One of the biggest pressures on Students that have committed to be missional, is the expectation to have “spiritual conversations” with others. Because missional communities require Christian students to really spend time with their people groups, deep relationships are formed with those around them. To bring up religion with people that are close new friends, in the context of just entering a social group and wanting to serve it, can be very intimidating.
While many of these Christian students are not afraid to be designated as believers in God, or being honest with others, they also do not want to become THOSE Christians…the ones that are always asking awkwardly deep questions, the ones who only bring up incendiary topics (religion, politics, debates). I’ve heard pastors accuse the reluctance to share the Gospel in these social contexts to be based on a shame of the Gospel, and the “fear of man”. I would disagree in most cases involving committed missional leaders.
I think that it is EASY to share the Gospel with people that you will never meet again. It is no great stretch to share Jesus’ message with people in another country, at a ministry table as they walk to class, or that are only passing through your life without any expectation of long-term investment. It is HARD to share the Gospel when a student feels that they will MISREPRESENT Jesus, and instead play the part of the socially awkward Christian. They understand that becoming that character in their people groups, will cloud the genuineness of Jesus’ story, instead drawing up preconceived notions of what in the late-90’s were pejoratively referred to as “God-Lovers”.
The fear is not of man, it is of failing God on mission.
If that missional student sounds like you, here are some tips for spiritual conversations that will help you deepen relationships, while not becoming THAT GUY:
1. Don’t force things. If you are truly spending time in community, there are plenty of opportunities to talk about God and Faith. It’s woven into our society and nature that we discuss His existence, and ponder the deeper meaning of life. The key is to be…
2. Honest. Always open, always real, never ashamed of the Gospel or your personal shortcomings. When you’re asked a question about ambitions, views, relationships, etc, don’t feel that you have to scratch God out of the answer. You would be surprised how seldom people roll their eyes at honest answers to questions they’ve asked of you, even if they don’t agree with your perspective. Hemming and Hawing just makes you look like you’re a fake, and over-explaining comes off as insecurity. Be Real, Be Honest, Have some faith that God will do more with your words than you can.
3. You can ask questions too. It’s your community too. No once expects you to be silent until spoken to. Feel confident being yourself, and if you want to bring up a topic that will lead to a faith discussion, go for it. Just remember that not everyone has had your particular experience, and not everyone speaks your lingo. Appreciate the responses that you get, even if you disagree with them. As a Christian leader, you have more than likely spent much more time meditating and considering what your relationship with God looks like than the average person, just as a collegiate athlete has a better understanding of their body simply due to time investment and commitments to the subject matter. Help others develop their faith understanding, don’t hinder it by attacking their answers to your questions about their life and faith.