Do you ever get tired of small talk? I remember going to get my haircut when I lived in my home town. Every time, without fail, I would go and the hairdresser and I would have the same round of identikit conversations. I didn’t have much to say and I wasn’t good at small talk so eventually I just changed hairdressers. It seemed the easiest option. I never did go in and tell her though, because I didn’t want to have a conversation that went along the lines of “it’s not you, it’s me”. I never thought, during those conversations, that perhaps it was an ideal time to mention to her about Jesus. How sad is that? I hope that when all is said and done, my inability to open my mouth doesn’t come between her and eternity. That’s why I think small talk is so often dangerous; we fall into the habit of small talk and forget that we have something more to say.
Earlier this year I was sat journalling and I really felt God challenge me on something. I was writing mundane things about my day and had one of those moments of clarity that raises questions you can’t avoid. “Who did you speak to about Jesus today?” It would seem that the answer to this question is of more importance than “What is your song of the day”, or whatever random thought it had interrupted, and it would not leave my mind. I thought about the fact that I’d interacted with quite a few people who don’t know Jesus yet and my total efforts at sharing the gospel that day amounted to? Nothing. I know that obviously everyone else is always telling everyone about Jesus to the extent that they no longer know any unsaved people, but me? My world is still peopled by many people who have a desperate need for Jesus. I’m not secretive about my faith, but likewise I don’t see them lifting up their hands in church (yet!) as they realise that someone died for them and that everything is going to turn around for the good and that their eternity is secure.
In connect groups this year my Pastor, Jon Cook, has spoken about being witnesses. I once had the misfortune to witness a violent crime – the key part about being a witness is that you have to talk about what’s happened. The CID don’t sit you in a little room so you can drink their tea and have group therapy, they want you to tell them what happened and identify the people involved. No part of me thought that a good idea would be to keep what had happened to myself, in fact quite the contrary – it was my friends and I who sounded the alarm, and my friends and I who sat being interviewed.
Why is it that we’ve got something fantastic to be a witness about and yet we’re so often quiet? We need a desperate and urgent determination to reach people in our world. It’s not enough that they know I believe, it’s not enough that they know I go to church, it’s not enough that they see differences in my life – all those things are good steps, but alone? They are not enough. They need to know Jesus for themselves.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20, (ESV)
Without the name of Jesus our efforts might make twitter followers, facebook friends, lunch buddies, etc, but we certainly don’t fulfil the scripture and make disciples. Without the name of Jesus coming into the equation somewhere then people’s lives will never reach their potential, people’s futures will never be as bright as they could be. I want to see church grow, to see the lost come home by the multitude, but you know what? I really want to see my friends and colleagues, the people I see day in and day out, come to know Jesus. The only way that larger desire gets outworked is for us to have a personal desire to see lives changed in our world.
I’m not proposing that we become drones who brow beat people with religion. If we try to reach people solely because we love Jesus then we’re not really doing it right; we need to love them too, love them like Jesus does. This requires emotional investment. People can sniff out genuine care and an ulterior motive, and as far as I’m aware no churches offer a Pret-a-Manger style loyalty card where you’re rewarded for how many guests make decisions. We need to be witnesses to our world from a place of loving people. If we don’t have relationships of value in our workplaces, colleges or schools? Then it’s time to invest in some.
About a week ago I walked to a restaurant in ChinaTown on the night of a big European Cup football match. I weaved through a mixture of people going to the game or going out on the town and I saw so many people trying to meet some needs deep inside of them. Maybe they don’t even realise this themselves as they throw them things into things to try and meet the need for community, the thirst to be a part of something, to fill their desire to belong to something greater than themselves. We live in a generation with eternity in their hearts and without the direction to chase it. We’re trying to reach people with something priceless that will meet their needs and change their worlds.
I don’t know the crowd but I do know some individuals and it all starts with a conversation. Who will you invite to church this week?