There’s nothing worse than “Evangelistic Lockjaw,” that horrible experience when a witnessing opportunity presents itself and you freeze. You know what I mean. Someone asks you to tell them, “in a nutshell” what you believe, and you blab on and on – far beyond any nutshell’s capacity – and really end up saying nothing worth remembering. Or someone says something that could be a perfect opportunity to share some of the gospel message and you remain silent.
One potential solution to “Evangelistic Lockjaw” is “Evangelism Brainstorming.”
So many times we think, “If I could just figure out the perfect response, it would have been a great evangelism experience.”
The problem comes with looking for just one possible thing to say. It can paralyze us if we can’t find the perfect thing to say. What I have found to be more helpful is to brainstorm a dozen possible responses. By searching for twelve, I usually end up with one. By searching for one, I end up with zero.
So I encourage people to engage in “Evangelism Brainstorming” – not just after a blown opportunity but lots of times. It can almost be an internal game. Come up with imaginary scenarios and force yourself to come up with a dozen ways you might respond. Even if the real life situations don’t sound exactly like your imaginary dialogue, the process of brainstorming will get you thinking in the right directions.
So, what do you say when a coworker tells you she heard this “really wonderful, spiritual teacher on Oprah who talked all about ‘making the impossible happen through ‘The Secret?’”
If I were to brainstorm about this, I might come up with these kinds of responses:
– “Wow. Sounds interesting. Tell me more.”
– “What did you like about her ideas?”
– “Have you tried it yet? How’d that go?”
– “Is Oprah where you get most of your spiritual advice? How does that fit with your religious background? Did you grow up with different spiritual beliefs?”
– “Why does she call it a secret?”
– “How does this compare to the Christian or Jewish tradition of prayer?”
I hope you get the idea. These brainstormed ideas try to keep the conversation going but moving in a productive direction. Often, we’re tempted to just shut down the discussion with a complete negation of what people say.
– “Yeah. I’ve heard of The Secret. I think it’s crazy. It’s just self-centered wishful thinking. The Bible condemns it.”
Sometimes the brainstorming process helps open up various angles for seeing a situation differently. If someone were to say to me, “I just don’t know how you can still believe in God considering all the evil and suffering in the world,” I’m tempted to just address the question in a philosophical way.
– “Well, here’s why I think it’s still reasonable to believe in God. In fact, I can give you seven major reasons, four minor ones, and three corollary positive benefits from believing in God even when there’s evil and suffering in the world.”
The brainstorming process might show me some other motivations people might have in asking the question or bringing up the topic.
Here are some alternative responses:
– “Hmmm. This sounds like a painful topic for you. Has something triggered this recently?”
– “Which specific evil thing do you have in mind?”
– “Do you ask all your friends these kinds of questions or is there something about my beliefs that made you think of this?”
– “Well, don’t think I don’t wrestle with my beliefs. Every time I hear of some tragedy it makes me wonder.”
– “It’s very difficult to deal with all the stuff going on in the world, isn’t it?”
– “Is this something you think about a lot?”
– “I didn’t just come to my current beliefs overnight. Would you like to hear about how I got to where I am today?”
– “How do you cope with all the bad news? Maybe we could help each other out.”
One of the benefits of the brainstorming process is it sets us up for serving our friends as a conversation partner rather than an answer machine. For a lot of people, they need the former far more than the latter.