May 31, 2016

Awkward Gospel Conversations

by Jordan Standridge

What keeps you from sharing the Gospel? For many the main answer to that question comes down to awkwardness.

Awkwardness is defined as causing or feeling embarrassment or inconvenience.

And while with most things it is probably helpful to have a keen sense of when awkwardness is on the horizon, we must remember what is at stake when we think about the eternal destiny of those around us.

I’d like to encourage you to rethink the common thought that it is better not to share the Gospel than to do it awkwardly. So here are five reasons why it’s ok to share the Gospel awkwardly.

Everyone is awkward at first

The first time I held a baby you should have seen me. I was so uncomfortable. I was so stiff. I was afraid to breathe. I was only concentrating on one thing and couldn’t think about anything else at the same time. It’s a miracle I didn’t drop the baby. I’ve been out sharing the Gospel with many people who came along side me. It’s fascinating to watch others preach the Gospel. Not only is it super encouraging, it’s an opportunity to hear the Gospel preached and to watch an unbelieving heart come into full-contact with the only truth that can save them. I’ve watched many people go out “their first time ever” and let me tell you, they usually feel uncomfortable. They stumble on their words, they mis-speak, and usually they feel like a failure. And let me tell you, I am always so proud of them. Sharing the Gospel is probably the hardest thing in the world.

That’s what tempts people to change it and make it more palatable.

No one should expect it to be natural and without any problems the first few hundred conversations they have. We don’t expect a salesman to have the perfect pitch the first call they make. A speech professor doesn’t expect his student to sound like Winston Churchill on his first speech. A basketball coach doesn’t expect his players to be better than Kobe Bryant five minutes into their first practice, and you shouldn’t expect to sound like a seasoned evangelist right away.

Just like with everything else, you must be patient. You must continue to obey the Lord in this area and eventually with enough practice, the words will come out more naturally. You will be able to keep your train of thought and still answer a tough question, and you will be able to see ways to connect everyday conversations to the Gospel.

Fear of man should not prevent us from sharing the Gospel

Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”

People are often afraid to share the Gospel. They come up with excuses like: “I don’t know anyone”, “I don’t know what to say”, “I’m not ready”, “I don’t know how to answer the hard questions”. Usually though it comes down to awkwardness. We just don’t know what to say, or how to say it. We’re afraid of doing it wrong and sounding weird.

As the old evangelists used to say, “If you know enough to be saved, you know enough to lead another person to salvation.” It all comes down to fear of man. We simply fear man more than we fear God. If we are convinced that evangelism is a command of God then we must ask ourselves, “Who do we fear more?” As Matthew 10:28 says,

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Awkwardness is not a reason to keep our mouth shut because awkwardness is not a good reason to stand-by as people run towards hell.

You have nothing to be embarrassed about

There have been times when I arrived home and found something in my teeth. Not just something, but what seems like a huge plant is lodged between my teeth. And I think back to all the people I talked with who had to have seen it, and said nothing.

Why? Is it awkward to tell someone they have something on their face? Who is it awkward for? Who needs to be embarrassed about it? You wouldn’t not tell someone to save them from embarrassment, because if you don’t tell them they will go on and have dozens of conversations and the embarrassment will only multiply once they find out. And then there’s this little tid-bit, you’re not the one with the amazon growing between your teeth! The whole reason awkwardness exists with an unbeliever, is that they are literally running towards hell and have no idea.

Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

When you have the words of eternal life on your lips, shame and awkwardness are not a thought.

You are helping to rescue souls from hell

shouldi say something

adam4d.com

It is important to remember that when we are dealing with eternity that we must be willing to suffer consequences. The consequences are fascinating. The Gospel we are discouraged from speaking, and that people hate to hear, is the very thing that can save them from death. Because of love for sin, we are dismissed, made fun of, and persecuted. But the Bible does not give us a pass. The Bible calls us to continue preaching, and pleading with people despite the consequences. On the other hand, it says we are blessed and will be rewarded because of the persecution (Matt. 5:10-12). When you are pleading with souls awkwardness shouldn’t be on our minds.

Awkwardness is on our minds when we are thinking about ourselves. Being sensitive to potential awkwardness is not always a bad thing. It is what keeps most people from saying weird things in conversation. It is what keeps us brushing our teeth and combing our hair. We’ve all met people who are incapable of behaving normally in society, where everything they say is awkward and strange.

But while awkwardness can be a positive thing, in the midst of great danger awkwardness is foolish. If someone were in a car accident and needed help on the side of the road, we would run and go help. But if we hadn’t fixed our hair or done our makeup we wouldn’t sit in the car for a few minutes fixing ourselves up while the person on the side of the street is grasping for air. It doesn’t matter what you look like when you are rescuing someone. In the same way, when we have a person who insists on going to hell, there is no room for concern about how we appear, We must share with them the eternal truths that rescued us, and can rescue them.

There is really no way to make the Gospel non-awkward

There is a huge difference between awkward and mean. As we’ve seen before, there are many people who share the Gospel who should stop. You’re probably not one of those people. And we must recognize the fact that there are aspects of the Gospel that no matter how much you practice will always be uncomfortable for the un-believer to hear.

1 Corinthians 1: 23 says, “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness”.

Changing the message is not an option. God has made the Gospel very clear. We cannot alter it.. There is no “polite” way to tell someone that if they were to die right now that they would be heading to hell. There is not a “non-awkward” manner to tell someone that Jesus is the only way to salvation. There is no “nice” way to let someone know that their sin is so bad that the God of the universe had to die on a cross because they couldn’t earn their way to Him on their own. It doesn’t matter if you’ve evangelized a thousand times or twice, those truths cannot be explained without offense.

So what are we going to do? Will we keep our mouths shut? Will we choose to focus on the positives of what Jesus can do for you without talking about sin and hell? Or will we simply be faithful to explain the truth that God has given to us, and that He has used for over two thousand years to save many.

The fact of the matter is that there is a cliff, and billions of people across this world are running off of it. As they do, will we let awkwardness stand in the way between the Gospel and them? Will we love them enough to bring them the Gospel even though we might suffer embarrassment?

Spurgeon put it this way,

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” Spurgeon

…wow, awkward.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • Keith Belcher

    A lot of truth here. Thanks.

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  • Kermos

    The Lord Jesus bless you and keep you, Jordan,

    Here are some gems that the Lord has taught me.

    Pray that the Holy Spirit give you utterance! Pray the whole time you are proclaiming the holy name of our sovereign Lord Jesus Christ.

    Proclaim Christ, and Him crucified for in Him alone is salvation. Lord Jesus said “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

    I am of no account, but the Christ, His name be glorified. My testimony is of naught, but the Word is good unto salvation.

    The unbeliever is under the wrath of God. The unbeliever has committed grievous crimes against God such as idolatry, adultery, stealing for which the punishment is eternal damnation. This is were the sweet Word gives relief to the repentant. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more!

    To say nothing is to be without love.

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  • Jeff Schlottmann

    I felt a lot of shame reading this article. I’m guilty of shying away from evangelizing. Thank you for writing this. I need more grace because I’ve dropped the ball so often.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks for your humility Jeff, and thanks for reading. I don’t want to be discouraging, but I do want people to feel a sense of urgency, hopefully I can find the right balance in how I write.

      • Jeff Schlottmann

        This wasn’t discouraging at all. Difficult is the best way sometimes.

        I thought I’d mention though, later today after commenting here, I reconnected with an old unsaved friend. After catching up he told him and his brother have wanted to contact me for months, because in his words he’s been thinking about wanting to follow Jesus. The last time I spoke to them about the Lord was back in 2006. But I was a pentecostal at that point so I was trying to influence them with Christian rock music, and I really had no idea how to explain the gospel.

        So today I was able to give him the gospel in a nutshell over the phone, and the three of us are meeting up this weekend to do some studying and talk more on salvation. It was so exciting to see that some sort of seed was planted all those years ago.

        This morning I prayed after reading this article. I’ve been using the cactis system you guys suggested. It’s been helping to deliberately focus on specific things. And witnessing is one of those things.

        Thanks for all you do Jordan. This was encouraging. I just have to pray for wisdom so this opportunity isn’t wasted.

        • Jordan Standridge

          Wow! What an encouragement, praise the Lord.

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  • Tiffany Morrow

    Wow…talk about convicting. This was such a helpful reminder and something I struggle with so much, thank you for this!!!

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