This article was adapted from an episode of RZIM’s Ask Away podcast featuring Jo and Vince Vitale on the subject of conversational evangelism. You can listen to the episode below.
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It is a truth we have been commanded by Christ to make disciples of all people, of every tongue and every tribe. Yet, all believers are at times crippled by fear and feelings of inadequacy. Even people who truly love Jesus often don’t know where to start. How do we share our faith with those around us?
The ultimate starting point is to just be present. Your friends and family seeing the life that you live is already a powerful witness. Often when it comes to thinking about how to share your faith within your community of family and friends, we feel like there’s a kind of gear crunch or sudden shift that takes place. The reality is that evangelism is a much more organic thing, which flows out of the conversations you’re already having.
We need to ask ourselves, ‘what are the conversations I’ve already been having, and how do I build from where we already are, rather than starting from scratch?’ Each individual within your community needs to be treated as just that, an individual, not as part of a technique or strategy. It’s going to be about who are the people in front of you, and how does each person relate to you? What are the particular struggles they’re dealing with? What are the questions that they have as an individual?
The more you reach out into your community, the more you will realise there will be a different approach for every different person. And, while that may feel daunting, the beauty lies in the absence of a prescribed technique.
How Do I Start To Talk To Others About Jesus?
Don’t discount the power of prayer
The best place to begin when considering how to evangelise to our community is with prayer. Pray very specifically. Even in the morning, if you know you’re going to spend time with people, ask the Lord in your prayer time, ‘are there any areas you want me to focus on in conversation with this individual?’ Are there any particular verses in the Bible you want to bring to mind, to help me? Are there any directions you need this conversation to go?
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you before you even get there. And then, I think you’ll find that he’ll start bringing things to your mind throughout the day. I sometimes walk into conversations and feel like God has really prepared the ground for me, because of things that have come to mind earlier for me suddenly come up in that very conversation. Don’t limit what the Holy Spirit can do. He’s a wonderful evangelist.
If I had to trace the trajectory of the conversations I’ve had with people where God has really shown up and moved in a powerful way, without a doubt, every time that something has gone beyond just a great, interesting conversation, to someone having an encounter with God, I’ve been sitting there praying fervently the whole time, under my breath. And, sometimes, out loud. But usually, under my breath. Don’t discount the power of prayer in those moments, both to see your own heart in the conversation, and help you to say the right words and ask the right question, but also, to move the heart of the person that you’re with.
Connected questions as the root to intimacy
I think we often talk about being multi-lingual. That’s the phrase Vince likes to use for it. What Vince means by that is basically, one way to be effective when it comes to reaching people is, not just to start with the things you care about, that being the gospel, but to care deeply about the things that other people care about.
To help with that we need to become connected questioners and attentive listeners. you just ask a simple question about the information they’ve given you, and it makes you become a better listener, because you have to listen well to the information you’re given in response to a question, and then, ask a thoughtful question in response to that. Incredibly simple, but the number of meaningful conversations you’ll have throughout the year if you practice this will skyrocket. I think Jesus makes his way into those meaningful conversations quite naturally.
It is an intimate way of interacting so you will need to bear with people. It will take people a little while to get used to being invited into deeper levels of connection. Once they come to realise you’re someone who isn’t just asking for the sake of it, but really wants to know who they are, who cares about the deep stuff in their life, then, increasingly, they will start sharing with you. Or they may not share in the moment, but when something goes down that’s really difficult, you’ll come to mind as someone who’s actually invested and interested and someone they can trust with these things.
People matter, they are not projects
This next element is the very heart of conversational evangelism and at the very heart of the deeply relational and committed nature of the Christian faith: all of this means you have to be a trustworthy person. You have to be someone who actually really does care about someone. It isn’t going to work in your life if these become strategies for conversation because you’re trying to get someone somewhere and treating them like a project.
If you’re going to ask deep questions, and people are going to trust you, then be trustworthy with the information that they give you, and make sure they know you’re invested with them because you care, regardless of the outcome. And that has to be clear to them, that you’re not just in it for a while, and then when you see you can’t push them into something, then you move onto the next person. People matter. People are beloved by God regardless of whatever decision they’re going to come to here. So, be like Christ in that. Love people well.
Jesus is our model for vulnerable relationships
One other thing I think is really important as we intend to go deeper in conversations is, as we’re asking people to be vulnerable with us in terms of their questions, their desires, the needs of their heart, we need to be willing to be vulnerable with the people that we’re talking to, as well.
Jesus is our model in this respect. He could have communicated truth to us in all sorts of ways. He decided to do so in the most vulnerable way he possibly could have. And I think of Thomas the Doubter who said, “I need to actually see the scars in Jesus’ hands and feet, and in his side, and put my fingers there.” Jesus allowed him to do so. It was because Thomas saw that Jesus was willing to be vulnerable with him, that he knew that he could be vulnerable with Jesus. And, that relationship was established.
People in that place of doubt often need to see that the one that they’re going to trust is willing to be vulnerable with them. And, if we’re willing to be vulnerable with the people that we’re having conversation with, that may point them, we hope, to a God who was willing to be ultimately vulnerable for their salvation.