1. Talk about the things which mattered to Jesus without ever mentioning Jesus by name. Jesus spent his time talking about money, health care, mental health, and people’s overall sense of spiritual well-being. You can talk about Jesus by discussing the things that mattered to Jesus before you ever mention his name in a conversation. Many people are afraid of church, organized religion, the name of Jesus, and the idea of God. We’ve given them good reason to be frightened of our habits, culture, and ideas. Why not disarm their fears and misconceptions?
2. Encourage people to spend time in prayer, meditation, and listening to the wider world. You can do this without mentioning Jesus’ name or talking about organized religion. Remember, Jesus wasn’t a self-involved, name dropping narcissist. We can mark our days with silent prayer and meditation, just as Jesus did, without mentioning Jesus personally or coloring the conversation with religious overtones or expectations. Jesus knew it was important to get away and process the events of our busy days and hectic lives. Silence and listening are the first steps on the road to understanding our purpose. We know this as well as the people in 1st century Galilee. For Jesus, reflective prayer was a way to talk about God common to the most basic human desires to know why and how life is as it is.
3. Coffee wasn’t only for closers. In other words, Jesus wasn’t pushy. Jesus wasn’t perpetually trying to close the deal on anyone’s salvation experience. His conversations, parables, and reflections weren’t high pressure religious sales pitches designed to create emotive, guilt ridden moments where sinners confessed all and came to him begging for forgiveness. The gospels are full of regular moments. Jesus is a regular person talking with ordinary people about their lives. In the Bible, we never see Jesus standing in a circle, holding hands with anyone, praying, “yes, me, yes, myself, oh yes, me”. The people Jesus meets fully expect to be judged and condemned. Jesus is more interested in listening to the story of their lives than telling them a systematized plan of salvation. Jesus listens far more than he speaks. We can listen more than we speak. When the time is right, like Jesus, we can speak of our foundational belief in Israel’s God of liberation. We can shock those who expect us to be judgmental prudes and become listening people who affirm God’s freeing love.
4. Chill. Chill out and let God speak about what’s happening. We’re called to be in the conversations occurring in the world around us. While discussions of vulgarity and tone dominate the Republican primary contest, United Methodists need to think about how we sound. Whose voice is speaking? Are we allowing God to speak through us? Are we putting our words into God’s mouth? Jesus stepped into a theological environment where everyone spoke on behalf of God. Jesus wanted to let God be heard without the usual filters. How do we remove the filters which alienate us from our communities? We can use less inside baseball, churchy language (paragraph of the Book of Discipline…point so and so…), less conformist language (Father God, We Just Want Thank You So Much for Formulaic Contemporary Style Prayer), less sociological clichés (i.e. understanding millennials is the key reaching unchurched people in the next decade…) and simply talk to people in the unfiltered language of right here, right now. Would we have anything to say if we didn’t talk like this? I think it’s a good question to ask.