Too Pushy…Or Too Silent
By Jonathan McKee Posted on April 18 2012
In the last few weeks I’ve had countless conversations with youth workers about sharing our faith in day-to-day real conversations, especially now that my new evangelism curriculum on DVD, Real Conversations is hitting the shelves. And every time people are always surprised with this fact…
Sharing my faith one-on-one terrifies me!
Seriously. I can’t explain why, but I’m always frightened when I get the opportunity to talk to others about my relationship with Jesus. For some reason I have no problem standing up on stage in front of a 1,000 students and talking about Jesus. That’s not frightening to me at all. But if you put me on a plane next to a guy and tell me to try to talk with him about Jesus… I’m petrified!
What do you say in this situation?
“Hey man, did you ever consider what would happen to your soul if this plane went down in flames? Those flames are nothing like the flames of Hell!!!”
Nope. Sorry. I can’t do it. I can’t be that pushy guy who makes everyone feel awkward.
Funny thing… I never saw Jesus doing that either.
Several years ago I was hanging out with some middle school kids and I brought them to a fun event with hundreds of other teenagers. A powerful speaker preached the Gospel that night and a swarm of students came forward to make a commitment to Jesus. A couple of the kids I brought came forward, had a conversation with a counselor, and put their trust in Jesus.
But not Kelly.
I knew Kelly and her friends pretty well; I was just excited that they actually came to this event. Kelly didn’t really like to talk about God or Jesus, but she liked hanging out with her friends, even at an event like this.
At the end of the event we were all walking to our van. Two counselors from the event, older teenagers who had just prayed with some kids moments before, were walking out to their car, ecstatic that they had an opportunity to share the Gospel that night. In their excitement they were boldly talking with groups of kids in the parking lot, asking questions and giving short soliloquies along the way. Their path eventually brought them to a small group of girls from our group. One of these individuals was Kelly. These two individuals asked Kelly: “So ... what did you think of tonight?”
“It was all right,” she reluctantly answered, exchanging glances with her friends, wondering who these guys were.
“What did you think of the speaker?”
“What did you think when he gave the opportunity for you to give your life to Jesus?”
Walking faster and trying to end the dialogue, Kelly responded, “I don’t get into that serious stuff.”
These teenage guys wouldn’t give up. “When will it be time for you to get serious?” They asked.
“I don’t know,” Kelly responded. “I just don’t get into it.” Kelly and the girls arrived at the van by now, opened the door and scurried inside.
The two fellows stood at the open door of the van continuing their onslaught of questions. “Well, what if time runs out? Like if you were to get into a car accident on the way home tonight? Would you wish you would have gotten serious?”
Kelly was sitting against the far side of the van now, attempting to look out the window the other way. Trying to end the banter, she said, “I really don’t want to talk about this serious stuff right now.”
These two didn’t know when to quit. By the time I arrived, unfortunately a few minutes behind my group, one of the guys was giving an elaborate illustration of how no one, regardless of how good a jumper they were, could jump across the great chasm that exists between us and God. Kelly and her friends looked like cats, cornered in an ally by a stray dog.
I started the van up and quickly announced it was time to go. The two fellows looked at me as if I was Satan and tried to continue their sales pitch. I pressed the accelerator anyway, and as we exited the parking lot I’ll never forget what Kelly said:
“I’ll never go to one of these events again!”
Pushy or Silent
When Christians see an opportunity to share their faith, I find that they often do too much, or too little. They are either too pushy, or the polar opposite—silent.
Neither extreme is good.
I’ve seen numerous Christians confuse “pushiness” as “boldness.” Newsflash. Jesus wasn’t pushy.
Here are the facts:
- People always run away from pushy Christians who are constantly trying to give Christian sales pitches.
- People didn’t run from Jesus. As a matter of fact, the worse the sinner, the more they wanted to be near Jesus.
If you read the stories about Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible), I think you’ll start to notice how much he cared for the people he encountered, meeting their physical needs, feeding them, and even healing them. Jesus’ compassion for the crowds opened doors to countless conversations.
But I guess some people missed those parts of the Bible, because you’ll see Christians using pushy methods frequently. You’ll see people just holding signs that say, Repent and turn from your sins! You’ll see people shouting with bullhorns on the street corners. And you’ll even see people using the tactics that those two teenage guys tried on Kelly.
When did Jesus do any of that?
Funny, if you ask these people why they do these things, they’ll often respond, “Because, of the hundreds of people we encounter, if just one person were to put their faith in Jesus, then that would be worth it…wouldn’t it?!!”
What about the hundreds of people that they made bitter and resentful? How does that calculate into their little math problem?
How does Kelly factor in?
Perhaps we need to stop confusing pushiness as boldness. Maybe we need to stop scaring people away under the guise of evangelism..
Jesus wasn’t pushy.
But he wasn’t silent either.
Sadly, some Christians are so worried about being pushy that they opt to do the complete opposite—they don’t say a thing! Don’t get me wrong, this “silent” group can be a kind and compassionate group of people, being kind to their neighbors and feeding the homeless. They just never tell anyone why they are doing this. They explain their actions by claiming, “Jesus just fed people and healed people.”
Really? What Bible are they reading?
I heard this argument so frequently I finally decided to do a study (I documented my findings in one of my previous books, CONNECT). I read the Gospels and actually started documenting every time Jesus encountered a person. I marked a green dot in my Bible (Yep, I just took a green marker and made a dot right on the pages in my Bible) wherever Jesus brought up God or the truth of the Scriptures. I marked a red dot if he simply loved people with acts of compassion or service.
When I finished doing this study, it was clear that Jesus was not afraid to share the truth (a lot of green dots). There were times where he just met people’s physical needs (some red dots), but most of the time he “brought it up” (a lot more green than red dots). Sometimes he preached, sometimes he fed or healed people, and sometimes he did both.
I think a lot of Christians forget this balance. The more that “pushy” Christians read the Gospel with open eyes, the more they will see how much Jesus cared for people as a whole, feeding them and healing them. At the same time, the more that “silent” Christians read the Gospels with hearing ears, the more they will notice how often Jesus wasn’t afraid to have conversations about the hard truth.
Jesus wasn’t pushy or silent.
In the participants’ guide to my new Real Conversations curriculum, I encouraged teenagers:
As we dive into this training, I think you’ll find that sharing your faith with your friends might be frightening, it might even make us evaluate how we’re living our lives and how we treat others… but sharing your faith in Jesus will never require you to be pushy. The fact is, when we live out our faith authentically, we’ll begin to notice open doors for real conversations about our faith.
Maybe it’s time for us to squash this myth of pushiness… and at the same time, break the silence with real conversations about an authentic faith.