A community church in North Andover, Massachusetts

So, You Want to Share Your Faith Joyfully, Eh?

If you found my remarks in “Joy in Evangelism” interesting and want to learn more about evangelizing (sharing the Gospel’s good news for all peoples with everyone needing it), this article is for you. It’s a little longer but bear with me. I think you’ll find it worthwhile … at least I hope so!

No one wants to be lectured, hectored, or“preached at.” Instead, there are a variety of approaches available to us to be more humane and welcoming in our evangelism. These techniques provide greater possibilities of actually sharing the joy we receive as followers of Christ. We need to develop true friendships with people we want to reach, those who don’t know Jesus and those who have been wounded by someone or some church previously and have turned away in pain, building new friendships that are agenda free. We share Christ’s teachings with individuals we get to know who are really interested. We refuse to engage in theological arguments or to push one belief system over another. Instead, we can take the storytelling approach to delivering deep truths that Jesus used.

When Jesus called his disciples, he called ordinary people rather than great orators and he let them be themselves. They made mistakes, they missed the point, they were entirely human and Jesus would have them no other way. Today, Jesus asks the same of us. Jesus wants us to be who we are, dropping pretense and posture in favor of acting naturally, and simply telling others why we love Jesus, and trusting that Jesus will do most of the heavy lifting after we have done our small part.

Jesus used humor. Humor is a clown’s best tool, as I discovered in my years playing “Joyful Noise.” It has been my experience that difficult subjects are often made easier to discuss with wellplaced, well-timed humor. Along with humor, there are a number of complementary strategies to employ when speaking with others about Jesus and the joy he brings. For those who have been hurt in the past, we can apologize for all the ways some Christians have misrepresented Christ to them. We can also pause to listen as good evangelism is at least half listening. We can humbly own up to the fact that we are ordinary, imperfect people, just as the best clowns do in every act. That helps people to relax. We need to stick to talking about our spiritual relationship with Jesus, never fighting over religion. We need to engage in dialogue instead of debate. We need to be authentic about our faith and avoid the temptation toward manipulation. Let interested individuals explore our faith with us as conversations naturally develop when true friendships are nurtured. However, speaking differently is not the only option. We also need to act like Christian clowns.

Many societies see clowns as symbols of hope, playfulness, creativity, and trust. Clowns at times play prophetic roles and challenge societal abuses with their carefully applied humor. Like the clown, we should become symbols of hope, trust, creativity, and playfulness too. The job is to be authentic about who we are, dropping pretenses of authority and infallibility, and using creativity to surprise others with unexpected kindnesses.

To effectively express the joyful Good News to the world and be believed, we must actually be transformed by the Bible’s message. To be transformed, we need first to understand that Jesus Christ is God’s open invitation to joy for all of humanity. When we understand that God promises us joy through Christ, and accept that truth, we may stop a desperate search for happiness, scrambling here and there after one thing or another that culture offers up, and turn to Jesus for a deep and enduring joy instead. When we are transformed by the biblical message of joy, we are more inclined to deliver joy-filled messages to others and are more inclined to storytelling and the use of humor to make a point. Forms of humor that may be employed while telling the story of one’s personal faith include playfulness, exaggeration, paradoxes, anecdotes, parables, jokes, actual clowning, and pointing out the absurdities in life. Through humor, people are invited to play, and they are invited to see their issues as both serious and less than serious in the same moment, which leads to amusement. As every clown knows, and as Jesus knew, amusement can be liberating.

To use this tool well, potential evangelists need to:

  • be open to humorous situations,
  • tailor humor to the individual and situation,
  • be conservative in humor’s use as a little goes a long way,
  • allow your child-like or clownish self to come forward and invite your hearers to play with you,
  • be able to love yourself enough to laugh at yourself,
  • laugh with others and never at them,
  • never be sarcastic or judgmental,
  • and apologize to those you offend.
    (Comedian Red Skelton humbly apologized at the end of every performance to anyone he may have offended with his jokes.)

Humor, properly used, allows the person using humor to reveal something about him- or herself and in doing so creates a relationship with the other person. Together, both are able to laugh over a difficult truth, the debunking of a myth, or the shattering of a favorite illusion, and a relationship grows.

The joyful message we share includes the fact that God created us for joy. God’s joy is intended to be the strong foundation to our lives, persisting in changing circumstances, and reframing our understanding of our current situation in the light of God’s infinite love and grace, enabling us to trust in God and live in confidence, no matter what circumstances life brings our way. Jesus is shown throughout the Gospels bringing joy to those he met with the simple affirmation of each person’s worth in the eyes of God. Since God created us for joy, to turn away from God is to turn away from God’s joy, as well as God’s plan for our best possible lives. That is truly a message worth sharing with others and conveying it as joyfully as possible. Further, we are called to love others as ourselves, and we cannot do so if we do not work toward what is best for others by returning them to God, the source of joy, which is the point of our evangelism.
~Shared with joy, Pastor Jeff