Jesus tells us to go into the world to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), but some days it feels like a lot just to make dinner.
Now that you’re navigating traffic on your morning commute, toting young kids to soccer practice, or traveling 20 days a month for work, how do you talk to neighbors, friends, and colleagues about Jesus without sounding like a robotic salesperson? One of the best ways to do so is to be present to others and express interest in their lives.
Show That You Care
A few years ago my husband and I moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Our new neighbor Maureen was a friendly, single, red-headed woman in her fifties. Over time we learned that Maureen was a vegan, a “Jew-Bu” as she called herself—short for “grew up Jewish but am interested in Buddhism”—and involved in the arts community in Cleveland. We helped her in practical ways when we could—lending her our ladder, bringing her a loaf of fresh bread before she went gluten-free. She brought us meals when our second son was born and kept us updated about local arts events in the area.
As we began to actually become neighbors, however, she also began to share her worries about her sister, her fear about losing her job, and her frustration with her jazz-musician boyfriend. Occasionally I would offer to pray for her—and then would actually do it right there with her. Though Maureen doesn’t believe in the same God I do, she knows that I care about her enough to ask him to help her.
In many ways, life post-college is ripe for spiritual conversations. The people around us struggle with money, get irritated with colleagues, and worry about how to care for a sick family member. Life’s problems seem a lot bigger than the ones we tend to wrestle with in college, like whether to switch your major or how to figure out if that dude down the hall has a crush on you.
Just as my husband and I learned with Maureen, one of the most compelling ways to share Jesus is simply to care for the people around you. As we found out more about Maureen’s life, we had better insight into how to pray for her and serve her, and where she was at spiritually.
Ask Good Questions
Good questions are a great tool to use to get to know others on a deeper level and to demonstrate care for a friend and interest in their life. A few questions that have been useful as I’ve tried to figure out how to share Jesus post-college include:
What is your spiritual background?
Would you be interested in coming to church?
How are you dealing with that struggle?
Can I pray for you about that?
One of the things that shocked us about Maureen is that she described us to other neighbors as “nice.” It’s not that we think we’re jerks, but we weren’t doing anything extraordinary; we were simply trying to follow Jesus and extend his love to her. We shared about our lives and asked her about hers.
Be Courageous and Creative
The idea that people care for one another because Christ’s love compels them is something we can easily take for granted in Christian community. But for people who are far from God or have never been to church, this kind of care can be radically different from the way most people around them treat them or even from previous experiences with Christians.
We also need to recognize, though, that it’s not enough to simply be nice and hope that somehow Jesus will come up in conversation. Following Jesus means we’ll both show and tell about what motivates us. And that thing that motivates us happens to be the love of Jesus.
My friend Mike is great at both telling others about Jesus’ love and expressing it in creative ways. He served his community by starting a neighborhood tool collection. Rather than each person owning an expensive drill, a wheelbarrow, and other supplies, he talked with his neighbors about pooling their resources and having a tool-lending library of sorts. This blessed his neighborhood, created opportunities for conversations, and served his neighbors in practical ways.
Mike and his wife also opened their home for cookouts in the summer and cookie exchanges in the winter. They extended invitations to their church, to the Mothers of Preschoolers group, and to fun outings around the city to get to know other families. They found that some of their neighbors were interested and even began to attend church.
The power of care, good questions, and creativity can go a long way post-college. For people disconnected from relationships even while being more digitally connected than ever, having Christians show interest in their lives can speak powerfully to them of Christ’s love.
Who are people in your life you can begin to get to know better? What are ways you can practically serve them? Is there an event your church is hosting that friends or neighbors would be interested in attending?
Begin to pray that God would give you the courage to be present and care for the people he has put in your life. And pray for opportunities to tell them about the source of your care—the God who is love, who chooses to use ordinary people like us to express his deep care to a world that’s broken and hurting.
Jessica serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a Regional Evangelism Coordinator in a four-state region in the Midwest to preach the gospel, teach, and train in churches and campus groups across the country. She is an expert Lego builder with her two sons, Reuben and Oswald; an avid movie-watcher with her husband, Dave; and a lover of the Great Lakes. She blogs at www.jessicafick.com.