We all are damaged but loved, crushed but cherished, with a divine embrace. When love is the motivation for evangelism, nudging is love in action. And the cracks in our broken vases are where Jesus leaks out first.


I define evangelism as “nudge” and evangelists as “nudgers.” Evangelism is awakening each other to the God who is already there. Evangelism is nudging people to pay attention to the mission of God in their lives and to the necessity of responding to that initiative in ways that birth new realities and the new birth. 

God only asks that we do what we do best, which is nudge; God takes it from there. The nudging act—the human contact, the meeting of eyes, the sharing of space, the entanglement of words, the sense of bodily interaction—is to the soul what blood is to the body. Without nudging, the body cannot reproduce.

Every person who crosses your threshold today is ripe for nudging. A nudge happens in proximity. Even the nudges across the Internet or by phone take place in a proximity of relationships. The integrity of a nudge requires that it be welcomed and that it be reciprocal. The purpose of a nudge is to manifest Christ in a moment of mutual knowing, which benefits both the person being nudged and the nudger. Nudging is not best driven by fear or by some need within the nudger. Nudges are not contrived but are the natural consequence of being with someone in a moment and wishing them to join you in recognizing a God-moment. The best nudges culminate in a grunt of mutual recognition. God nudges me because God likes me. I nudge others because I like them. There is an implied caring that comes with nudging.

The nudging act—the human contact, the meeting of eyes, the sharing of space, the entanglement of words, the sense of bodily interaction—is to the soul what blood is to the body.
So there you have it. Nudge—gently pushing people off their seats more than it is sitting people down or driving them to their knees. Nudging is more about sowing than reaping. To be clear, nudging encompasses the full range of gardening—from dropping a tiny seed into the ground, to loosening the dirt, watering, weeding, fertilizing, protecting from predators, picking the fruit, and even helping, in Jesus’ words, “the birds of the air . . . nest under its shade.”1 But every encounter is aimed not to “bring in the sheaves.” Nudging aims to bring people less to a decision than to an impression: not just to an hour of decision but a lifetime impression of God’s presence and the nearness of God’s kingdom. In fact, isn’t this the essence of sanctified living: to make our whole life a Un Oui Vivant,2 a “Living Yes” to the living Christ?

plant This is exactly the opposite of ignoring the need for a decision. Rather, it is respecting and reverencing the process, if one looks back on it, by which each of us came to that place of decision. When an impression leads to a decision, it’s “Hallelujah!” (or in my preferred way of stating it, “Javalujah!”) time. But the ultimate answer to that question “Who do you say that I am?” is best forthcoming from another question: “What’s up?” Or when translated theologically, “What’s the I AM up to in your life?” We find the living One in the midst of living.

Images exist not to be believed but to be interrogated.3
–Andy Grundberg
Don McCullin is a British photojournalist who specializes in capturing images of the downtrodden and forgotten and making these moments of forsakenness universal. McCullin is also one of the greatest war  photographers of all time. He says this about the role of a professional photographer: “If you take one good picture a year for each year of your career, you are doing well.”If, for every year of your life, one person honestly relates that God nudged them through you, and that your nudge had kingdom significance to them, you are a master evangelist; well done! Of course, we ought always to be hoping and praying for what I call these ushering nudges. Always be closing. Even with a gentle nudge, or a God-wink nudge, always be closing in prayer and desire. But remember that every Jesus nudge, whether it leads someone to an altaring moment or not, is part of an answer to a two-thousand-year-old prayer in Matthew 9:38: a prayer Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to pray, when he asked the “Lord of the Harvest” to send out workers for the harvest. Sometimes a nudge will lead to conversion, but most often it will lead to a conversation, a confession, a connection, maybe a germination, but always a blessing.

LEONARD SWEET is the E. Stanley Jones professor of Evangelism at Drew University and the author of Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There

1. Mark 4:26-27, 31-32, NKJV. The full test is as follows: “The kingdom of God is as if man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how . . . [The kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”

2. The phrase is that of St. France de Sales, picked up from Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:19 (“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ . . . it has always been ‘Yes’”) and made into a slogan.

3. Andy Grundberg, “Beyond Itself,” in After Art: Rethinking 150 Years of Photography: Selections from the Joseph and Elaine Monsen Collection (Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 1994), 17.

4. Quoted in Charles Glass, “The Universal Instant,” TLS: Times Literary Supplement, 03 March 1995, 7.
Copyright 2011 Leonard Sweet. Nudge published by David C Cook. Permission required to reproduce in any format or media including downloading. All rights reserved.
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