Strange evangelism

I had a friend tell me I should go see the movie Dr. Strange. He knows I am a nerd. He knows I have enjoyed some of the other Marvel superhero movies. He saw the new movie and thinks I would like it. So he encouraged me to go see it.

In the middle of this conversation, I had no sense that this was awkward or difficult for him. He did not have to work himself up to do it. He just shared it because he knew it would be something positive for me.

As I reflect on this, I contrast it with the great reluctance so many Christians feel toward sharing the good news and inviting people to church. I wonder why it is so different from telling people about a movie or a book or a restaurant that we love.

The steps seem simple enough.

My friend knew I liked Marvel movies and I was a nerd. So the first step is to know someone and know something about them. I suspect my friend would have felt awkward had someone told him to go stand on a street corner and shout out about how great Dr. Strange was. He would not have enjoyed going door-to-door in a neighborhood telling people he did not know they should go see the movie. Neither should we.

If you want to feel more comfortable telling people about how great Jesus is and how great your church is, you have to know the people you are talking to and know something of their wants, longings, fears, and struggles. This is why pastors can’t be the primary evangelists at your church. They only get to know a small number of people and most of them don’t let the pastor really know them – not at first.

My friend liked the movie and thought I would like it. Okay, here is a tougher one. We can’t persuade people to be interested in Jesus and our church if we are not all that interested in them ourselves. If knowing Jesus Christ has not done anything to change your life or enrich it, then it is going to be hard to persuade someone else that discipleship is good for them. It comes down to this.  We have to actually believe that knowing Jesus Christ will make someone’s life better before we can be enthusiastic about explaining that fact to someone else.

In my teaching days at the business school, I used to tell student groups who were working on presentations that the first thing they needed to do was to come up with an idea they were actually excited about and interested in. I told them that if they were not excited by their idea, then there was zero chance anyone else would be.

If we are not excited by being a disciple of Jesus Christ, then we are never going to convince other people to join us.

My friend encouraged me to go see it. He said, “You should go see it. You will really like it.” Seems simple enough. And yet we struggle so much. In a sermon recently, I coached my congregation on this because so many people say they don’t know what to say to people. I said, “Say this: ‘I have this great church. It is so great to start my week each Sunday with them. I think you would really like it to. You should come worship with us on Sunday.'”

Not everyone will respond. That’s okay. But it is not hard to make the invitation.

I don’t pretend I have all the answers about this. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How do we pastors help explain evangelism to our congregations and help equip them to do it?