When Jesus looked at his disciples on that famous afternoon so many years ago, nearing Caesarea Philippi, he didn’t ask them, “What are you thinking about me these days?” His question wasn’t a matter of the head—intellectual ruminations about life and human existence.

Nor did Jesus ask, “How do you feel about me at the moment?” He wasn’t concerned that day about matters of the heart, certain warm and fuzzy feelings that his presence might have conjured in them.

Jesus posed a different sort of question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). He wanted to know what they were talking about. This was a very shrewd question. Most people talk about things that matter most to them in their lives. We are verbal people.

God, please recall, did not wiggle a nose or wave a divine finger to create the world. God instead spoke. “Let there be light,” God said (Genesis 1:3). “Let there be rutabagas.” And so it was.

I love to sit alone in a Subway deli and listen to the cadence of conversation—syllables pouring forth in excitement. It’s something of a miracle to hear the beauty of a French accent, the excitement of a home run, the mystery and promise of a wedding vow.

But it’s often difficult for Christians to talk about Jesus. Church life should be brimming with talk of Jesus—the most interesting man to ever walk the planet, the most accomplished teacher any of us has ever had. But there is sometimes a strange silence when it comes to speaking about Jesus. It’s so much easier to talk about the weather or politics or the price of gasoline.

Martin Luther said the church should be a “mouth house,” full of the good news of Jesus Christ. Here are two suggestions in this regard:

  1.  Please don’t trust only your pastor to talk about Jesus.

It’s possible that pastors might get the message wrong. Talk back to clergy; sass us regularly (in a loving way, of course) about Jesus. I’ve been known to say some borderline outrageous things from the pulpit. In my former congregation, there was a Sunday school class that met for a while where participants re-read and tested past sermons I had preached. If people got too far out of line, I simply excommunicated them (kidding!).

Visitors don’t come to a congregation for the first time with a burning desire to attend an evening committee meeting. Newcomers are centrally looking for meaning and purpose that can be found in Jesus. Churches need many folks who are comfortable speaking about Jesus with others.

  1. Remember that the idea behind Jesus’ question is conversation, not conversion.

One reason we may be quiet when it comes to talking about Jesus is that we don’t want to get mistaken for “those” kinds of Christians—relative strangers who pin you down about eternal questions concerning your final resting place. So we wind up saying nothing for fear of guilt by association.

I recall somebody, holding a sign on a city street corner, asking me the age-old question: “Are you saved?” Somehow I had the wherewithal to pause and answer: “Is it enough that I’m being saved? That it’s taking a while for Jesus to get through to me?”

Consider this: Just talk about Jesus with somebody you know pretty well. Your best friend. Your spouse. Your jogging partner. A classmate whom you trust. Call your grandmother.

This isn’t an invitation to knock on the door of a stranger or try and convert somebody in Walmart. (That’s not your job anyway; the Spirit works on this.)

Simply talk with one other person about Jesus and what you really believe about the man. And then talk to another person. This is more for your benefit than theirs, at least at first.

If Jesus is important to us, we should be able to say why that’s true. He should be on our lips more than the name of any current or future president.

Frank G. Honeycutt

Author of 10 books, Frank Honeycutt is an ELCA pastor living in Walhalla, S.C. His collection of fictional short stories, God’s Scorekeeper, will be released this fall by Cascade Books.

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