Chances are that we’ve all heard our fair share of “awkward Christianese,” and have probably been guilty of it a time or two as well. As a kid I remember talking to one of my peers about Christianity. “I am a Christian,” she proclaimed. I wasn’t so convinced. “How do you define a Christian?” “Well, I am a good person and I am American,” she said. The conversation got a little awkward as I said, “That doesn’t make you a Christian,” and briefly went on to explain why. She listened politely and acknowledged, “I never realized that before. I guess I am not a Christian after all.” She didn’t say anything else.
It was all a rather awkward experience, and I managed to close the door for further discussion. But I think there are a few important principles we can take away from this, whether we are talking with children or adults. Namely… avoid questions that are awkward or could lead to disagreement if at all possible.
Some phrases/questions we should avoid are more obvious than others. For instance, it is generally a bad idea to make jokes about how hot it is in hell. Sometimes the question paired with the location or activity at hand is the main problem. You could see why a person at a shooting range might get a little fearful if a person with a gun walked up and said, “If you were to die right now….”
On the other hand, some awkward questions are not so obvious at first. For example, “Are you a Christian?” is a poor question. If you disagree with someone’s “Yes,” it might sound like you are calling them a liar and things could get awkward pretty fast. Instead, consider asking, “Have you come to a place in your life where if you died you know for sure that you would go to heaven?” This opens ups the door for more conversation, and gives you a better idea of what the person believes than would a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
What about you? Have you had awkward moments that have informed your thinking about faith conversations with non-Christians. What did you take away from those experiences?