Frozen. It’s not just the name of a new movie about sisterly love…it’s also that word which describes how we often respond to uncomfortable situations. I’m going to put myself out there (hoping I’m not the only one) but one of the spaces where I most often experience frozenness (is that even a word) is in sharing my faith.
You know, in a line at the grocery store and the person behind you points over to the magazine rack and comments on some headline related to Christianity or you have a neighbor or classmate ask about how you handled a difficult situation. The door is opened for you and you know what you want to say or where you want to take the conversation, but you just can’t get your tongue to go there.
Sure, you can get it to talk about the weather or your favorite sports team or your first-cousin-once-removed’s new puppy…but Jesus?
Nope. No way. Revolt of the tongue. Not going there.
I’m not sure if it is fear of what they will think or not having the right words or just deciding ahead of time that they really don’t want to hear the world’s best news that I’d share with them. The truth is, as Christians we are Christ’s ambassadors, given the message of reconciliation to share with the world. Who wouldn’t want to know the Gospel? Who wouldn’t want to know that their past mistakes don’t have to be held against them? What a gift it is to be chosen by God as His messengers! So, if we’re all in the same boat, now what?
Here are a few thoughts on things that have helped me move beyond the frozen winter of silence and into a season of sharing. Maybe they will help you or your students along the journey.
1) Know the Gospel—This is both the content we are sharing and the very thing that will motivate us to share. The better I know the Gospel, the better able I am to communicate this truth in a way that others understand. Also, the better I know the Gospel, the more overwhelmed I am by God’s grace and the more I want to share it with others.
2) Pray—I guess this is the obvious one…but it makes such a difference in my life. When I neglect prayer for the people in my life who I want to share with, I’m relying on my own strength and ability to change their minds about the content I want to share with them. Truth is, as I remain prayerless, I begin to see them as a project for me to complete and my heart is not really stirred to see their relationship with God restored. I can’t explain how it happens, but my experience is just that the more I plead with the Father to save specific lost friends, the more He changes my heart to really be broken for them. I notice the change in how I even look at them as I share. I’m no longer trying to get through content but conversing with someone I’ve grown to love and want to share with them something that is important to me. Plus, I’m relying on God to do something in their heart…it can’t just be me putting content in their mind.
3) Do it!—No matter how much I focused on the first two, there are still times (maybe more often than not) when something about sharing my faith feels awkward or forced or uncomfortable. Often, what has helped me grow in this area more than anything is to just step out, bite the bullet, embrace the awkwardness and do it. As I do, some of the awkwardness lessens, I’m better able to start the conversation or turn it to spiritual things, and I learn about how God works in the midst of it all. The more I’ve engaged people, the more I’ve discovered that God is already at work doing something bigger than just me (he is also using other people in their lives, they started reading the Bible out of the blue, etc.).
My tongue still gets frozen, but the more times I step through the door and start the conversation, the more my tongue thaws and the easier it is for this important message to flow through me.
Early in college, I attended BeachReach, which was one of those perfect opportunities for pushing me to grow in this area and begin the process of letting God grow me in this area (see number 3)…and over 15 years later, God is still using this ministry in the lives of college students to help them do the same. Maybe you’ll join us this year or maybe God will use something else to defrost your tongue or that of your students. I’m praying this will be a generation that carries the call to be Christ’s Ambassadors across the hall and around the world!
–Bill Noe is a former campus minister from the University of Louisville who now serves as Threads’ event coordinator.