The tap flowed messily into the watering can which sploshed over like a waterfall after a flood, while a melange of obscenely coloured plastic toys littered the lawn in a Hansel and Gretel style trail from the tap right to their toes, where they stood; two small, muddy and sodden little boys, with the sheepish grins of children who knew they had been busted.
It was my own fault; a lesson that I should have learned by now – 5 years into my journey through parenthood. I had noticed the quiet and I ignored the sensible voice in my head willing me to go and check on them, choosing to make a quick cuppa and enjoy the moment of calm. As the saying goes, it was the “calm before the storm”.
As an introvert I find moments of quiet to be a necessary part of sanity preservation during the day. I savour any moment of quiet that I can gather, sipping a cup of (lukewarm) coffee in peace and taking time to still my busy mind. As the real-life example above shows, I am also all too aware of the dangers of quiet. On my own quiet can mean recalibration for my busy mind, but with my boys a moment of quiet is likely to mean the above story has happened- someone has “made puddles” and made an absolute mess of the garden. My point in these anecdotes? Quiet holds power and quietness certainly doesn’t mean nothing significant is taking place!
When it comes to evangelism, “quiet” is not one of the qualities we first think of. and I think we do ourselves and God a disservice by overlooking the power of quiet evangelism. Of course we need the confident speakers who can talk to the masses about the God we love, but if we are not gifted in this way that doesn’t mean we are off the evangelism-hook. As the part of body of Christ, it is important to recognise the need for all the parts, not just the mouth. There are ways to share Christ quietly, confidently, and helpfully that we need to pursue. There are, after all many introverts who might recoil from an uber-confident extrovert evangelist; but might better hear the gospel when shared.. quietly.
God is relational and He broke the mould by sending a saviour to whom we can relate. Instead of being a distant God, we have a hands-on saviour who walks with his people through gritty daily life. We see this all throughout Jesus life, and is a pattern which can help us to be evangelists in our daily lives too. Sharing life with people and loving them well is a powerful tool that God can, and does, use for his glory. The key is to love well; and love is a call to action.
I have a mug that has Christian affirmations on the inside, more appearing as the coffee goes down. It reminds me that I am a child of God, created with intention. I try to always remind myself that if this is true for me then it is true for others too, and to try and live in accordance with that. Whether it’s chatting to another parent on their own at the school gates, working hard to show the boss and colleagues that we value our work, being honest with our Christian friends when life isn’t easy and going deeper than comfortable but surface-level friendships, we should aim to show others their God-given value and to build community where we are. It’ll look different for everyone, but the opportunity will be there somewhere if we intentionally pray and search. Once we are in community with people we can show them the unrelenting love that Jesus poured out on us. Desmond Tutu said that “the good news to a hungry person is bread”, and while that’s an overstatement in itself, I think that’s a great lesson in how to start to do quiet evangelism in real life. If we are in community with people, doing life with them, we learn to see where their needs are and then we can show them how Jesus cares about them where they are.
When a close friend lost her baby in a miscarriage she didn’t want to hear a sermon. She wanted someone to look after her elder son while she went into hospital, and for someone to hug and cry with her afterwards, lamenting alongside her. This friend, who once described herself as a “loud atheist”, saw that she was cared for and her baby was valued, and this has opened up many hope-filled conversations.
Remembering our own humanity with all its limitations keeps our eyes focused on God, who has no limitations. We can befriend people who are of different (or no) faith, who think and live differently, and we don’t need to be scared of doing so because we are confident that our God is bigger than any situation or conversation. Talking to people who are Muslim, or gay, or from a different culture, for example, can seem really scary. If we stop treating them like a project, and more like community then it stops being so scary. Remembering our humanity means remembering theirs too.
As a parent, I hear approximately 20947758303 questions per day and if I’m totally honest there are days where I can’t muster any more than a half-hearted “just because” in response. I sometimes forget that questions are great, they encourage us to expand our minds and open doors to amazing conversations. Our God is not afraid of questions, whether they are from us as Christians or from the confident Muslim person who we think is trying to conversationally trip us up. God has already accounted for us not knowing all the answers! Through the Bible, as well as community of other Christians, God has equipped us to learn. If we can’t answer a question we can safely admit to that, then go and pray about it, speak to Christians who we think might have better understanding than us on that question and ask them to point us to where the Bible talks about it. We need Christian community to keep us from being swayed from the truth in an effort to make conversations more comfortable. Sometimes that means we have insight to share and often means we have to learn from others. Love in action means being honest, and sometimes that feels incredibly vulnerable so having Christians to pray with and for us is so powerful and vital if we actually want to be helpful to the people we are telling about Jesus.
In my garden, the quiet meant my children were busy using their imaginations and all the tools at their disposal (all. the. tools.) to create something that was, in their opinion, beautiful and brilliant. If we use the quiet to build community and love well- using the tools we have been given, the evangelism that happens there will really be beautiful and brilliant.