My husband hates awkward conversations.
Back when we were dating, there would be a natural pause in the conversation and he’d turn red and look at me with fear and say,
“Well, this is awkward.”
I think conversational silences are nice – a way to breathe and regroup and think and just be together. But him saying they were awkward sure made them feel that way. So I’d always respond,
“Well, it wasn’t. But now it is.”
I don’t mind silence in conversation, but I hate making other people feel uncomfortable. Which is why I’ve always thought evangelism just isn’t my gift. Because how can you press someone on issues of faith without making the other person feel like they’d do anything to get a one-way ticket away from you?
I grew up in evangelical circles where evangelism was often pitched as something we did to other people. One totally awful day some other well-meaning teenagers and I accosted people at a rodeo with the question,
“Can you name all ten commandments?”
When they’d name two or three and then fail to name the rest, we’d follow up with,
“Do you know where you’re going when you die?”
These poor people. They just wanted to watch a rodeo. Many of them were probably Christians already, but now felt terrible because they’d been accosted by our Bible Trivia Quiz. Others likely didn’t know Jesus, but certainly weren’t going to meet him by being accosted by sixteen-year-olds with all the answers.
[Sometimes I miss my sixteen-year-old self. Having all the answers was the BEST.]
Evangelism is all about Jesus. Jesus was all about relationships. People aren’t projects. We share Jesus with them because we love Jesus and we love them. When our efforts to share our faith flow from a heart of love and tenderness and desire to understand our friends and neighbors, evangelism isn’t awful. It’s awesome.
But evangelism often does entail asking just one more question past normal conversational comfort.
In Colossians, the apostle Paul puts it this way:
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. –Colossians 4:6
Paul doesn’t say, “Make sure to pin people down about where they’d go if they died tonight.” He doesn’t say, “Heap judgment upon your neighbors so they know what dirty sinners they are.”
But he also doesn’t say, “Make sure every conversation leaves everyone feeling totally comfortable.”
Most of us are great at conversational grace. We know how to make small talk, how to set others at ease, how to ask about jobs and families and kids and hobbies. This is all great, and important in building relationship.
But sometimes we need to be brave enough to ask the follow-up question. To sprinkle in a little bit of salt.
“Would you tell me about your faith background?”
“Do you know that Jesus is crazy about you?”
“Can I share with you the difference that Jesus makes for me?”
“Do you think God might be somewhere in the midst of this?”
“Are you open to me praying with you?”
Salt can burn. It can be a little terrifying to sprinkle it into our conversations when it’s far easier to just be nice and pleasant and let the world keep turning.
But salt can bring out flavor. It can sharpen our senses. It can get our attention. Too much salt is a disaster. But a sprinkling? That can help wake up the palates of those longing to know and be known, to feel the unconditional love of a Savior who wants to welcome them.
Evangelism is not something we do to people. It’s a gentle, thoughtful, kind, salty invitation to a life of radical joy, hope, peace, and love.
Are your conversations seasoned with salt?