INTRODUCTION TO MY AWKWARDNESS
Let me first begin with a disclaimer: the aim of this post is not to share the top tips that I have found to combat awkwardness or the most comfortable way to get more involved in church and spread the gospel. Rather, I hope to show you how significant our gospel mission is and how the awkwardness is worth it.
I used to hate listening to sermons on evangelism. I disliked the stress that came with thinking about how uncomfortable it would be if I spoke to my friends about the gospel. What if I could not answer all their questions? What if they rejected it? The same went for getting plugged into church. What if I had nothing to talk about with the guys in church? What if I looked stupid when I answered a question during bible study? I knew that building God’s church and sharing the gospel were the two most important things that I had to do as a Christian and yet because of my fear of awkwardness, I shied away from it, till the point that I resented it whenever someone tried to convince me that it was important.
Until I saw Paul’s example in his letter to the Philippians.
PAUL IS NOT AWKWARD
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in gospel from the first day until now. (Phil 1:3-5)
Paul opens the letter to the Philippians by sharing with them what he is thankful to God for and why he is joyful in his prayers. We might expect Paul to be thankful for their monetary support or joyful for their friendship. Yet, Paul says that he is thankful and joyful for their partnership in the gospel. That may not impress you, but Paul continues to write.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Phil 1:15-18)
Paul brings it up another notch here. He says that it does not matter to him even if some brothers proclaim Christ in order to afflict him; he will rejoice as long as the gospel is proclaimed! His wellbeing was secondary, the gospel is primary.
…, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil 1:20)
As if this still wasn’t enough, Paul goes on to say that it doesn’t matter to him if he lives or dies, as long as the gospel is preached!
SOMETHING BIGGER THAN AWKWARDNESS
How often do we think about the gospel in this way? How often does the gospel take primary importance in our lives? Here I was, worrying about my awkwardness whilst Paul was ready to live or die for the gospel.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Phil 3:17)
Paul doesn’t say this to garner our approval, but asks us to follow his example. Maybe what we need to say in our context is “what then? Only that in every way, whether in awkwardness or in comfort, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” or “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed but with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by awkward conversations or comfortable situations.”
The solution to my awkwardness was not working out what to say in every situation, but to see that the gospel was worth it. Paul had the bigger picture in mind. If Paul was ready to live or die for the gospel, are we willing to have awkward conversations in order to get involved with church or to share it? What stands in the way of you embracing and living out the mission like what Paul did? Are you afraid of what others might think of you? Do you fear rejection? What encouragement does this epistle give to you?
Paul’s big aim in the letter of Philippians is to change our minds on gospel partnership (1:27). What Paul is saying here is that the sharing of the gospel is not the work of apostles and only “some people”, but is the work of all Christians. So what now? How can we be obedient? Let me suggest some ways in which we can change our mindset on this issue:
- Prayer (Phi 1:9). Paul prays for the Philippian church at the start of the letter and we can pray for ours minds to be changed as well. What do you pray about? Do you pray for your own heart and spiritual growth, or are you always praying just for tangible things?
- Role Models (Phi 2:19-30). Paul lists Timothy and Epaphroditus as people whom the Philippian church can look up to as role models. Who are role models in your church that do not let awkwardness get in the way?
- Asking other people to remind us whether through speaking (Eph 4:15) or through song (Col 3:16). What do you talk about in your communities? Can you take a step to be honest and share your own struggles with this, and ask them to pray for you?
Written by Nathan Tang, who is also a student, and also as awkward as most of us.