Have you ever tried to have a deep heart-to-heart conversation with a stranger? Sharing the depths of your life, faith, and struggles would be very difficult if you have not built trust with another person. Motives must be known, a friendship must be present.
Why, then, do we generally look for opportunities for evangelism and discipleship in this way? In my mind, I instinctually imagine “evangelizing” or “discipling” as sitting in a cozy coffee shop with another person having a weighty heart-to-heart conversation. However, this is often the culmination, not the launching point, of a friendship.
One long, hot, exhausting summer, I participated in a college Christian leadership program in Florida with other students from around the mid-west/heart-land region of the U.S. My role was to be team leader to four different amazing, young women, whom I was meeting for the first time. For the summer, we lived together, studied together, and prayed together. I met with each of them individually each week for an intense one-on-one discipleship session.
Now, as I reflect on that summer and some of the challenges I faced, I realize that I was too consumed with the task of discipleship that I missed out on having fun with these girls. Instead of shopping with the girls, joining in on random dance parties, or even going on afternoon road-trips, I made excuses. I just had to prepare for this bible study or that one-one-one meeting.
They did things that a normal group of friends would do. They shared experiences that bring balance to relationships and create lasting memories. I missed out. I took myself too seriously. Then, when I tried to access their hearts, I was met with silence or forced conversation.
If I had taken the time to relax, if I had not prided myself in my responsibilities, if I had not put myself “above them” because I was “the leader”, I think our summer together would have been different.
Because of that summer, I have learned that genuine evangelism and discipleship are not structured and formal systems of one-on-one meetings and bible studies. It is through shared experiences, from random dance parties to road trips, from volunteering together to sharing a meal, that others will begin to see your true character and heart. And if your character and heart leads back to Jesus, they will want to know more.
That summer, I was Martha. I was too distracted with all of my preparations (Luke 10:40). Even Jesus knew how to stop working and spend time enjoying the company of others. Father James Martin puts it this way,
“What kind of person has zero sense of humor? That’s a robot, not a person. Yet that’s the kind of one-sided image that Christians have of Jesus…And it has an effect on the way Christians live their lives.”
(Relevant Magazine, “Jesus Was Funnier Than We Think”).
So here is my challenge to you:
the next time you plan to invite someone out to your idealistic “cozy, coffee shop” with the intention of engaging in deep conversation, ditch your agenda. Go do something fun. Laugh together. Make a memory. Share an experience and let that be the catalyst to your conversations.
Let me know how it goes!
See You In The Round,