How to Start Spiritual Conversations
Objective: To teach evangelism strategies that help people transition from small talk to talking about spiritual things with those who appear receptive.
Being Courageous and Evangelistic Effectiveness
Competence and integrity get others’ attention at work. Caring actions build bridges of trust between co-workers and users.
One more thing is essential. We need the courage to speak up for Jesus. Without it, we’ll never catch any fish.
Paul wrote, “And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike” (Ephesians 6:19 NLT).
Transitioning to the Good News and Evangelistic Effectiveness
Timing is critical to fishing. And to evangelistic effectiveness. Fish bite better during certain times of the day than others. Walleyes usually feed around dawn and dusk.
Days around the full moon and new moon are better than others. Spring and fall are generally better than the heat of summer.
As I write this, I’ve just completed a week of vacation in early October. I spent part of four days fishing on the Susquehanna River. Because of favorable conditions (water temperature, clarity, and river stage), my catch rate per hour was five or six times higher than during summer. The fish were actively looking for food, but I still had to cast my lure close to them to catch them.
During times of stress, significant problems, and upheaval, people are more receptive to the gospel than when everything goes smoothly. Still, they must hear and respond to the gospel to be saved. “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NLT).
A pastor shared with me that a young woman had come to him and more or less asked the Philippian jailer’s question (Acts 16:30 NLT), “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Her conversion happened amid a combination of favorable "fishing conditions," including the recent death of her mother.
That pastor didn’t have to transition to the good news of the gospel. She took the initiative. That’s about as rare as a fish jumping into the boat. Almost always, believers must take the initiative to share the gospel.
Many fishermen don’t make it to the stream, river, or lake to fish as often as they’d like because they’re preoccupied with other things—they don’t get around to it. We usually don’t evangelize because it’s hard to move from self-focus to others-focus and from small talk to God-talk.
Avoiding Two Evangelistic Errors and Evangelistic Effectiveness
One evangelistic error is to share the gospel before co-workers are receptive and press too hard for a “commitment” to Christ. New believers, frothing at the mouth with joy and enthusiasm, are often guilty of this error.
They forget their decision to follow Christ wasn’t spur of the moment but the conclusion of a process. In their exuberance, they try to catch fish with a landing net before they’re even hooked! They scare them away.
Some who have the gift of evangelism are also prone to this extreme. They pressure for a decision. Some people pray a prayer to get the evangelist off their back but don’t follow through.
Their “commitment” was the evangelist’s idea, not theirs. They don’t own it and aren’t committed to following Christ.
Others pray a prayer or walk an aisle in a church and mistakenly think that makes them okay, but their life doesn’t change at all.
Responding to an invitation is not enough. It is no substitute for following Christ as a way of life. We can’t pressure people into the kingdom. We can make them feel dirty, but we can’t make them want to be clean.
The second evangelistic error is to develop our relationships with people but never get around to sharing the gospel. That’s a much bigger pitfall than the first evangelistic error for most believers trying to have a spiritual impact among co-workers.
Since co-workers are becoming receptive to and interested in spiritual things, how do we usher them to the next level? We must overcome our fear and sense of incompetence in leading others to faith in Christ, or we’ll never catch any fish.
Transitional Questions and Evangelistic Effectiveness
Specific questions have helped me bridge the conversation from the weather, sports, etc., to spiritual things. They should be asked at a time and place where there’s privacy and time to address spiritual issues in depth.
Especially when we know someone is going through a tough time, we can ask, “Do you feel a need to be closer to God?” If the answer is “Yes,” we can say, “Let me show you how you can be.” Then we share the gospel. I have used this question more extensively than any other. People who are hurting usually respond positively.
“Why do you think people feel so empty, even when they have so much?” First, we listen to what our co-worker has to say. Then we take the opportunity to tell how Jesus has brought meaning to our life and filled up the empty spot.
After sharing our testimony about finding meaning in life, we should ask, “May I share how you can fill that empty spot?” If the response is positive, we share the gospel.
“Do you ever wonder if life has an overall purpose and meaning? What do you think it is?” Again, listen first. Here’s another opportunity to share your testimony!
After doing so, ask, “May I share the first step in finding purpose in life?” If the response is positive, share the gospel.
"What's the best thing that ever happened to you?" Please give them your full attention as they tell you. Then ask, "May I share the best thing that ever happened to me?"
If the response is positive, share your testimony. Then ask, “Have you experienced the joy of knowing Christ personally?” If the answer is “No,” ask, “Would you like to?” If the response is positive, share the gospel.
“Do you think faith in Jesus Christ spoils or enriches someone’s life? Why?” After listening to their response, ask, “May I share how faith has enriched my life?”
If the person is receptive, share your testimony. Ask, “May I share with you the first step to take for Jesus Christ to enrich your life?” If the response is positive, share the gospel.
If they attend a church service with you or another outreach event, ask, “What did you think of the message?” After listening to their response, ask, “Have you experienced the joy of knowing Christ personally?” If they don't know Him, ask if they would like to. If they would, share the gospel.
We can talk about some needs that are evident in our co-worker’s life. Such as a lack of purpose, fear, discouragement, or loneliness. We could share how Christ has met that need in our life.
Ask permission to explain a personal relationship with Christ. If given it, we share the gospel.
If we aren’t given permission, we try to keep the door open for a future conversation. We could say, “That’s OK. Perhaps we could talk about it some other time.”
Over time we can ask our co-workers questions to learn how they think about spiritual things. Usually, we ask only one during a conversation and then listen attentively.
We can ask whether they regularly attend church anywhere unless we already know they don’t.
On another occasion, we inquire about their spiritual beliefs and make sure we don’t argue no matter what they say. If they ask about our beliefs, we share our testimony.
When it seems appropriate, we ask, “Who do you think Jesus is?” We could ask whether they believe in heaven and hell, maybe when either comes up in a conversation. During the same discussion, we ask, “If you died today, to which would you go and why?” Almost everyone thinks they are going to heaven.
Asking why people think they’re going to heaven provides insight into their spiritual understanding. Is their trust in personal goodness (often the case) or in what Christ has done on the cross?
After someone has responded to this question, we could ask, “May I share with you what the Bible says is the requirement to enter heaven?” If the answer is yes, we share the gospel. We try to open the door for future conversation if the answer is no.
As church attendees, our responsibility is to reach others. However, we cannot reach others if we are spiritually immature. Only through growing our faith and reaching others can we fulfill our purposes. Improving our spiritual strength will make us more effective Christians and eventually church leaders.
Spiritual Health Assessment identifies your strengths.
ABC of Evangelism prepares you to talk about God with others.