We've been talking about getting to know our neighbors and co-workers, engaging them in our lives socially so that we can create space for gospel conversations to emerge naturally.
We don’t want to rush into spiritual conversations with people who are not ready to engage on that level. That was one of the things about engaging strangers on the street in spiritual conversation that always seemed odd and awkward to me. Strangers aren’t generally open to the idea of engaging in personal conversations with strangers.
So, yes, we want to cultivate relationships that can bear the weight of spiritual conversations. But I’ve been wondering about how exactly to bridge that gap, how to move from talking about casual stuff to talking about spiritual stuff.
I saw a video recently that suggests two attitudes that can help open up those opportunities. I first encountered the ministry of Alex and Hannah Absalom and their disciple-making ministry, Dandelion, at the National Disciple-Making Forum.
Alex’s video “The Two Attitudes That Open Up Spiritual Conversations” begins with an obvious assumption: people don’t have to know us very long or very well to know that we are spiritual people. We go to church, we have church friends, we have a spiritual outlook on things. We’ve already hoisted that flag. That is our identity; you are that guy in the office who goes to church, the family on the block who are serious Christians.
Alex’s first piece of advice: don’t shy away from that identification, leverage it.
It could well be that your friends are glad that you are spiritual. They’ve got other friends who are not spiritual, and they may very well like it that you have a spiritual perspective on things. When they want to talk to someone about a problem, they know plenty of people who can give them advice, but you may be the only one they can turn to for a spiritual perspective on their problems. And you may well be the only one of their friends who would offer to pray for them and maybe even with them.
So don’t shy away from your identity as a spiritual person; lean into it. Your non-Christian friends are probably more comfortable with your spirituality than you think.
Alex’s second piece of advice: don’t treat your non-Christian friends differently than you treat your Christian friends.
When a Christian friend has a problem, we spring into action: we take them meals and send them cards; we pray for them and with them. That’s body life, we say. That is how it ought to be in a Christian fellowship. And we’re right to think and act that way.
Why would we treat our non-Christian friends differently? When we are close enough to our co-workers and neighbors, we are aware of their difficulties – the surgery, the flooded basement, the sick children, the family member who passed away. Those difficult moments in their lives give us the opportunity to reach out in simple ways to help, just as we would when our Christian friends face those same difficulties.
And those simple acts of service can open up the space for a spiritual conversation to emerge naturally between friends.
So let’s keep praying for our neighbors – by name, if possible – and let’s take the two steps Alex suggests:
1. Let’s take a deep breath and relax about our identity as their spiritual friend, neighbor, co-worker. They may very well be glad they have a Christian friend. Lean into that.
2. Let’s treat our non-Christian friends the way we treat our Christian friends. Let’s take note of what is happening in their lives and take it upon ourselves to serve them when we can.
If you want to know more about the 2019 National Disciple-Making Forum, click here. Tickets are on sale through September 10.