We met in the elevator of our condo building.
Instead of the classic stare down at the ground and avoid eye contact bit, I said hello and introduced myself. I asked him a few non-awkward, basic questions. How long have you lived here? Do you like it? Have you met any cool people?
The following week, I saw him in the lobby, and we picked up the conversation with a longer discussion revolving around the Seattle Mariners and their dim prospects for the year. I checked again to see if he was up for talking more, “If you want to watch a game at Sport, [the appropriately-named Seattle sports pub,] let me know.” He accepted, we figured out a good date and time and within a few weeks, we were grabbing a bite and watching a game together.
Breaking the Stereotype of Judgmental Jerk
It wasnʼt long before he found out I was a Christian, went to church, and loved Jesus. He said to me, “Wow, my stereotype of Christians has been blown away. Youʼre normal. You like good food and drink, you love your city and donʼt come off as a judgmental jerk.” I soon invited him to church, where he heard the gospel preached powerfully. He became a Christian and got involved in Community Groups, praise God.
For whatever reason, it’s easy for Christians to clam up and get weird when talking about their faith in the day-to-day. Here are a few tips to make bridge those inhibitions and get the conversation going:
1. Find a road that leads to Jesus.
In the course of conversation, be thinking of how Jesus intersects with the discussion, because Jesus intersects and touches everything in our culture: sports, music, art, politics. Look for bridges to introduce Jesus into the conversation. It should be just as casually or passionately as you talk about everything else.
2. Donʼt be weird and awkward.
“So…now, Iʼd like to talk with you about Jesus.” If all of a sudden you put on your “Jesus” hat and you are talking to them like a project and not a friend, then you’re entering awkward territory. Now, there will be times it becomes awkward because talking about Jesus and sin can be that way, but don’t let it be because you are socially weird.
3. Be winsome.
Included in that word is the word “win.” Be “winning” friends and the conversation by being engaging, friendly, and kind. For more on being winsome, check out Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon.
4. Counter stereotypes and caricatures of Christians.
Many urban, secular folks have a particular caricature of a Christian, which is not very flattering (judgmental, harsh, the “morality police”), although many don’t personally have any Christian friends. Be gracious and talk with them, serve them, and love them.
5. Host an open house.
When my wife and I moved into a new apartment building we hosted an open house for the whole building and went over the top with really good food and wine. Dozens of our neighbors came out and it was the foundation for future gospel-centered conversations.
6. Be honest about your struggles and failings.
We all fall short. We all struggle and fail. The credit has to be given to Jesus in your life. Many non-Christians donʼt want to talk with Christians as they will feel guilty regarding their own problems.
7. Actions also communicate.
Serve your neighbors. Serve your neighborhood. Look for opportunities without being an attention-getter. Your neighbors are watching you and just as James said, faith without works is dead.