In my Tuesday morning bible study, our usual pastor/teacher/friend couldn’t make it, so “Tyler” had to step in. (Tyler isn’t his real name but in this article it is.) We love Tyler. His smile is infectious and his unassuming yet cheerful attitude floods the room.
But Tyler has a bit of a context problem.
Our bible study is Gospel-focused, where we chronologically go through the Gospels. Tyler came in and wanted to switch it up a bit.
The change wasn’t the problem, it was that Tyler did not know his audience.
Tyler went to bible college and earned a degree dissecting The Word and all of its triple and quadruple meanings. Everyone else in the room did not. We were managers, firefighters, and businessmen, not biblical scholars.
The result? Half of the room tuned out.
Was Tyler’s message inherently bad? No. Does Tyler lack the biblical knowledge and expertise to relay the meaning of The Word to a bunch of lay-people? Quite the opposite, actually.
Tyler didn’t understand who he was talking to and it resulted in a great message falling on deaf ears.
Now, imagine a room full of people who don’t want to learn about and draw closer to God? Half of the men would leave and the other half would be arguing.
Unfortunately, many of us are Tylers. We are so excited about what we have learned about God and what he’s done for us that we want to dive straight into it with anyone in our general vicinity, which leads to deaf ears, blind eyes, and empty words.
Is the solution only to talk to those that will listen? Nope. We are called to be in the world, just not of it.
We know how we are supposed to live out our days here: among those who don’t know the Lord. Our call isn’t to avoid them and make them feel completely separated but to live with and love them.
This ever-present paradox of being in the world but not of it is why we need to be Christ-centered with context.
I’m not suggesting we compromise on our beliefs, giving way to social pressures and worldly temptations. What I am suggesting is perhaps the oldest marketing advice in the book: know your audience.
My personal philosophy is, “Don’t give them the answer until they ask the question.” Paul’s was, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”
We know the answer is Jesus, but don’t climb on the soapbox with your bullhorn right away; just because people can hear you doesn’t mean they’re listening.
Don’t get them solid food when they didn’t even ask for milk.
Instead, live a Christian life, which looks crazy to most of the population. Spend regular time in the word. Wait till marriage to have sex. Love your neighbor as yourself. Honor your spouse. Raise your children with Christ in your home. That is (sadly) how to get people’s attention.
Spark people’s curiosity in Christ with how you live, not by what you say. Once they notice your peace, love, and patience, let Him do the rest. If, and only if, He softens their heart and they come to you with questions, then give them the reason for the hope and light that is within you.
The setting with the most potential for this course of action? Work.
You want to share the “Good News” at work and believe you are placed in their lives for a reason, but you are afraid your coworkers will shut down with the slightest mention of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
And you’re probably right. They would shut down unless they have a genuine curiosity. So next time there’s conflict in the 10 am sales meeting or your intern is taking another two-hour lunch break or your boss piles up unrealistic tasks on you and wants them EOD, show them how a follower of Christ responds.
Standing for ethics and morals, demonstrating grace and forgiveness, and finding joy in toil will stick out in corporate America for all of the right reasons. Eventually, someone will ask how you do it.
When we lead with answers, people shut down. No one wants unsolicited life advice, even if they need it.
Instead of trying to give people answers for the God-shaped vacuum in their hearts, that they don’t even know exists mind you, show them what life is like without it. Don’t spend time convincing people why they need God, live in such a way that demands the question.
Being salt and light requires action, not arguments. Words are only useful when both sides are ready for them. So until then, live like a follower of Christ. Explain why later.