Many people today reject moral absolutes, are deeply skeptical of religion, and know very little about the Bible. All of that makes evangelism in this new millennium more difficult than before. Often, people won’t be willing to listen to the Gospel message until you’ve first engaged them in spiritual conversations that prepare their hearts and minds to hear it.
Here’s how you can use conversations to help people get ready to respond to the Gospel:
View evangelism as a process rather than an event. Sharing your faith is a process that’s best done gradually through a series of conversations with people, building trusting relationships with them over time. Evangelism is helping your non-believing friends take one step closer to Christ every day and in every way. Try to make the most of every encounter with your non-believing friends to help them take steps toward Christ.
Pray for more passion. Ask God to give you more passion for lost people so you’ll be motivated every day to use your conversations strategically to help them find Christ.
Focus on availability rather than ability. Remember that it’s the Holy Spirit who ultimately draws people to Christ. You shouldn’t feel the pressure of being responsible for how people respond to the Gospel. Your job is simply to lead them to it and give them opportunities to respond. As you make yourself available to God every day, His Spirit will empower you to speak the truth to others in your conversations.
Be a musician. Listen carefully to what your non-believing friends have to say, and hear the sour notes – things that don’t sound right – that they’re singing to you. When you hear what people actually believe and detect discrepancies in their viewpoints, you’ll know better how to reach them for Christ. So listen well, giving people your full attention when they speak. Eliminate distractions and focus on what they’re saying rather than thinking of your response while they’re still talking. Make eye contact with them. Reflect back what you think you’ve heard them say, paraphrasing it to clarify whether or not you truly understand them. Notice the different types of sour notes that people may be singing to you: discrepancies between their worldview and their heart longings, inconsistencies between what they say they believe and how they live, two or more beliefs that are mutually contradictory, and illogical beliefs. When you understand people’s perspectives more clearly, you’re more likely to engage them in meaningful dialogue. Page 23
Be an artist. Paint a picture using questions to help your non-believing friends see themselves in a true light. Rather than telling them what they should believe, tactfully ask probing questions in ways that allow them to surface the truth for themselves and evaluate the strength of their beliefs. When they see for themselves the inadequacies and inconsistencies of what they believe, they’ll be curious to hear more about Christ. Phrase your questions in non-threatening ways to minimize people’s defensiveness. Ask questions that clarify the meaning of unclear terms they’re using (for example, if someone says, “I’m a pretty good person so I’m going to get into heaven,” you could ask, “What do you mean by ‘good’?”.). Ask questions that surface uncertainty and expose false beliefs to help people see the cracks in the foundation of their worldview (for example, you could ask, “Do you think that all religious beliefs basically teach the same thing?” and then follow up by asking, “How is it possible for all religions to be the same when some of them contradict each other’s key beliefs?”). To avoid overwhelming people with too many questions, pray for the wisdom to know which issues you should focus on.
Be an archaeologist. Dig up people’s history to find the real barriers that are standing between them and Christ. People often have unspoken issues that are getting in the way of them coming to faith in Christ. They may have intellectual issues that are keeping them from understanding why Christianity is true; in that case, they need answers from apologetics. They may have emotional issues that are preventing them from considering the truth; in that case, they need you to listen to their concerns, demonstrate compassion, and pray for them. They may have volitional issues in which they simply don’t want to consider Christianity because they’d rather run their own lives than let God guide them; in that case, they need love and prayer. Determine whether the questions people are asking are legitimate or a diversion designed to avoid the truth. Uncover the nature of their barriers and the concerns behind their questions. Find out what would motivate them to get answers to their questions about Christ.
Be a builder. Build bridges to the Gospel for people. Find the right balance in your approach between objective evidence (such as evidence for Christ’s resurrection) and subjective experience (such as how people see God at work in your own life as a role model to them). Find common ground with the people you’re trying to reach, and use those areas you have in common as the basis for meaningful dialogue. Earn the right to be heard. Then build a bridge from a point of shared beliefs toward the Gospel. Build “head bridges” by helping people come to understand the Christian faith better.