Interview with Leonard Sweet on “Nudge”

Hi Fun-Seekers,

Today, I interview my co-conspirator, Leonard Sweet, on his new book Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There (published by David C. Cook).

As most of you know, I’ve argued elsewhere that the greatest evangelist on the earth is and has always been the ekklesia when she is functioning the way God intended her to function. She’s absolutely arresting when she shows forth the glories of her Lord, as only she can do.

In the first-century (when the NT was written), it was those little communities of “strange” but joyful people who didn’t observe the Greco-Roman customs, who proclaimed allegiance to a new Caesar and a new Kingdom, and in whom Jew and Gentile loved one another, cared for each other’s needs, married one another, and buried one another. That unique testimony of mutual care, love, oneness, allegiance to a new Lord and a new way of life (which included serving those who were outside their walls) is what shook the Roman Empire to its core.

The world had never beheld such a people before.

Today, evangelism has devolved into a heavy obligation, a religious duty, an exhibition of self-effort laced with enormous guilt (if you fail to “witness” or “bring someone to Jesus,” then God is not happy with you), and a highly-individualistic exercise.

Evangelism as we know it is an obstacle to evangelism as God would have it.

As Len alludes to in this interview, never do we find anywhere in the NT epistles the slightest whisper for Christians to evangelize. That’s because it was an organic thing that was heralded by one’s lifestyle and in natural relationships with those who did not know the Savior. One’s life was the witness. (Jesus Christ has a way of coming out of one’s pours when His people learn to “eat and drink” of Him.) And more, the life of the community which reflected the fullness of Christ was the supreme witness of all witnesses. (Note: for the early Christians, “church” wasn’t an event that you attended once a week. It was a life together.)

In short, if I had one book to recommend to contemporary Christians on the subject of evangelism, it would be Nudge.

When you finish reading the interview, I’d like to request something. Look at the bottom of the interview just before the comments section. You’ll notice a panel that says Share this, and a list of buttons to the right of it. (Those “share” buttons appear on all our blog posts.)

I’d like to kindly ask that each of you click on the Facebook, the Twitter, and/or the Digg buttons (that is, if you use Facebook, Twitter, or Digg).

Now if you subscribe by email, the buttons won’t show. The same may be true if you view the blog in a reader. So you’ll have to click here to find the share buttons and share the blog post with others.

Let’s see if we can get at least 100 Twitter “shares.” That’s a tiny fraction of the number of views this blog gets on a given day. So I’m shootin’ low here, folks. Let’s all work toward it and see what happens, eh?

I’d appreciate it, and I’m sure Len would as well. Here’s the interview:

What provoked you to write Nudge?

Evangelism is a good word. If you’re a disciple, you’re an evangelist.

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s, is most known for his quote: “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” But I think his best definition may not be of the church but of evangelism:

To evangelize is to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men and women come to put their faith in God through him, to accept him as their Savior and to serve him as their King in the fellowship of His church.

For first century Christians, evangelism was “We have found the Messiah, come and see.” For twenty-first century Christians, it has become “We have found ourselves, come and see” or “We have found the best church, come and join” or “We have found the best praise and worship, come and sing” or “We are following the best leader, come and fall in.”

After so much “witnessing” to things other than Christ (we witness to our own personal experiences, we witness to our denominations or leaders, etc.), I thought it was time to explore biblically and historically what it might mean to “witness” to the Christ who forgives, redeems and sanctifies, and to do so in a way that isn’t based on “Listen, Lord, for thy servant is speaking” but “Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.”

There are an incalculable number of books written on evangelism, what makes Nudge unique and different from other titles on the subject?

Evangelists used to model themselves after Lord Nelson of the Royal Navy whose strategy was, when assessing challenging situations,  “No maneuvers – just go straight at ’em”. Nudge evangelism is more thorough and thoughtful than that. It is based on the two forgotten premises: first, discipleship and evangelism are in many ways one and the same; two, we are always and everywhere to join Jesus in what he is already doing in the world and not rely on our own understandings and undertakings. The founder of my tribe, John Wesley, talked about three different kinds of grace: prevenient grace, justifying grace, sanctifying grace. Nudge is the first book on evangelism of which I’m aware that embraces and embodies all three.

One of the things I appreciated about the book is its Christocentric focus. Each chapter subtitle brings Jesus into the conversation: “Hearing Jesus,” “Seeing Jesus,” “Breathing Jesus,” etc. How does Nudge compare and contrast to our joint-volume, Jesus Manifesto?

Basically it’s a follow-up to our book Jesus Manifesto in the area of evangelism. It shows how manifestations of Jesus are the very basis of evangelism itself.

My favorite name of a church, besides “Last Church” (to be theologically correct, all “First Churches” should change their name to “Last Church” since the first will be last, and vice versa), is St. Andrews. I love Andrew? He doesn’t have a big name like Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul. But he did do one thing, and he did it over and over again: he introduced people to Jesus. Andrew introduced his brother Simon, a fishing partner, to Jesus. And Jesus was so impressed he gave Simon a new name. When there were 5,000 of Jesus’ listeners to be fed, Andrew introduced a small boy with a small lunch to Jesus. And from that introduction, Jesus fed the enormous crowd. Andrew’s contribution to the history of the church was not dramatic, or innovative, or inventive. He simply nudged people to get acquainted with Jesus, and when this happened, God did some amazing things . . . even when Andrew wasn’t there.

In the short time the book has been out, what are some of the reactions you’ve gotten from readers so far?

It’s been interesting reading. Some people are touting the book as the best thing on evangelism ever written, and others are touting it as the worst. Those in the latter category find the book reprehensible because they believe that every evangelistic encounter should be a shove, not a nudge, and that these shoves should shake the person to the core and shock them into realizing that eternity is at stake with every choice they make and that “now is the time.” I do believe that some nudging will be shoving, but not every one. Besides, Jesus was more a nudger than a shover. Even with His closest disciples, He nudged them until the shove: “Who do you say that I am?”

Imagine one of the people who is reading the book right now. What do you wish to change in his or her life – specifically and practically – after they finish it?

To be less concerned with making a good first impression themselves and to dedicate themselves to making a “Jesus impression” instead.

Nudge evangelism is based on a simple premise: in everyone you meet, leave an impression–a Jesus impression, a Jesus dent. Instead of trying to “impress” everyone with ourselves, Nudge shows how to leave a different impression on people–a Jesus impression. Nudge evangelism is impressing everyone you meet with the goodness, truth and beauty of Jesus.

To “nudge” is to impress on someone how special they are and how much Jesus loves them. The nudge can be as simple as a smile, as profound as a prayer, as complex as a meal, as subtle as a story, as venturous as a witness, as ambitious as an altar call. But when you leave an impression that is more than impressionistic or imprecise, you leave a dent. You “impress” them. Too many Christians are leaving an “impress” of hate and condemnation, not of love and salvation. Jesus did not come to “condemn” but to “save” the world.  In everyone you meet, leave a dent. A Jesus nudge leaves a Jesus impression that reminds people that God is up to something big in their life. Everyone you meet is a divine appointment for nudging.

The same question as above, but for churches (congregations).

Paul’s pep talks to churches are less about becoming more passionate about spreading the gospel than becoming more passionately in love with Christ. It’s all about faithfulness to Christ. If you can form a community that is crazy in love with Jesus, and lives in faithful witness to that love, evangelism will organically flow from the love of Christ. For a church to nudge is to give voice and to lend a face to love.




  1. Vern Hyndman says

    Love Nudge… I have a Nudge shaped elbow, and a receptive
    shoulder to the Nudge of Christ-in-the-folks-in-my-world. And
    Christ Himself Nudges me towards trust, towards releasing what is
    meant to flow through my life, towards generousity with others and
    towards accepting that the generosity is for me as well.

  2. Erminia Dulin says

    Fantastic blog! I actually love how it is easy on my eyes as well as the information are well written. I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which should do the trick! Have a nice day!

  3. Pete Veysie says

    I am really enjoying both Nudge and Jesus Manifesto. Someone described our church as “B Church”.We are not A Church but we are called to BE Church.This is close to to Last Church and the best Nudgers of all. Thanks for enthusing us again.Blessings Peter Veysie

  4. beverly says

    Just for starters, what a relief that I don’t have to go out w/the 4 Spiritual Laws and share it w/everyone I meet! For years I have said that I don’t have the ‘gift of evangelism’. Now I see that being w/Jesus is all I have to do and He will do the rest. He will compel me to say things and I wonder where did that come from? He is wooing His bride and it’s Him not us, we are blessed to be a part of His plan in spite of our humanness. Thank you so much for sharing this interview w/us.

    It truly set us free from ‘doing’ the right thing into living Him before any who would want to receive Him.

  5. says

    Rose, the so-called great commission is not in the epistles. It was a statement by Jesus Christ to the Twelve, who had lived with him for 3.5 years and whom He trained and sent to the apostolic work. Also, as I’ve pointed out in “Pagan Christianity,” it wasn’t really a commission, but a prediction. In the Greek it says, “and as you are going, make disciples . . . ” It was organic thing.

    What’s never mentioned by people who push the great commission on all of God’s people as some sort of a religious duty is that the apostles didn’t leave the city of Jerusalem for at least 4 years. There was no rush in them to get the world saved. That impulse, which we can traced back to John R. Mott, just doesn’t fit the New Testament narrative.

    So again: you cannot find one place in all the letters to the churches where Paul, Peter, John, James, etc. are telling God’s people to go out and witness or share the gospel with the lost. It was an organic thing, it was something the church did mostly by her life together, and it was also “in season,” like everything else in the Christian life.

    I realize that this blows to bits what’s been passed down to us by D.L. Moody and company, but the fact is, that teaching doesn’t fit what I call “The (Untold) Story of the New Testament Church.” You need to build it with scissors and glue, cutting and pasting verses together to build a doctrine that has put God’s people under a mountain of guilt and condemnation.

    I am thrilled that more and more Christians are discovering that God has an Eternal Purpose that has been hugely neglected, and it goes beyond saving lost souls, but puts it within it’s scriptural and spiritual context.

  6. says

    I’ll have to pick this one up. The Christocentric focus of this book very much intrigues me, too (thank you for pointing that out, Frank). As I’ve been studying your books and others, I’m arrested at how far away from a Christocentric approach much of our Christianity has become. Thank you and Leonard for reminding us that if our Christian teaching doesn’t point to Jesus, perhaps it’s not very Christian in the first place!

  7. mark says

    Thanks for the overview of Len’s new book. I like the idea of nudging. Growing up, I was expected to “shove” people, but I’m just not a shover. The world needs fewer shovers and more nudgers. Or at least some folks who know the difference and have a little discernment. I’ll add this book to my wishlist.

    Examples of nudging? I can think of several. In my experience, it requires a lot of listening. Listen to people that you meet. They’ll tell you a whole lot about themselves if you let them. Shoving is all about your presentation of the gospel. Nudging is more about loving them and seeing the places where they need or are open to a little nudge. Nudging also requires a lack of judging others. I don’t think you can nudge or even budge someone when you stand in judgment over them.

    Love Len’s answers to the last two questions.

  8. Jeff Stucker says

    Having gone through much evangelism training and programs, in the hundreds of encounters I’ve had I have only seen three Americans come to faith in Christ through my influence. All three conversions were in response to the Body of Christ — these individuals witnessed a small group of Christians sharing Jesus with one another. They saw the love of God in action as we talked and prayed, and they said, “I want this.” Twice as a student it was in a dorm basement study room where they eavesdropped on the other side of the room, and later once in my wife’s and my living room when a friend invited a friend to join our church small group meeting for the first time.

    The evangelism training helped me confirm their commitments and walk them through assurance of salvation, but in my experience it did nothing to draw anyone to Christ, visibly at least. Jesus had his own agenda including proving to me in those hundreds of encounters that I am not gifted in evangelism and that he draws men to himself through his Body on earth.

  9. says

    I read Nudge about a month ago, or so. I really liked it. It seemed more like a book on getting to know Jesus in several, sensory ways (smell, touch, taste, feel, hear, and see) than it was about evangelism. That’s why I love the book so much.

  10. says

    I am currently reading ‘Nudge’ and so far I think it’s the best book on evangelism I have ever read, and I have read MANY of them. As I have been reading ‘Nudge’, God showed me that I had already been doing the very thing Leonard writes about. I have a Facebook community of people where I ask thought provoking questions and the dialogue that flows from that are gentle Nudges and I ask that ‘shove’ question of them also..”Who do YOU say that he is and why do you think so?”

    Our community has recognized the Christian Idolatry in the ‘church’ today and have been nudging our way through that to discovering freedom In Christ and putting Him back in the Throne. 😉 Over the last year we have had several Facebook friends drive through our city to fellowship in our home and strongholds are coming down. It’s been wonderful.

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