God has made us all different, and has placed us in different places but for one purpose -- to bring the good news of Jesus to people wherever we are. But is this only something that comes naturally to extroverts? What if I'm a student or NSF? Can I wait till I'm an adult to figure some of these things out?
In this blog post, we speak with Matthew Seah, who has just completed National Service. He reflects on lessons learnt about talking to his peers about God in his years as a student and a soldier. We hope that this encourages you to do the same with your friends and platoon mates wherever you are!
"But I am introvert," some might say. So how do you begin these conversations with your non-Christian friends? What's your secret?
As an introvert, I find that I usually prefer having these conversations between only my friend and I. I’ve rarely had such conversations in a group, and I find it more encouraging to do so in a one-to-one fashion. Whenever God places me in such “one-to-one” situations, I commit it to God, actively seeking for an entry point into the conversation about sharing our faiths. Our conversations never start off with religion but usually begins with something work-related or just about some common interest between us. I try to read the mood and see how I can steer the conversation towards God. Often, I am never 100% sure when the right time is to ask directly about our faith (in fact, not even 50%). When I feel that we’re mostly done talking about our casual topics, I pretty much just “YOLO” the whole thing and go “all in” and ask, “Hey I’ve never asked you this before – do you have a religion?" My friend usually answers, “Yes" or "No" or even "I don't know" and I'll usually ask them to tell me more about what they believe or not believe in. When the conversation runs dry after this, or if my friend simply isn’t interested, I'll just naturally steer it back to our casual topics.
More importantly, my secret is that whenever God presents me with an opportunity, I earnestly commit it to him by confessing, “Lord, I have no idea what to say or do, and there’s absolutely no way I’ll take this opportunity if you do not let your presence be known.” I usually proceed to go all-in, and so far, God has always answered me by blessing these conversations with all kinds of fruit, ranging from larger harvesting fields to difficult debates over the Bible.
That's interesting! What have you done when your friend wants to find out more? Should I bring them to my pastor or youth leader? What are some resources etc. that you'll recommend?
I just throw up options for my friend and see if he has any preference. Options could be:
- Would you like to meet up some other time to discuss this further?
- Would you like to try reading the Bible with someone/me? I know of an upcoming event that you might find useful, would you like to go together?
- If you’re comfortable, would you like to join me at cell group/fellowship nights/church service to catch a glimpse of what the community of Christ is like?
- I have this book that you might find useful; I can lend it to you if you want/wanna read it together?
You could bring your friend to a meet with a pastor or youth leader, but your reason for doing so should not be to transfer the weight of responsibility to someone else. God called you first (and not your pastor/leader) to love this friend of yours, so answer that call faithfully and walk the journey with your friend all the way.
Some resources I’d recommend would be “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller, “God’s Big Picture” by Vaughan Roberts, the ESV Student Study Bible by Crossway publishing ministry and the Gospel Primer series by Caleb Yap and Bibianna Yeo.
How have you seen God at work over the years?
Here’s a simple track record of my attempts at evangelising non-Christians during my NSF time. One guy gave his life to Christ and got baptised within a year. One guy is still trying to figure out who Jesus is. Another guy appreciated hearing about Christianity but decided that it wasn’t for him. And yet another guy is resolutely anti-Bible.
To me, I see God working most clearly in allowing these conversations to even occur in the first place. The first occurred during a MRT ride. The second had its roots back to a friendship forged during secondary school, but only blossomed last year. The third happened in a rural German wasteland during Exercise Panzerstrike while I was frozen inside a SAF tonner truck (-8deg Celsius and howling wind). The fourth happened during one of my guard duties.
My point in listing these is not to brag, but to point out the simple fact that it is a huge miracle that any of these conversations took place. I'd like to encourage us all to stop worrying about “what if the convo goes wrong…what if I reply wrongly…what if we end up being awkward…” The possible outcomes are already determined (Matt 13:1-9). I see God working most powerfully when he stirred me in my timidity to speak up, and I pray that you may also see Him working powerfully by earnestly seeking for courage to obey him and speak up as well.
What are some struggles that you've also faced?
I’ve often encountered very difficult questions related to the truthfulness of Christianity, such as the reliability of the Bible and the existence of God. If I am completely at a loss of how to answer some of these questions, I simply humble myself and apologise for not being able to answer. I usually also promise my friends that I will get back to them as soon as I’ve gotten a satisfactory answer for myself. Be sure to also thank them for their questions!
To cope with such questions, I begin by actively seek out the answers from friends and books, and even Google. Most importantly, after getting many opinions and answers from various sources, I test their reliability against the Bible. If the Bible really is the inerrant and authoritative Word of God, then I’ll let it have the final say on things. Lastly, I seek out my friends again and present to them what I found.
How would you encourage everyone to take the first step or to keep persevering?
Perhaps you’ve never taken the first step of initiating a conversation about Jesus before, and you feel God pricking your heart to do so for a certain person(s). If so, I encourage you to pray for courage and wisdom to be a faithful witness to Christ before your beloved friends/family, and then test whether God actually heard your prayer. When you find that God didn’t just hear you but also answered you, then you will be pushed towards joyfully taking the next step, and the next, and the next…
If you have been sharing faithfully but have recently been discouraged by evangelism, my heart goes out to you, because that’s what I’m feeling now. All kinds of ministry will be painful. Nevertheless, take heart! The LORD our God who commands creation and stills every trouble goes before us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Soon, the LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day, there will be one God, and His name the only name. Though victory seems far, our God is victorious already! Strive on, and serve the victorious name!