Gearing Up for Awkward

When Anna, my daughter, was in high school, she went through a phase of stating the obvious in those uncomfortable moments when you say the wrong thing.  Her one-word declaration was, “Awkward,” although she would draw out the vowel sounds and say, “Awwwkwaaard.”  And let me tell you, she would say it a lot.  If I greeted someone by the wrong name with Anna present, she would say under her breath, “Awwwkwaaard.”  If I tried to tell a joke at a party with Anna around and botched the punch line, she would say, “Awwwkwaaard.”  

Years ago, my sister and her husband went to a Sunday School class Christmas party.  Their invitation read, “Dress: Christmas Attire.”  They showed up wearing gaudy Christmas sweaters only to be greeted by the hostess wearing a festive, formal Christmas dress.  Awwwkwaaard.

I have experienced my fair share of awkward moments, and maybe you have too.

For many of us, one of the most awkward moments in our Christian faith is when we try to talk with someone about Jesus.  We’re not sure how to shift the conversation from football to Jesus or from anything to Jesus for that matter.  We feel uncomfortable in asking others what they believe about Jesus.  “Are you a Christian?”  “Do you believe in God?”  “Is it okay if I talk with you about Jesus?”  Let’s face it, unless you’re a gifted evangelist, sharing your faith with others can feel extremely awkward.

So, let me give you two suggestions that can help, especially during the Christmas season.

First, Christmas can be the loneliest time of year for many people, and COVID has only made it worse.  During this Christmas season, you undoubtedly will have opportunities to call, email, text, and maybe even (through a mask and six feet away) talk with someone face to face.  Rather than gearing up for your “Gospel presentation,” how about if you gear up for your empathy and listening?  I’m not minimizing how we are to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope we have with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).  But to help eliminate some of those awkward moments, start by demonstrating empathy and by listening more than talking.  Ask questions about how they’re doing, how you can help, where do they turn for guidance, and so on.  As you show empathy, and you listen well, they will be much more inclined to listen to you when you say, “Would it be alright if I shared with you where I turn for guidance?”  And then you can share what Jesus has done for you.

Second, Christmas is the peak time of the year when unchurched people are most willing to attend a worship service.  One of the least awkward ways you can introduce Jesus to someone is to say, “Hey, would you like to go with me to a Christmas Eve service?”  In this season of COVID, it might simply be an invitation to join us online for one of our services.  Hear me: This is not a cop out where we never have to work through some awkward moments of sharing our faith.  This is part of an ongoing process of loving people well and working together as a church to introduce people to Jesus—God in the flesh—who came as a Baby, died as our Savior, and rose as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Maybe you can start by sending them this link: 

“I was glad when they said to me, `Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).