By Kim Longden
I’ve noticed that lessons for children in Bible curriculums oftentimes end with an exhortation for them to go and tell a friend about Jesus. This puts an image in my head of a five-year-old laying out an apologetic Gospel presentation to a friend, and makes me chuckle at the thought. When would that ever even happen? Ha!
But that thought, in turn, puts a picture in my head of me laying out said apologetic Gospel presentation to one of my friends … and humbly wondering, when has that ever happened? What started as a simple charge at the end of a children’s lesson becomes an overwhelming thought of how and when to “go and tell a friend about Jesus”—not only for the kids, but for me as well.
As I’ve pondered “telling a friend about Jesus” over the years, I’ve realized that maybe my vision of an apologetic Gospel presentation isn’t necessarily what these kids’ Bible lessons are referring to. I’ve noticed that we “tell about Jesus” in every day conversations in many different ways; maybe there is a more realistic place to start that doesn’t seem as overwhelming as my imaginary five-year-old theology professor.
So how does Jesus start showing up more often in our everyday conversations? Just like with many things, I think a good place to start is by practicing at home. The more we talk about the Gospel—good news!—of Jesus in our homes with those closest to us, the more Jesus becomes a natural part of our thoughts and speech patterns in areas of life outside of the home, as well.
One easy place to start is noticing and talking about God’s goodness in nature. When opening the blinds in the morning and the glorious sun streams in, we say, “What a beautiful day God has given us!” Or when an anticipated heavy rainstorm breaks forth finally after a dry spell, we thank God for this gift that only the Almighty can provide—sometimes we even give thanks by running out into the downpour and enjoying it! We commend God’s artistry on a beautiful sunset, or marvel out loud at the Creative Majesty while gazing at the stars. Nature already stirs in our hearts praise for our Creator, and practicing praising God out loud at home with our families helps doing so become more natural in when we’re around others.
Another way to practice “telling about Jesus” is sharing stories with each other of when we’ve seen God’s presence in our lives. Big or small, we can be on the lookout for ways God is working and share them with around the dinner table or driving in the car.
I’m reminded of a time when my young son accidentally got too close to a bird’s nest. The young birds inside were close to fledging, but hadn’t left the nest yet. His presence startled them, and they all haphazardly flew out of the nest with squawking and commotion while the momma bird tried to round them back up. We watched the scene helplessly and felt terrible because we knew the mom wouldn’t be able to get the babies back in the nest and there was nothing we could do to help.
It was evening, so we prayed that the babies would be safe overnight and that their wings would strengthen enough to be able to fly so they would not be so vulnerable. The next morning when we looked out, we saw the mom with her little babies all huddled by our deck like they were waiting for something. As soon as we saw them, the momma started hopping around in the grass looking for food and the babies flew up into low branches of the pine tree.
We started laughing and clapping! The fledglings had made it through the night and could fly a little higher! Our prayer had been answered! God not only answered our prayer, but gave my son, who felt terrible, the gift of knowing that the babies were OK. We thanked God for this grace, and we retell this story often around our dinner table.
These are the stories about Jesus I could envision a little child sharing with a friend more than that well-laid-out Gospel presentation, because this IS good news to a little child! That big God we talk about at church is also a God who cares about me personally. Jesus cares about me enough to show my young son that the baby birdies were OK. Telling these stories over and over at home weaves them into our lives, and makes it more natural to share them with others as God provides opportunities.
As adults we can also practice noticing and then sharing stories at home of the good news of Jesus working in the details of our lives. I’m reminded of another time when we had unexpected company for lunch and, at the first glance of my cupboards, my situation seemed much like Old Mother Hubbard’s. While I was contemplating what we’d eat, I remembered that a church friend had just given us some delicious bakery bread and I was able to pull together a pretty hearty cold cut sandwich lunch. Like with the loaves and fishes, we had plenty to eat!
My kids are used to me saying “That’s how God do!” in moments like this when I realize that details were already being worked out before I even knew that a need was going to exist. When we see that God has miraculously provided for a need—big or small—or when Jesus brings us comfort in a trying situation, we can share this with each other in the home; which makes sharing it become more natural in our conversations outside of the home, too.
Talking about these things at home not only encourages us as a family, but it puts these stories on the forefront of our thoughts so that they’re on our lips when we’re interacting with people out and about. Maybe the entry way to a fuller Gospel presentation is not a five-year-old with a theological PowerPoint presentation. Maybe telling a friend about Jesus doesn’t mean reciting the Nicene Creed or covering the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.
Maybe, just maybe, what my kids and my neighbor and the guy down the street all need to hear first is that Jesus is active and present in the details in my life, and He cares about the details in their lives, too. Maybe that’s what it means to “go and tell a friend about Jesus.”