Wearing Christianity on Your Sleeve: What Helps Evangelism
September 25, 2014
In 2011, hip hop artist, Shai Linne, released his album, titled, "The Attributes of God." In one of his songs, "Taste and See," he said, "The world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?" Good question - why? I believe many Christians are conditioned to retreat into the cocoon of quietness. "Don't talk about religion," many people say. Therefore, in an attempt to keep peace with our neighbor in the world, we embrace that mantra. But "the world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?"
I wear Christianity on my sleeve. That is what helps me evangelize. Whether it is with my neighbors or those whom I newly meet in the marketplace, I look for ways to insert my religion and declare the gospel (Col. 4:4-5). Depending on the circumstances, the way I approach the conversation may look different. Regardless of my approach, however, I do not want to seem forceful. In other words, I do not desire to fit an unbeliever's image of what it looks like to "force my religion down his throat." That is a difficult balance, and in some cases it is unavoidable, as the mere mention of Jesus may seem like you are being forceful. In those instances, there is really nothing you can do.
One of the things that helps me share my faith and invite people to church, all of which can be subsumed under the category of wearing Christianity on my sleeve, is be observant. Watch and listen. Look at what people are reading and wearing. Look at their tattoos. Listen to what they are saying, publicly, to the barista at Starbucks. Observe what people are purchasing at the grocery store. Look at their jewelry, body language, and just about anything else you can observe. As you do this, remain as natural as possible. You do not want to seem as if you are staring or being rude. Despite the potential awkwardness this may bring (i.e., watching and listening), chances are you are already doing this; however, it may not lead to a witnessing conversation. How do you get there?
As I am watching and listening, I try to determine if I have anything in common with those who share the same public space, or if there is anything they can teach me. If I notice tattoos or interesting piercings, that is always an easy icebreaker. "What do those mean?", I ask. The person, in turn, responds and teaches me something about his or her life. Since I have tattoos and piercings, we share those similarities, and during the conversation, Lord willing, I may be able to talk my tattoos, which entails a brief history about their significance. The significance of some of my tattoos naturally leads to the gospel message. For those who do not have tattoos or piercings, this may not help. Take the principle of finding ways to relate or be taught by others and apply it.
The shift from a general conversation to a spiritual one is likely what makes things the most difficult. How do you transition from talking about a football game to Jesus? How do you take a conversation with your neighbor about high school and move it toward the gospel? To be clear, a one-size fits all approach should not be adopted. What I do may not work in your context. It may, therefore, require some adaptation.
Despite all the programs that are available, which ensure easy icebreakers and a fluid conversation from the natural to the spiritual, I am tired of the artificial segues to conversations about Christ and his Church. In my opinion, they are a disaster waiting to happen. For instance, if someone is drinking a glass of water and you desire to engage them in spiritual conversation, entering a conversation by asking, "Have you heard of the living water?" is not likely the best approach no matter how closely you desire to resemble the conversation in John 4.
An approach more natural to my personality, which still allows me to wear Christianity on my sleeve, is to ask questions. In the midst of a normal and general conversation, I will ask people, "Do you attend church?", "What do you think about religion?", or "Do you mind if we talk about God?" It is a simple and straight-forward way to approach the subject. Interestingly, at least in my context, most people are willing to have those conversations with me. Perhaps they respect my direct approach, or maybe they have been wanting to have this conversation, but no one approached them about it?
Since there are so many ways to approach a conversation about Christ and his Church, it is difficult to state, concretely, how it ought to be done in all circumstances. Tailor your approach based on your personality and discerning the situation. Keep in mind, however, conversations about spiritual things may not happen immediately upon meeting someone new or even with a neighbor. Perhaps discernment dictates that the conversation should wait until you get to know the person more. Regardless of how the conversation unfolds, remember, "The world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?" It is okay to wear Christianity on your sleeve. You have nothing to hide regardless of what the world says.