Evangelization for People Who Talk Wrong


This week’s discipleship topic hits me in all my worst places.  I’d love to be good at listening, or good at talking — and I can certainly do both.  But getting the timing and topics right?  Not always.

My catalog of weaknesses:

Between my secular and shy-Catholic upbringings, including God in ordinary conversation does not come naturally to me.  I don’t go around saying “God bless you”, or praising God in random moments with strangers.  I really love it when people do, and living in the Bible Belt, I get to hear Jesus Talk, the good kind, quite a lot.  It really breaks the ice, and lets the listener know what they’re dealing with.  If you’re Christian, it lets you know you’ve found a kindred soul; if you’re not Christian, it lets you know you’re dealing with one of those Christian nutcase people.  I approve all around.

My early-adulthood evangelical upbringing allows me to feel guilty every time I don’t mention Jesus. Did I just miss an opportunity to share the Gospel?  Souls are at stake!  Say something! On the one hand, you can drive yourself nuts, agonizing over whether you said the exact right amount of Christian Stuff in each conversation.  But realistically: Souls are at stake. If you love someone, you don’t want them to spend eternity in Hell.  So attentiveness to how we use our words is a pretty good habit to cultivate.

Wait a minute – where does devotion to the Holy Name fit into this?

I didn’t grow up with novenas and statues and holy water fonts in the house.  We went to Mass a couple times a year, owned one heirloom Bible, and lit the Advent candles and put out a nativity scene at Christmas.  That was as devotional as we got.  But I think that longstanding custom in many parts of the world to bow the head at the mention of the Holy Name?  Probably it influenced our family conversation.  There was “baby Jesus” in the manger, but He pretty much stayed there.

I know it influenced me deep inside, because when I first discovered that people south of the border name their children “Jesus”, I was floored.  You can’t do that!  Name your kid the same thing as his first cousin if you must, but *that* name is taken!

(Development of cultural broadmindedness update: As long as I pronounce it “Hay-soos”, I’m good.  But don’t try to make me call your kid Gee-zuss.  No can do.  I’m not there yet.)

The solution to the Holy Name conundrum I learned from an evangelical friend: Call Him “the Lord”.  I remember years ago listening to a friend at home group talking freely about her conversations with The Lord, her reliance on Him, her trust in Him . . . so comfortable and intimate.  The person who loves her most in the world, but who is also King of the Universe.

And it reminds you who’s in charge.  Easy to forget that God’s got the internet, the airlines, the kid’s math homework, fire ants, the Republican party .  .  . all of it under control.  Nothing, no matter how stupid or evil, happens that He doesn’t allow — and He only allows it because he’s got the ultimate double-effect back-up plan, in which everything evil gets turned back for good in the end.  The Lord.  There’s only one.  And He’s on the job.

A Time for Talking and a Time for Shutting Up

I fall apart coming and going on this evangelizing thing.  I tend to not mention God when I should, see above + shyness + don’t like to offend + [insert excuse here].  But then I’m such a problem-solver helper-type, that when someone does bring up the whole God topic . . . I go into “Here’s what you do” mode.

Yeah, that doesn’t really fly.

So I’m working on my listening skills.

If you’re good at this, please share?  If you stink at it, you can share that too.


3 thoughts on “Evangelization for People Who Talk Wrong

  1. Jennifer,
    I agree with so much of your post! Honestly, I don’t think we can force ourselves on others and come out ahead. I mean do we trust God to ‘spark’ other people in His own way, or not? Yes, sometimes, He will use us to do it. However, I think he works pretty well on His own. What we’re called to do is to love others even in the simplest of ways, such as noticing when a person’s demeanor appears dejected, and then maybe just taking his hand. We don’t always have to speak, but we do have to think of another as a beloved child of God–and to treat him as such. If we really think this way, I think we’ll become disciples.

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