Knowing Christ, Growing in Christ, Going with Christ, Showing Christ @ Kennet Valley Free Church

How to Talk About Jesus Without Being THAT Guy – Part 2

Reflecting on practical wisdom from Sam Chan’s new book.

(Read time 6 minutes)

It’s a rite of passage, learning to drive, I mean most of us will remember that moment when the examiner told us “you’ve passed!”. On his say so, you are free to confidently get in the driver’s seat and go wherever the feeling takes you. 

At the end of Jesus’ time here on earth he gathered his followers and told them to go and tell the world about him. 

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” [1] (NIV)

He gave his say so and the whole world became our oyster to go and introduce them to Jesus so that he can change their life forever. 

However, often when we think about our responsibility to share Jesus with others, rather than feeling that elation of being given permission to GO, we feel like we are back in our first driving lesson – the car lurching as you figure out the brakes and that awful crunching noise when you don’t quite time the gear change successfully. 

In one sense that’s quite understandable, we don’t feel qualified because we haven’t qualified. It wasn’t a pass/fail for the first disciples and there was no assessment for us either. The reality is, if we are Jesus’ followers we are also his witnesses. We’ve got the license, we’ve got the keys. 

But whilst it is pretty daunting, overtime, doing it regularly, it can become more natural. 

In the last blog post I introduced us to Sam Chan’s How to Talk About Jesus (without being that guy). His aim is to “[equip] everyday Christians who are reluctant and nervous to tell their friends about Jesus with practical, tested ways of sharing their faith in the least awkward ways possible.”[2] Last time we looked at merging universes, creating opportunities for our friends to build relationships with our believing friends. 

Here I want to reflect briefly on how we might get these relationships to go deeper. Chan’s answer to this is Coffee,  Dinner, Gospel (Tip 3).  To stick with the driving analogy, this tip helps us to progress up the gears in our relationships. Hopefully, it will help us avoid that *crunch* as we bring Jesus into the conversation with our friends. 

Progressing up the gears – Coffee, Dinner, Gospel

Chan categorises our conversations into three levels – interests, values and worldview. 

Some of our relationships will have stayed at the stage of discussing interests, many will have developed into a closer friendship where you are comfortable to discuss your personal values and opinions. The more developed relationships will feel comfortable asking why we have the values we have, and this draws us into “worldview” conversations. As believers, these worldview conversations are our opportunity to articulate how our lives have been shaped by the gospel of the grace of Jesus. 

The challenge we all face is moving our friendships on from talking about more mundane things to the personal. From sports to spiritual things. From weekend plans to God’s big purpose for our lives.

Chan’s suggestion is coffee, dinner, gospel. This isn’t an “easy 3 step plan”, this might take years. But, by making an invitation to meet up in a place where it’s possible to talk about deeper things we have created an opportunity. 

Coffee

For instance, if you’ve got a colleague who you spend lots of time with but feel like you never get beyond work talk, why not make the offer “we should get together properly some time, let’s meet for a coffee.” (or whatever language you want to use). The aim of this first stage is to meet somewhere for a short period of time 10-30 minutes, in a public place, so that you can ask them about their interests and get to know them better.  The important thing here is to take an interest, ask questions, and listen well. For some of us this comes very naturally, for others it takes a lot of intentionality, but it’s one way we can be a good friend to them.

This coffee stage might be an ongoing invitation to get to know them better before you consider the next gear. It doesn’t have to be coffee, it could be a pint, it could be a sports drink after a game of squash. Just listen well, and follow up next time. 

Ask
Ask about their hobbies when they’re not at work.
Ask about their family.
Ask if they’ve watched any good boxsets lately. 
Follow up
How did their kid’s rugby match go?
Did they get to the season finale of that tv show? 

Dinner

You might have a friend who you go for a drink with after football training and you know lots about their interests, like how they typically spend their weekends, but they never seem to talk about their home life or work. Dinner is a great invitation to create more opportunities to go deeper.

Dinner is a longer invitation, 1-2 hours, in a more private space. 

Over the dinner table it’s acceptable and more comfortable to ask more personal questions, questions where you’ll hear more about your friend’s life and values.

Ask
How are things going at work?
How are things with your kids?
How do you feel about that? [3]

It’s no surprise that when Jesus came to seek and save the lost, his mission field was acknowledged to be the dinner table (Matt 11:19, Luke 7:34). It doesn’t take much to create that environment where your relationship can grow. Jesus didn’t even have a house, he just made the most of these meal time opportunities. So, how much easier is it for us to make it happen, whether it’s the dining table, the paper plate at the BBQ or the open pizza box. All of us can offer this invitation. 

Gospel

Coffee, dinner, gospel. This isn’t a quick hop, skip and a jump to talk about meaningful things. But, it is a gradual move up the gears so that it makes sense to start asking “why?”. 

In a good friendship it’s natural to ask why. 

  • “We’ve decided to send our kids to this school” – “Why?”
  • “I’ve decided I need to take some time off from work” – “Why?”
  • “I’ve spent my entire savings on a Porsche” – “Why?”

It is reasonable and caring to ask what values lie beneath their decisions, and where those values come from.

Ask
– What religions did your parents have? What was that like?
– Do you have a faith? Tell me about it.
– Do you pray? Tell me about it.[5]

This is why hospitality is so vital to our relationships, it’s why Chan calls it the secret sauce of evangelism, or we might say the oil that smooths the gear change. 

He says:

Hospitality is costly. It costs time, effort and money. It’s a form of generosity. But hospitality gives us social capital. It allows us to earn our friends’ trust so we can talk about things that matter. And if we’ve been generous to them, then they will most likely reciprocate by listening to our views, even if they don’t agree with what we’re saying. Hospitality also makes the host vulnerable – we’re opening up our private homes to our guests. But in doing so hospitality invites the guests to be more vulnerable in return. This is the safe space where they can talk about private matters that are weighing on their hearts.”[4]

As we have reflected in our morning services recently, in hospitality we welcome others because Christ Jesus has welcomed us. Whilst our intersts/values/worldviews may differ from those across the table, they can know his patience, his kindness, his generosity through us. 

Rosaria Butterfield puts it this way:

Radically ordinary hospitality shows this skeptical, post-Christian world what authentic Christianity looks like.[6]

Our hope is that as we eat, as we speak, they may begin to believe there is someone out there who truly understands and cares enough – even to go to the cross. 

Coffee, Dinner, Gospel.

Whilst Chan really doesn’t say anything new here, it is a necessary challenge to us who are tempted to spend all their time with other believers in a holy huddle, and to us who are too easily content at the idea of keeping our friendships in 2nd gear. 

Are we coasting in our evangelism? Have we lost our heart for hospitality? With COVID restrictions easing now is our chance to get it back, many of our relationships have been stuck in the low gears for a year with little chance to see each other. Why not make the invitation? 

It’s funny how naturally changing gears comes to me now, I hardly even have to think about it when I’m in the car. Of course there is still the odd stall (I’ll admit it). But, driving is part of my everyday life. Why not make it a goal, with your freedom from lockdown, to make these kinds of conversations part of your everyday? It’s possible that going deeper will become second nature.

Sources:

  1. Matthew 28:18-19a
  2. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Talk-about-Jesus-Without-Being/dp/0310112699
  3. How to talk about Jesus without being that guy, Sam Chan. Chapter Coffee, dinner, gospel.
  4. How to talk about Jesus without being that guy, Sam Chan. Chapter Coffee, dinner, gospel.
  5. How to talk about Jesus without being that guy, Sam Chan. Chapter Coffee, dinner, gospel.
  6. The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield