I have been in situations where I have been around Christians and their friends who aren’t Christians but seem in conversation like they are trying to ask them about faith and spiritual things but the Christian refuses to speak up!
I have also been in situations where I have seen insensitive Christians shoe-horn the gospel into a conversation and have probably done more harm than good by their lack of pastoral sensitivity and wisdom!
There are some situations where as the body of Christ we need to speak up, and others where we need to shut up, we as Christians need to be self aware enough to know which situation is which!
We need to be people praying for wisdom and discernment for situations and people.
Peter talks about “Always be prepared to give an account for the hope that we have…” which I believe means being people that speak the right thing, at the right time, to the right person… yet the passage continues “but do so with gentleness and respect”. I know of situations whereby someone has ‘won’ the ‘argument’ but lost the person by their behaviour and attitude.
As I thought about this, I wonder whether these two failures in mission stem from a couple of heresies? The lack of speaking up sometimes could be that we need to be reminded what amazing good news Jesus actually is!
Perhaps we have fallen for the lie that people are not interested? When actually people are more open and interested than we often think!
Maybe the Holy Spirit is gently challenge us to relax and talk honestly and openly about our faith?
Yet, the other opposing heresy is that everything rests on our shoulders and if we don’t manage to hit them with an atonement theory they are risking their souls to the fire of hell! Yet, I would suggest that in every person we meet God is already at work in their lives -even if they are choosing to walk away from him- and that God has many people and opportunities to people to recognise and realise him in their lives and accept his message of liberation and hope. Often we have been so keen to ‘help God out’, ‘do him a favour’, and -do what only God does- that we often try and “yank off an apple before it is ready”, when something is ready and at its right time, it is a beautiful thing, but our impatience can actually be counter-productive!
It sometimes takes a step of faith not to jump in with both feet but let people who want to talk, talk when they are ready!
Paul talks of us having our conversation seasoned with salt, when seasoning is right it doesn’t over-power, nor is it bland, yet many of us as Christians need to learn how to season our conversations better, little more? Little less?
When I look at Jesus, he is a great example of conversations seasoned with salt, he often hinted at things, told parables and used metaphor, he asked people questions and heard their answers. Jesus allowed people the time and space to grow and work things out for themselves, it is a long way into his ministry that Simon-Peter realises who Jesus actually is. Jesus let people belong before they believed.
So, a challenge is I believe to be prayerful and discerning about when to speak up and when to shut up, asking the Holy Spirit to help us get the seasoning right in our conversations.
Not missing opportunities, nor forcing opportunities, but partnering with the spirit of God, in step with his spirit, and responding well to the opportunities that present themselves!