Stop Not Talking About Jesus in Public

A group in our church is working through this tool for exploring a new worshiping community (“new worshiping community” is what we used to call “new church development”). It wants to ground any exploration of a new worshiping community in the identity of the people discerning it–their experience of God and the way they talk about who Jesus is for them–because those will be the foundation of whatever is being built. For many of us in mainlineish churches, this is a high, high hurdle right out of the gate.

Even with all of the requisite qualifications implied in the prepositional phrase “for me,” and even when taking every precaution to avoid being coercive, many of us get stuck trying to articulate our personal experience of God’s love and our sense of who Jesus is.

It is almost baked into the DNA of mainline American Christianity to take seriously the demands of a pluralistic environment and to respect the views of others by not pushing our private religious convictions in a public space. This is a great strength; mainline Christians are, as a rule, highly committed to activities like interfaith dialogue and community service for their own sake and without any expectation of conversion.

But I wonder if we haven’t set up a false choice between engaging the public sphere respectfully and talking about our faith. I wonder if we haven’t uncritically accepted a relegation of religion to the private sphere of our lives to the point that we simply don’t know how to talk about it outside the walls of our church–and very often not inside those walls either.

How do we fix this? Who do you know who does this well? How do you talk to people about Jesus when you’re not at church?

Or do you?

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7 thoughts on “Stop Not Talking About Jesus in Public

  1. I noticed this as well. What I have done (starting at home) is simply to make sure that the “faith” sphere of life is talked openly about in regular discussions. No forcing it in, simply including it as a natural part of our lives and not being embarrassed about it.

      1. At home I grab my kids and we pray together before they leave the house, at meals, at bed time and anytime we feel inclined. We talk openly about what we think God is doing in us and around us. I stopped telling people I would pray for them when they shared struggles or concerns with me and instead ask if I could pray with them right then. No one has ever declined. In our youth ministry, we built in a time for “God sightings” each week so teens would become more comfortable talking about God, faith, etc. Is that Better?

  2. Share faith, Jesus or God? I never open conversations about Jesus, and I rarely drop his name throughout my conversations. I have an evangelical sister whose entire family does that much better than I. Much of the “telling” of Christians can sound like “do it like me, or it doesn’t work,” Besides, I was raised overseas, and to my eye any American without a declared faith based identity is a closeted Christian–the morality, ethics and consciousness of this country is more Christian than other westernized nations. Jesus seeps into Americans when they’re not watching. God is more pluralistic than Jesus, so when the topic comes up I use that word.

    I practice one exception. When asked why I do certain time consuming things, I answer “I do it for Jesus.” I picked it up from someone who spent unseemly time with a waterpolo team, at inconvenient hours, all for free. It was his unexpected answer (dropped my jaw) and one of the simplest, best demonstrations of faith I’d ever heard or witnessed.

    1. Two things: “Jesus seeps into Americans when they’re not watching” is the best thing I’ve read all week. May Jesus seep into everyone when they’re not watching. It’s pretty clear to me that mainline Christians are motivated in large part by a fear of being identified with evangelicals. I get that, but we’re clearly stymied by it.

      Second, “I’m doing it for Jesus” is terrific. Do people ever ask you to clarify?

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