“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6 – HCSB
Just as faith without works is dead, sharing a message with no one is useless. What good is it to proclaim good news when no one is listening? We need to engage with others.
Why should anyone listen if all you do is talk? Engagement is not one sided. It is not preaching, lecturing, or talking down to someone.
Engagement involves listening and talking. It is truly hearing what someone else says, allowing yourself to process it, and then responding in a kind and thoughtful manner.
How do I engage with others?
While I have never been formally diagnosed with social anxiety, I am almost sure I suffer at least a mild form. Even at family events, when things get too loud or too many people are moving, I withdraw to a quiet place.
The more I noticed this in myself, the more I see those around me battling with the same symptoms. I have seen this in my daughter, my boss, and many others I have observed, which leads me to believe this is a bigger epidemic than I want to admit.
This anxiety makes it even harder to engage with others. The ability to approach a stranger and start a conversation is a daunting task for the most outgoing person. Add to that task the obstacle of social anxiety, and it feels almost impossible at times to share God’s message.
Engage with others – don’t dominate the conversation
“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” James 1:19 – HCSB
When I do engage with others, I tend to make the conversation one sided. I feel that if I can talk without interruption, I can get through what I have to say and not have to deal with anxiety.
“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.” Proverbs 18:2 – HCSB
Doing this keeps me from a relationship with that person, though. If I don’t take the time to listen, they know I am not invested in them. If I don’t invest anything in them, why should they invest in what I have to say? Even if I have irrefutable proof that what I say is true and would benefit them, they are not inclined to listen because I haven’t invested in them.
“An offended brother is [harder to reach] than a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress.” Proverbs 18:19 – HCSB
Paying attention only costs time
So if there is an investment opportunity, what would the investment cost you? Time is probably the most valuable asset we have in life. Money, possessions, relationships, you can amass as much of these as you want given enough time.
If time is the most valuable asset, what are you investing yours in? I’ll be honest. I love video games. I have invested a great deal of time and money into them. In return, I have gained a small measure of personal gratification and escape from life’s day to day issues.
If I had been investing the same resources into relationships, I may have found some more friends, but ultimately I should have cultivated relationships between people and God. If I truly believe Jesus meant what he said when he gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), then I should be investing in God’s creation.
Start to engage with others
“[I pray] that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for [the glory of] Christ.” Philemon 1:6 – HCSB
Invest in others by engaging with them. You just may find that you are also investing with yourself. Using prayer, reading scripture, and doing good works will draw you closer to God. Introducing people to God also increases your circle.
This begins the next phase in Christianity in general. Discipleship is more than teaching others about God. It is a training that you undertook when you made the decision to follow Christ. There comes a time where you should both be mentored and be a mentor.
While teaching others about Christ and His ministry, you should also be teaching them how to defend that faith, how to introduce others to Christ, and ultimately how to teach others to defend their newfound faith. Christianity is a relational belief system, and without the relationship, you cannot find success in sharing your faith with others.