READ Colossians 4:2-6
This passage is the very last section in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Most of this letter is focused on the church’s formation – on how Christians mature by going deeper into Jesus by faith. But before Paul ends his letter with his final greetings, he connects our formation to our mission. He reminds them that they are partners in the mission Jesus has given to the church that every person might hear a clear and winsome communication of the Christian faith in the context of a loving community (the church) or a loving friendship. In this passage, we can find 4 key steps for engaging people intentionally to help move them toward Jesus.
1. PRAY FOR OPEN DOORS
The image of the “open door” is a frequent image used in Scripture to describe God’s work of opening hearts and minds to be receptive to the message of the gospel. When and where doors are open (there is receptivity) – it’s a sign that God is at work. It’s important our efforts to engage others with the gospel begin here for a number of reasons: 1) Some doors are closed – Not everyone is ready. Some are resistant. We don’t force our way in because only God can open the door. 2) Prayer opens doors – Somehow in God’s mysterious purposes, He uses our prayers for specific people/places to open doors. We can’t open doors (through our persuasion or skill); but God can open any door. We should be steadfast and consistent in praying for open doors. 3) When a door is open, we can be confident God is at work. If someone shows interest and receptivity toward the gospel, we can have great boldness knowing God is actively working in a person’s life.
2. MOVE TOWARD PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE DIFFERENTLY
When Paul tells the church to “Walk with wisdom toward outsiders”, he tells us where we should walk and how we should walk in a world that doesn’t share our faith. He tells us to walk (ie live) toward people who believe differently than us. We live in a very difficult and divisive time. Instead of moving toward people who believe different, many are getting further and further apart from people on “opposite” sides of the “aisle”. There is a danger in this environment that we all only walk toward those people who already believe like us. But this only deepens the divide, suspicion and tension. Christianity calls us to move us toward people who believe differently than us not away from them.
He also tells us how to walk - with wisdom. Wisdom is the thoughtful, balanced & practical application of our faith to the real issues of individuals and communities. Walking in wisdom means the goal is not to win an argument but to show and share the difference the gospel makes in someone’s life and in the life of a community. Communicating and demonstrating the wisdom of the gospel in the real issues of life requires genuine friendship. We need to know the real issues and struggles people are facing and be willing to share how the gospel is making a difference in the issues and struggles in our life.
3. BE INTENTIONAL IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
When Paul says “making the best use of the time”, he’s using the language of snatching up bargains in the marketplace. In essence, he’s saying, “don’t miss out on opportunities that arise for significant conversation”. Here are 3 aspects to living with this kind of intentionality:
1. Providence of God – Remember it’s never an accident or coincidence that you are connected to the people in your relational network. It’s a part of God’s plan.
2. People NEVER Projects –Engaging people is never about making people a means to an end – or even worse an “evangelism project”.
3. Purposeful Presence – Be intentionally about where your routines; where you frequent, shop. We tend to be so relationally scattered and spread thin. When we intentionally limit our choices, we create opportunity for meaningful relationships.
4. ALWAYS SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF GRACE
When Paul says our “speech should always be gracious”, this is best understood as addressing both the manner and content of our speech. Often people’s perception of conversations about religious is that these kinds of conversations quickly become: Abrasive, combative, impersonal, preachy and condemning. Paul says this is never how it should be. Any time we talk about Jesus we should do it graciously, tactfully, courteously – how we speak about our faith is what makes it salty -inviting/appealing.
Gracious speech also means that when we have an open door to have a meaningful conversation about faith with someone doesn’t believe in Christianity, we should always center the conversation on grace. Why? Because grace is the salty seasoning that sets Christianity apart from all other worldviews and approaches to life. The gospel’s message that we are accepted and loved by God not because of what we do but because of what Jesus has done for us is the salt we want people to taste. Successful engaging is not always convincing or converting (only God does this) but asking, “Did they get just a little taste of grace, enough to make them thirsty for more?”
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. What is your initial reaction to the idea of having faith conversations with people who believe differently than you? Do you agree that Col. 4:2-6 provides us with a way to approach these conversations in way that removes the guilt and pressure for Christians and is actually inviting and welcomed by those who are not Christians?
3. How are you moving toward people who believe differently than you do? Do you have meaningful relationships with people who are not Christians? Are you able to have discussions about the real issues and struggles of life with them? What’s hardest for you about this?
4. Which of the 3 aspects of intentionally above is most helpful to you as you think about growing in engaging people intentionally?
How does centering our conversations on grace help relieve the pressure and fear we often feel about engaging people? How might sharing the impact of grace in our own lives change the way we talk about our faith with those who don’t share it?