December are about gatherings: holiday office parties and Christmasevents make it the most wonderful time of year – sometimes.  But for all the fun and excitement, these events can also bring us together with people we may not know, or people we know well but don’t like to engage in conversation. Or for that matter, we may not even like to be in the same room. They may have different world views, different personalities, or lifestyles that make these gatherings challenging. So we either try and avoid uncomfortable subjects or we just don’t show up at all. As Christians, just the fact that other people know our beliefs can put up barriers without a word being spoken – and not speaking always leaves us even more uncomfortable. 

So how do we bring a new experience to gatherings this year?

First, be observant. 

The rules of engagement are there and can’t be avoided, and past gatherings may still have baggage that will take time to unpack. We live in a world of customized truth so instead of challenging people’s worldview start by asking questions or telling personal stories when the right opportunities appear. So before you jump into a conversation, watch and observe. Be kind and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction and let that guide you to the right person.

Second, don’t get preachy. 

People aren’t looking for lectures, they’re looking for conversation. No matter how much you feel someone could use a good Bible lesson, spend more time listening than talking. Christian principles and values have become a kind of language that isn’t always understood by most of our culture today. Words like atonement, justification and judgment can easily sound weird and foreign – and sometimes rather frightening. Psalm 119:105 clearly says that God’s Word is a “lamp and a light.”  So any conversation about spiritual issues should be encouraging, not condemning. 

Finally, ask questions. 

People are often looking for answers but when someone brings certainty it brings barriers and guns get drawn. So don’t feel the obligation to always have answers, and instead, bring questions, and then trust God to bring the answers through the Holy Spirit. I’ve always felt the best media projects are ones that tell compelling stories and leave us with important questions. Ralph Winter the producer of the X-Men movies, Fantastic Four and many others said recently that he wants Christian filmmakers to produce films that ask the big questions and not push people to the answers. 

So at any awkward gatherings this year, change your approach. Start by letting them see how much you really care for them and for others. Take time to really listen to their problems and don’t dwell on your own issues. Then trust that Godwill be there to answer their deepest questions.After all, Jesus said, “If I am lifted up I will draw all men to me.” 

Will you be observant enough this next holiday season to speak the language of the culture and be ready to pose questions and tell stories of how God has impacted your own life in positive and loving ways? 

Make this holiday season the most memorable yet. Be a catalyst for Jesus’ redemptive love that brings the gift of eternal salvation.