Jesus reminds us that real, everyday life can be summarized as love for God and for neighbor. God in his wisdom and providence has put the particular people around us that he intends for us to care for. And while there is something familiar about this notion of loving people, we've learned as a church that all of us struggle to go about this task with clarity and confidence.
So with the notion that principles are strengthened by sound practice, we are learning to live out the principle of loving our neighbor by implementing a practice we call BLESS:
There is nothing more loving than telling the people around you about God and a love that does not press towards sharing God's story is incomplete. We were made to know God and our friendships are evidence of this desire to know and be known; so in our relationships we know that God is at work and is reminding us that we were created to be with him.
I also find that it can be difficult to know when to talk about God with our friends. Here are three hints from the world of improv*:
- Listen. Rather than jamming our God talk into a conversation, slow down and listen without listening for anything. Take in anything and everything someone says as an offer you can do something with.
- Say 'Yes and.' Take what your friend has offered in conversation and present an even bigger set of options.
- Make your friend look good. Your conversation is not an argument to win but an invitation to find solutions that were not previously imagined.
In improv, you never try to get someone to do something. That's coercion. Improv allows you to take a journey where previously unknown possibilities emerge. And we're not talking about some kind of cheap parlor trick - we listen because God is always and already at work in the life of our friends; we say 'yes and' as often as possible because the good news we call the gospel pervades all of life and opens up new ways of thinking, feeling, living; we can make our friend look good because the reputation of Jesus does not depend on our ability to convince people that we are right.
One last thing: if the gospel pervades all of life and every one of us needs to hear good news in the course of everyday life, then these kinds of conversations aren't limited to what we call 'evangelism.' I find this is helpful for those of us who freak out about talking about God to friends who are not followers of Jesus. One way to become more comfortable in our conversations with non-Christians is to be intentional in our conversations with people who are already Christians.
*This is taken from chapter 8, 'Improvise', in Daniel Pink's To Sell Is Human. You should pick up a copy.