I get asked this question a lot: How do you evangelize? Meaning, how do you start conversations with non-Christians that will hopefully lead to spiritual things?”
Carefully and thoughtfully is my short answer. Christians have a bad reputation of dumping the whole truckload on total strangers or new friends in “Christianese,” language that we understand but means something different to others. Therefore, the first thing I need to say is – go slow. Build a relationship with people. Be transparent. Share your failures. Talk about the people you value. Build trust. Show them that you’re a different kind of Christian than they expect.
Once you’ve built a relationship, I’d intentionally think about making some pre-decisions about a series of statements or questions you could use to engage the spiritually indifferent in faith conversations. Here are a few that others and I have used;
1. “Have you ever wondered why in the world you were born? What’s the purpose of life on this planet in general, but more importantly, why do you and I exist?”
Years ago, I decided I wanted to live my life to count for something and live with more purpose, so I wrote a personal mission statement. It helped define for me, what a life of significance looks like. I read it recently and it reminded me just how easily I can get distracted with what one writer called “the tyranny of the urgent.” The demands of work, lack of restful sleep and just dealing with our families, can keep me so busy that I lose sight of the relationships and things I want most to develop or accomplish.”
Or you could talk about having read the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. You can never be sure where the conversation goes from there. But most people will ask to hear what your personal mission statement is. (I’ll offer to send them mine.)
I’ve made it a point not to ask them if they have a mission statement. It feels like a put-down. But, just let the conversation go wherever God leads it from there. (If you’ve not yet written one for yourself, here are the links to my blogs on this subject. (http://bit.ly/1hGiApv or http://bit.ly/1krOYzM)
2. “I read an interesting book recently called ‘The 10 Second Rule.’ Here’s the rule; Just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do (and do it quickly before you change your mind!)
The premise of the book is this; what separates religious Christians from true followers of Jesus is actually living more like Jesus every day and not just going to church and believing the right information about God. It’s been a wake-up call for me to be far more serious about serving others than being religious. And, I’m loving it!”
Be prepared for specific questions about how that has worked in your life. Please also share your failures at being more Christ-like. People are drawn to authentic, transparent, honesty.
I’ve used the; “I read an interesting book recently” line, with other books as well. I’ll share reading Love and Respect with someone I know who’s struggling in their marriage. I’ve shared the concepts of the Financial Peace University with spiritually disinterested people who I know are having a tough time with finances. Most non-Christians aren’t even aware there are so many great books on these subjects.
3. Of all these methods for starting conversations with spiritually indifferent people, here’s my favorite; “You know, we’ve been working together for a time, but I really don’t know much about you. Please give me a 10 minute history of the family you grew up in, what you loved to do as a kid, what your mother, dad, and siblings were like and what they’re doing today. I’d just enjoy hearing how you, became you?”
Most people love talking about themselves. Listen for words that tell you who hurt or disappointed them as a child. If they talk about the divorce of a parent, ask how that affected them. If they say very little about one of their parents, a mother or father, I’ll often say, “You’ve not said much about your father. Was he not engaged in your life much?” In other words, ask enough follow-up questions to show them, that you’re truly interested in them.
I never ask people if they go to church or where. If they do, they’ll let you know one way or another, but I wouldn’t put them on the spot.
It’s been my experience that most spiritually disinterested people have been hurt by a “Christian” parent, spouse, or the church. Find out how and it may be the way to reach them. For men who’ve had a poor excuse for a father, consider giving them John Eldridge’s book, Wild at Heart.
But, don’t worry if any of your encounters end with a person not showing much interest in spiritual things. Success is just being a “safe person” for them. My goal is to leave them thinking, “Clare’s a person I wouldn’t mind meeting with again. He seems to have insights I think I need.”
However, before you enter any of these conversations, or if you find yourself engaged in one unexpectedly – pray! Ask the Holy Spirit to direct the conversation and give you the right words to say. And, add these people to your prayer list. And, don’t be discouraged. I’ve heard from people I met only once, years before, who, when their life was falling apart, were prompted to call me.
“When you are brought before synagogues, rules and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say.” Luke 12:11
Question: Would you share with us how you’ve started conversations with spiritually disinterested people?
Following Jesus in Real Life