make disciples" as opposed to making conversations generic and not curious and initially uncomfortable, and "teach them to obey Jesus' commands" as opposed to settling for all religions and teachers being relatively equal.

Sharing the Good News: Right Next to Scared is Excited

Here is an exercise that is both fun and revealing.
1. Imagine you are going for a walk in your neighborhood. You stop to say a quick prayer, "God speak to me. I'm listening." Imagine God saying, "Walk one street over." Write down how this feels. 
2. After much thought, you decide God was speaking to you and you head one street over. Record how this feels. 
3. Imagine that a house sticks out to you for some reason. You sense God saying, "Go, stand near the house." Write down how this feels. 
4. As you approach the house, two people walk into the front yard; they are talking about a relationship with God. You sense God wants you to ask them, "Do you understand who God is and how to have a relationship with Him?" Record how this feels. 
5. They reply, "Not really. That's what we are trying to figure out. What do you mean?" How does this feel? 
6. You then ask them if you can explain what it looks like to have a relationship with Jesus. How does it feel to ask them this? Write it down. 
7. They say they would love to know. Record how this feels. 
8. You explain the Good News of Jesus, and they decide they want to trust in Jesus, repent and be baptized into His family, and begin to walk in His ways. They thank you profusely for taking the time to interrupt their day to explain this to them. You invite them to join you for a mass or for a meal in your home, and get their contact info. Write down how this makes you feel.

The lists of what people write down often look like this:

1. Weird! 
2. This is interesting. 
3. Heart pumping and weird. 
4. Awkward. 
5. Really awkward. 
6. Scared. 
7. Excited! 
8. Pumped!

The list gets pretty dicey in the middle. But right after the word scared we see the word excited. Right next to it! If you recall nothing else, please remember that right after awkward and scared is excited.

Those who regularly share the Good News about Jesus with others aren't skilled enough, trained enough or cool enough to avoid moments when they feel underprepared and out of control. They go through them. Nevertheless, they stay engaged and trust that God has something coming.

I think Jesus wants us to be bold in those awkward and fearful moments. I think He wants us to learn to anticipate God's movement and have a front-row seat to see His work. I think He wants us to enjoy many people saying yes to Him. There is no greater experience than seeing people realize Jesus has come to rescue and redeem their lives, and having them thank you for connecting them to their eternal Father.

1. Sense God's call: If you are clear that God has invited you into a moment, any awkwardness during that encounter undoubtedly is part of the God moment. When we create our own moments and force ourselves into situations, it's likely we are creating the tension. For those who are on the bolder side, do a double take and ask God if He is inviting you into this moment or you are forcing it. 
2. Look for openness: When God is up to something, you won't need to push. You will be invited in. If you sense that God is inviting you to take a risk and the person is responding, though it may be awkward, go for it, because God is in it!

God is not beyond awkward moments, and my prayer is that you will respond to Him next time He calls.

Previous post: Praying Good News: Why It's Simply Good News to Pray the "Our Father" or Lord's Prayer

Next post: Working Good News: Discipleship with Monday through Friday in Mind for Our Work and Workplaces

+ Sully

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