Go to Their Things

My wife and I have made it a priority to simply go. Birthday parties, children’s concerts, school plays, Tupperware parties, fundraisers, barbecues, trivia nights—we will be there. By going to our friends’ things, we earn enough trust and relational capital that our friends will happily come to one of our things.

You’re probably wondering why my wife and I were in a bar singing Aussie anthems anyway. We were the only two Asians there that night! Well, we were there because our neighbor was playing in the band that night. We were going to one of his gigs to support him and have a great date night out.

One night, a small group from my street was going to the local Catholic church for the Christmas Eve midnight Mass. I asked if I could come along. “Sure!” they said. And I shared a ride with them. After the Mass, on the way home, my neighbors asked what I usually do for Christmas. I replied, “Funny you should ask! I’m the guy who gives the Christmas talk at my local Chinese church. Would you like to come?” And they all said yes. So for the next few years, my non-Asian neighbors happily came to my Chinese church for Christmas. They came because I had gone to one of their things first.

Get Onto Their Rosters

I signed up my children for weekend sports, thinking it would be a brilliant way to outsource my parenting. I could simply drop off my kids at practice on Wednesday nights and for the game on Saturdays, while I disappeared and had coffee and read a newspaper by myself.

Unfortunately, a lot has changed in children’s sports since I was a child. Now they expect the parents to get involved. You can’t just drop off your kid. They want you on the barbecue roster, the umpiring roster, and the running-the-water-on-the-sidelines roster. It’s a vortex. It tries to suck you in. Before you know it, you lose your weekends and your life.

I was complaining about this to Russell, my coworker at City Bible Forum. Russell himself recently navigated the whole weekend sports chaos with his son. He told me, “It’s like an undertow. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. And let it take you.” He told me to sign up, get involved, and take an interest. “Before you know it, you become like an unofficial chaplain on the sideline. People will come up to you and share about their struggles in life. They will ask for your advice. And that’s when you can tell them about the difference Jesus can make in their life,” he said.

So, thanks to Russell, I’ve repented. I’ve now signed up both my wife and myself for the barbecue roster, the umpiring roster, and the running-the-water-on-the-sidelines roster! What once seemed like an inconvenient commitment has turned into welcome opportunities to share the gospel.

Become Part of Their Village

Once upon a time, when I was a child, a parent simply dropped a child off at school, and that was that. But now schools are becoming the village hub. Our local elementary school runs fairs, movie nights, trivia nights, fundraisers, book parades, memorial services, art shows, and discos.

I believe that in the previous age of Christendom, the church functioned as the village hub. But now that we are in a post-Christian time, the local school has filled the void left by the church.

We can treat this the same way we treat an undertow: Don’t fight it. Embrace it. When my wife first signed up for our school’s PTA, I was horrified. I knew she would be tied up in meeting after meeting. But now I can see the benefits. She has not only earned massive trust and social capital, but she has become part of the village hub. For many members of the PTA, my wife is the only Christian person they have ever met or known.

One immediate payoff was that my wife got to organize the school’s Christmas concert. Our school usually keeps this concert as secular as possible out of respect for parents and students of other faiths and traditions. I get it. Because we are no longer in Christendom, we can’t expect Christianity to be the dominant voice anymore. I don’t want to turn this into a culture wars thing. I understand the need for many voices in the public sphere. But wouldn’t it be nice if Christians were one of those voices?

Because my wife gets along with everyone in the PTA, she was given enormous freedom to organize the concert. It also helped that she was the vocalist in the band, and all the other band members were Christians—evangelism is a team sport, after all. The end result was that my wife was able to create her own carols playlist—a sensitive mix of both secular and Christian songs—where the audience clearly sang about the wonderful birth of Jesus at the Christmas concert.

This was only possible because she was part of the village.

Chan, Sam, and Ed Stetzer. 2020. How to Talk about Jesus (without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Check out our Bible Study on Sam Chan’s book How to Talk About Jesus. It is on Amazon as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.