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Awkward evangelism: Beyond Awkward book review

September 18, 2016

Evangelism is awkward! And that’s OK. In his book Beyond Awkward, my friend and fellow campus minister, Beau Crosetto, shares how awkward evangelism can pave the way for transformation.

When you share your faith, you’re breaking several cultural norms—talking to strangers, questioning them about truth, and sometimes making them feel uncomfortable.

But if you aren’t willing to have that awkward moment, you will not share. Beau writes, “If you want to see God move, then you need to enter into the awkwardness.”

Grab your seat for Beau’s webinar on September 21st on Living in the Tension of Evangelism. 

One of these awkward conversations changed my life.

Sitting in my living room next to my future wife I was trying to eat salad, but was having trouble even taking a bite and said,

“I don’t know why I’m not eating.”

But that was a lie, so then I said, “Actually I do know why I’m not hungry; it’s because I like you.”

Almost four years of marriage and a baby followed that awkward conversation.

Evangelism often starts awkwardly, but “tense moments often are the way we pass through a certain threshold to gain more intimacy in our relationships.”

Staying through the weird moments will allow you to watch God work in the exciting ones. As Beau says, awkwardness precedes breakthrough.

Jesus told us that “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matt 9:37).

But “most Christians I talk to believe that the harvest is small and the workers are many.”

The truth is that people are spiritually ripe for harvesting now! “People eager to hear the good news about Jesus are waiting for us to share with them.”

Are we willing to obey Jesus even if that means doing something uncomfortable?

A person living on mission has to become comfortable being uncomfortable.

We shouldn’t be awkward in a bad way.

“There is a difference between being creepy and the tense moments set up by God.”

We want to be awkward in obedience to God, not pushy.

“For those on the bolder side, do a double take and ask God if he is inviting you into this moment or you are forcing it…If you have to be forceful, you are creating the awkwardness.”

One difference Beau observed about our generation is that we are primarily experienced-based.

Our generation is more likely to ask “Does this work?” and “Is this real?” than “Is this true?”

They care more about if this Jesus thing is really working for us than about what is objectively true.

Post-modern people want to experience their way into faith, instead of thinking their way into faith.

In our college ministry, we’ve seen that having an authentic, welcoming community to invite people into is our number one evangelism tool.

Beau says that our evangelistic efforts should “emphasize process and journey more than persuasion.”

Often people will belong to the group even before they believe in Jesus.

A powerful way to share our journey with Jesus is telling stories of God’s work in our lives and how it has changed us.

“Sharing our transformational stories, especially those that show how we submit our life to Jesus as Lord, allows us to be vulnerable and relate to our friend… Vulnerability begets vulnerability. ”

Another way to help people experience God for themselves is to study the stories from the gospels about Jesus interacting with people. “Whenever I can get a person into a Jesus story, it makes it much easier to share the Jesus story [the gospel] with them.”

A distinction made in Beau’s book that has helped me is between two different kind of moments; awakening moments and believing moments.

An awakening moment is when someone senses God from a conversation, a powerful testimony, music, or something a speaker said. The person responds positively to whatever invitation was given, but they aren’t truly ready to follow Jesus.

Believing moments are when someone realizes that following Jesus is more than an experience; in that moment the person is ready to let Jesus transform their life!

We don’t always know what type of moment the person has had until we talk to them, so we should celebrate both.

We never know when God is setting up an evangelism opportunity.

“Often God sends us in general ways and then reveals the clear reason later.”

One challenge in evangelism is to recognize opportunities and seize them.

“We don’t have to create the moments; we only need to respond to them.”

Another aspect of awkwardness we must be willing to embrace is supernatural encounters.

Personally, I’ve been hesitant about this type of ministry because I’ve seen many people make outreach efforts about spiritual gifts instead of about Jesus and the gospel.

They’ve focused on the miracle instead of the miracle giver.

But I’ve been convicted recently to be more open to whatever God wants to do in evangelism and that miracles open doors to the gospel.

“God’s power is real and available. But to embrace it we have to embrace a level of discomfort and being out of control.”

“What if the person you are talking to needs to be shown the power of God so he or she can experience God first?”

We are in a spiritual battle and sometimes God wants to heal the person or give us a specific word for that person to open the door for the gospel.

“The gospel saves, not miracles or deliverance. But many times we need to heal, give a word of knowledge or lead someone through deliverance before they can hear and receive the gospel of Jesus.”

We should be ready for the spiritually supernatural—when we share our faith, we enter a war zone of spiritual realms.

“Our mission as Christians is to go into the world, Satan’s kingdom, and plunder his goods… Sharing our faith is not about mustering strength but about receiving and walking in the power of the Spirit to do his works.”

The easiest way to start, is to pray for people.

Prayer opens the door for God to work however he wants, and maybe even heal them physically, spiritually or emotionally.

Beau shares that there are generally two types of witnesses: the pushy and the timid.

Pushy people are the ones who don’t care at all how the message is received.

There is a crucial difference between a pushy person and a bold person.

Pushy people often neglect the command scripture gives us to share with gentleness and respect, and sometimes they end up pushing people away from Jesus.

Pushy people think that “every moment has to be an instant conversation or it’s a failure.”

But a wise witness is willing to shut down the conversation if the other person wants to. “We have to be as bold as possible, but also as patient as we need to be.”

If you find yourself in the pushy category, Beau says to be more present with people.

We need to learn to engage non-believers and learn their stories.

Becoming good at asking questions will help you with every type of relationship, not just in evangelistic conversations.

“Asking great questions is not a gimmick to get people to convert to Jesus. Asking questions leads to knowing people better and figuring out how to love and serve them well.”

Take time to really listen for what Beau calls “handles” for sharing the gospel.

“A handle is a theme or struggle in a person’s life that emerges in conversation.”

If we get good at finding these handles in conversation we will better know how to transition conversations to spiritual things and how to relate the gospel to what they are going through.

The better we know a person’s story, the easier it will be to connect people to Christ’s story.

“Relational evangelism is an act of love that syncs the gospel to the current reality of the person.”

Jesus “communicated different facets of the good news as he met people in different places of life.”

Honestly, most of us are timid though.

What we need is boldness.

Beau summarized it this way, “Pushy people need to be more present with people. Timid people need to be more bold in proclaiming.”

The most effective witnesses are simultaneously patient and bold.

It’s healthy for us to feel the urgency of the need people have for the gospel, but balance that with a trust in God.

“When you know someone is ready and you discern the time is right, you have to step in as a witness, no matter how weird it is.”

Bold witnesses “assume God is up to something, and at the first sign of spiritual interest press in and speak.”

If we want to see God use us, we must get beyond the awkwardness and step out in loving boldness to share with people who desperately need Jesus!

Quotes in order that they appear by page number, 43, 44, 160, 21, 49, 49 & 50, 59, 175 & 177, 178-179, 75, 80, 76, 78 & 79, 92, 116, 141, 149, 152, 152, 149, 166, 171-172, 171, 180, 140, 142