Before the Conversation
Before the conversation
Before you share your faith with people, ask yourself, “Am I motivated by love?” Remember, you are going to be talking to someone made in God’s image and God loves them! Also, your sincerity in wanting to hear their thoughts is incredibly important. Nobody wants to be treated as a project. Dialogue, not monologue! As you listen to them, ask follow-up questions with a real desire to understand who they are and how they think. Finally, having a smile on your face as you ask will help immensely! My smile comes from a knowledge that the Holy Spirit is at work in ways I cannot see, both in and through me and in the person I’m sharing Christ with! Evangelism is our cooperation with God’s ongoing work in the lives of people who have yet to know the joy and wonder of salvation in Christ Jesus! It is not just the words we speak, but how the words we speak are a part of the ‘rivers of living water flowing forth from our inmost being’ (John 7:38). A goal of mine when I’m sharing Christ is to create an ongoing dialogue and friendship with the person.
Questions to get the Conversation Going . . .
* I often say something like this: “I don’t want to be pushy. It’s fascinating to me hearing what others think and talking about spiritual things.”
Have you noticed that new believers seem to have so much joy and passion for Christ? They are often eager to share their faith with friends, often though they are not equipped. What a great opportunity for us to come alongside them and equip them to share their faith. The best way is to do it together! Their existing relationships are all openings to share the Good News! One of these fervent young believers introduced me to a friend who had questions. His big questions centered on the Bible’s view of slavery. It seemed to him that the Bible was in favor of slavery and he, as a black man, could not fully embrace the Bible or Christ because of this. We talked about how the people of Israel being led out of slavery in Egypt is one of the biggest stories of the Old Testament.
I acknowledged that the Bible seems to accept slavery as the norm in many places. However, there’s this little revolutionary letter in the New Testament: Philemon. If the Church had done its Bible study well, it would not have been complicit in slavery. Paul is writing to Philemon, who has a slave named Onesimus. Philemon sent Onesimus to help with Paul’s needs while Paul was imprisoned. During that time, Onesimus became a believer in Christ. Paul refers to him as "my son." He then makes this powerful appeal for Philemon to set him free! “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a beloved brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 1:15-16).
This letter, along with many of Jesus' teachings sow the seeds to end slavery. Through many conversations and a community of believers embracing him, this young man opened up to Christ and is a passionate follower today!
I recently spoke with someone who is considering the Christian faith. It became clear that he thought most of the people in the United States were Christian. I asked why he thought this was true. He said, “Well it’s just part of the culture and most people grew up in that American Christian culture.” I could see that he didn’t understand how someone becomes a Christian. I asked him and it was clear that he wasn’t quite sure. It came as a surprise to him when I said, “Many of the people who say they’re Christian may not actually be Christian.” This may sound judgmental, but then I explained that between the ages of 13 and 20 I would have told people that I was a Christian, though now I see that I clearly wasn’t.
Another time, I took a younger friend who was growing in his faith and a young lady who was a self-professing atheist to lunch. She was open to spiritual conversation and was fully engaged. After some small talk, I said to her, “I think you have more faith than I do.” She kind of laughed and replied, “No you don’t understand, I’m an atheist.” I said, “Yes, I know that; but you cannot prove there is no God, it’s just your belief. So, atheism is really a type of faith.” She was silent for about 20 seconds, thinking deeply. Then she looked at me and said, “You blew my mind!” We laughed together and then invited her to share why she doesn’t believe in God. We listened and asked other questions, getting to know and understand her. Then she was very open to hearing our stories and why we believe that God has sent His Son and how Jesus has changed us.
Continuing the conversation
If you’ve had a good conversation with someone about faith, ask if you can talk with them further about these things. You may even be so bold as to say something like, “One of the greatest things in my life is knowing and following Jesus. I would love for you to consider who he is and what he offers. I don’t want to be pushy, but it’s so good that I want to share. I’d love to continue our conversation if you’re up for it.”