I spent a good amount of my life as one of those “quiet Christians”. Despite going to seminary, blogging and working in professional ministry, I am still one of those quiet Christians.
You know, those folks who attend church, never pray so others can hear them, and perhaps join one church group or another. Yet, they rarely ever talk about being a Christian, let alone faith at all, with anyone outside their circle of friends, family and church. Most likely, they never even talk about faith with their family and friends.
It was not that I was ashamed of my faith, or that I didn’t believe it. It was just who I was.
Going out to shout on street corners or push a Bible in front of someone telling them that they were going to hell if they weren’t born again, was not only completely against my personality, but actually offensive.
How could a stranger decide that I wasn’t “saved” just because I wasn’t doing it his way?
If shouting on street corners and threatening someone was the only way to evangelize, I wasn’t going to do it.
My spiritual life might not have been full in the sense of regular Bible study, attending regular retreats, and talking with others. Yet, my spiritual life was working for me.
As an introvert, the internal conversations I had with God and reflecting on the world around me worked just fine. Actually, better than fine.
By being a quiet Christian I took in what was around me. I listened to others, I watched others, and I followed others. But, then I went back to my journal, or just my thoughts, and reflected quietly. I processed. And processed. And processed.
When I thought I needed to proclaim loudly, my misunderstandings led to zealousness. Instead of allowing for God’s Grace, I turned instead to control. I didn’t realize I was controlling, I just wanted to do right and be right for God. I wanted to be God’s Hands and Feet and Mouth and Arms and Legs and, even, Mind.
I didn’t know what I was doing.
But, I’m glad I did it.
I’m not glad about what I inflicted upon others, as I fully admit that it wasn’t the best approach. Yet, by trying something, by stepping out and doing it wrong, I was able to learn a valuable lesson.
In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus commissions 72 individuals (my translation doesn’t mention that it was only men) to go into the cities and places he planned to go later. He instructed them to rely on the kindness of the local people, rather than their own planning and control.
Twice he instructs them to eat and drink whatever is put before them. This isn’t a little suggestion, but something Jesus feels he needs to repeat. Jesus is telling them that no matter where they go, whenever someone offers them something to eat and drink, they need to accept it. Imagine! They will need to eat whatever it is, be it badly cooked, unfamiliar, gross looking, too much, or the last of the food the family has in their house.
By accepting the hospitality of those they wish to introduce to Christ’s teachings, they are first and foremost saying – we accept you.
Here in Luke 10 is the kind of proclaiming the Gospel a quiet Christian, like myself, can begin to wrap our heads around.
Yes, the Lord is sending these individuals out into the world to talk about their faith with strangers, yet it isn’t all about the strangers.
This commissioning is actually extremely ingenious! The process of evangelizing this way ends up more about the 72 than converting strangers. The people who end up like Sodom because of their similar lack of hospitality could probably care less! Their lives have not changed and they don’t know what they are missing. However, the 72 are having their lives completely changed.
The 72 are learning, the hard way, how to depend on God rather than themselves. They are learning to acknowledge, if not appreciate, the customs of others, rather than imposing their own way of life. They are learning to accept what others can offer them, if it is food and shelter, or a slammed door. They are learning to share their lives with others in a way that puts themselves at a disadvantage to the ones they hope to share Christ with.
Quiet Christians can be comfortable with taking the same approach. We can go out into the world with the Gospel, but rather than with our finely contrived notions of the best way of dong it, we can be open to meeting others on their terms.
We can go to them, where they are and with what they have, rather than expecting them to come to us and conform to our way of doing things.
While it is more obvious when we do this on a mission trip or in an unfamiliar place, the method holds true in our neighbor’s house or in the local coffee shop.
As with Luke 10, it takes intention to proclaim the Gospel. We don’t need to have the plan to go out and share Christ with others, we just need to be ready when the opportunity arises. The more we are ready, the more we are open to opportunities, the more we will find ourselves talking with others in ways that work for them, and for us.
If you are quiet Christian, it takes practice. I highly suggest putting yourself in situations that will provide similar circumstances as the 72 were faced with. Sarah Henken’s post on young adult mission is a wonderful commentary on this. Yet, you don’t have to be a young adult or give up a year to do so. Volunteer somewhere that is out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be at a food shelf across town, working with individuals of any economic level suffices – as long as the environment is much different from what is normal for you. Even taking a trip where you are purposefully not able to control everything and have to rely on the locals for help, would be a step forward. If this is too much to start with, how about just saying “hi” to strangers you pass on the street, using the “hi” as a blessing.
There isn’t just one way to proclaim the Gospel. God has room for all of us, in fact, God created all of us and said that it was good.
Let us go out into the world as the Lord instructs, open to the world around us, welcoming both its hospitality and hardships, and being personally transformed in the process.
Lord, work in us that we may be transformed and not only work to transform others. Help us to accept what others have to offer, even if we don’t quite understand. Help us to remember to rely on you, and not our own contrived control. Amen.