Have you ever felt a familiar nervousness or awkwardness when you know that there may be a window of opportunity to tell a friend or colleague about Jesus? Where does that awkwardness come from? Is it that in that moment we’re flooded by doubts about our own faith? Is it that we’re not confident with the answers to hard questions that people might ask? Or it because if we say something religious, we think we’ll get a negative reaction for not being politically correct.
In this 20Twenty conversation with the author of a book called ‘How To Talk About Jesus Without Being That Guy’, Sam Chan describes himself as a cultural analyst. He’s also known as the ‘Espresso Theologian’, and he’s a public speaker for the City Bible forum. Sam has a PhD in theology as well as being a medical doctor, and was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Australia.
Sam says we struggle with the idea that if we even try to bring up Jesus in a conversation, we become ‘that guy’. But in reality that fear can often be in our heads. Research in American and Australia actually shows that the average non-believer doesn’t have a problem with Christianity.
“The way I explain it in the book is that I’m actually old enough to have been at Billy Graham’s Last Crusade in Sydney, 1979,” says Sam. “He basically told people something they’d heard a hundred times before. He said come on you know this is true. Don’t you think it’s time? Billy was asking them to believe something that they already knew.”
Sam believes we’ve entered a culture war era of us versus them, and it’s almost like our Christian faith has become a tribal badge for some of our cultural views. We should be trying to separate them so that our non-believing friends don’t conflate our faith views. We don’t want people to unnecessarily misunderstand what we believe.
“In my book ‘How To Talk About Jesus Without Becoming That Guy’, a big part of how not to do that is to ask questions first and let our friends talk. I’ve been going to evangelism conferences and most evangelists are discovering and saying the same thing. In the Bible Jesus asked about 300 questions. Jesus Himself was asked about 200 questions, but he only responded directly to a question eight times. He usually responded with another question.”
Sam believes we can tell our friends and loved ones about Jesus through the art of asking questions. We can nudge the conversation from superficial interests, into a value and worldview type conversation. We usually begin with small talk and small talk is not a bad thing because it shows we care.
“But people will then respond with some sort of value system. They might say something like ‘I walk because it keeps me healthy’ and we say ‘what is about health that’s important to you?’ To answer that they might have to have a worldview conversation”, says Sam. “They might say something about you only live once. And then all we have to do is say, tell me more. I work as a doctor and we make fun of psychiatrists who say you only have to learn two questions. How are you going? And how are you really going? And it’s the power of the second question that gives people permission to talk more, be a little bit more vulnerable and push the conversation to deeper, more meaningful levels.”
Evangelism During Covid-19
Instead of rushing our conversations, we can be thinking about how we can bring up the topic of Jesus. We can simply ask questions like, what did you do on the weekend? Tell me more about how you were raised. What religion did your parents raise you with? What do your parents believe? What do you believe?
“I’ve found more and more that when we begin with those sorts of conversations, people are actually really glad we brought it up. Because this is something that’s the deepest, most meaningful part of us.”
We rarely get time to pause and be in the moment to talk about these things in our life. So by giving our friends permission to talk about faith values and worldviews, sooner or later, that will give us permission to talk about our faith.”
Listen below to hear the rest of Neil’s fascinating conversation with Sam on how to talk about Jesus.