Each chapter of the Sharing Jesus book has a principle, eight total, one per week if you are following the Eight Week Challenge. Week five, and thus principle five, has to do with practical ways to bring Jesus into everyday conversations. Some are specific tools or approaches, some are more mindset than method. Here is the principle:
Principle 5: Effective evangelistic conversations connect the unchanging gospel with the specific issues people face.
Here are the five approaches (you’ll have to read the book to get the details):
- Stories–everyone has a story. Ask the other person about her story. Then, share your story. As a believer it’s not possible to tell your story without talking about Jesus, right? Then, you can ask her, “Has anything like this happened to you?” From there you can talk more about the gospel based on her response.
- Ask good questions–sometimes just learning a few helpful questions makes all the difference. I don’t ask, “Do you go to church?” but I ask, “When you attend church, where do you attend?” The second question assumes the best of the person, and in my experience people are much more likely to admit they aren’t involved in church when the second question is employed. This a) gives you a little info on where they are spiritually, b) turns the conversation toward spiritual matters. Just this Sunday a layman at our church stopped me to tell me how this one shift of questioning has changed his own witness for the better.
- Genuine affirmation and encouragement–this is very powerful when done authentically. Note this: You can affirm a person as created in God’s image without endorsing his lifestyle. Focusing on the person God created more than his specific ideology helps to communicate the gospel in a less-than-condescending tone. I mention in the book how this attitude has been most helpful in seeing people come to Christ who were of a different religion (like Muslim) or a different lifestyle (like homosexuality).
- Focus on the person’s heart as well as the mind–here is where many make a fundamental mistake by assuming information alone will win people. We don’t reach people only from the neck up; we reach them as a total person, head, hands, and heart.
- Connect beneath the surface–one of the most helpful ways to think about gospel conversations for me has been to pay attention when people talk about their pain or their passion, two subjects we constantly discuss. When someone talks about pain, start with the brokenness that comes from sin and take her to the work of Christ for sin and the restoration by Christ. When someone talks about what he is passionate about, start with God’s design and how he made each of us in his image with a desire to be and do more than just survive. Then take him to the cross to show how we can only really fulfill the passion in our heart by a relationship with Christ.
You can read more about this in the book, but perhaps one of these will encourage you.