One thing people may or may not know about me is that I'm introverted. I am probably not on the "super extreme happy to be alone in a room for a month" side of introversion, but I am at least on the "I've been hanging out with people for three hours and if I don't get alone soon I'm gonna stroke out" side of introversion. Hanging out is work and I'm much happier to keep to myself than strike up a conversation with a stranger.
However, one thing I can't avoid in the Bible (though I've been trying to for far too long) is the Great Commission: the command to go and make disciples by sharing the gospel. This requires striking up conversations. This requires, for me, getting way out of my comfort zone.
Over the past couple of weeks I've been really working to share my faith more and have meaningful conversations with people rather than just exchanging the simple pleasantries about the weather or latest sports scores. I'd like to share with you some things I've discovered so far that I hope may encourage you to begin doing these things yourself.
1. Most people are very open to chatting.
In the past couple of weeks, I've struck up conversations in an oil change center, at a donut shop, and at a Dairy Queen. No one ever seemed like I was inconveniencing them. Most were pretty friendly. Some workers even told me that I better come back again.
I think we often use the excuse that we would really be bothering someone if we were to start talking with them. This was never the case for me. I'm sure it could be sometimes (we're all busy), but more often than not, people are open to talking. I had created all kinds of excuses in my head not to talk to people. All the excuses I created were for my benefit, not other people's.
2. Everyone has an opinion on religion, church, etc.
I think we often think that people don't want to talk about religion, but almost every time I've had conversations someone has mentioned something involving something religious, which leads to an easy conversation starter. "Are you religious?" or "What do you think about religion/Jesus/God?"
The key in asking a question like that is you need to be genuinely interested in their thoughts. Everyone has an opinion and almost everyone is more than willing to tell you about it. You just have to ask and listen. Saying something like, "Are you religious?" or "Do you go to church?" has opened up all my conversations and people's responses are genuinely interesting. They're just waiting for someone to ask.
3. After feeling heard, people are interested in your thoughts.
Once you've heard someone, listened, maybe asked follow up questions, then people are quite interested to hear your thoughts as well. After hearing someone, they've always welcomed my thoughts and thus far, I've not even had anyone push back at me.
I saw this quote the other day: "More people are amazed at our silence than offended by our message." - Alvin Reid. This isn't the first time I've heard this. As Christians, if we really believe that the gospel is the good news that Jesus died for sinners to reconcile them to God and rescue them from hell, then why are we keeping silent? That doesn't seem like a message we should keep to ourselves. In fact, it's the greatest news ever! This is the realization I really had to internalize before I was willing to speak up. Do we love people enough to share Christ with them?
4. There is no pressure.
Too often, I feel like Christians feel like evangelism must be pressure-filled. They feel as though they may not have all the answers. They feel pressure to close the sale or see someone come to faith in Christ through their efforts.
The beauty of obeying the Great Commission and sharing the gospel is that there should be no pressure. We don't have the power to save anyone; that is the Holy Spirit's job. We are called to be faithful messengers. Evangelism isn't seeing someone saved, it's sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
We may not even get to a full gospel presentation and that's ok. The point is to get the conversation rolling so that we may have that opportunity or we may move someone forward in thinking about Christ. Sometimes we're just planting or watering and someone else will get the joy of leading someone to Christ that we started a conversation with.
Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. "
We may plant, we may water, but God is the one working on hearts. He is the one putting people in front of us to have conversations with. He may use one person to save someone and He may use 12, but we get the joy in being involved in what He's doing.
During my conversations thus far, I've not had a full gospel presentation. More often than not, it has been getting the conversation rolling and then giving whomever I'm talking to something to think about as I leave. I call it leaving a stone in their shoe. It's a thought or comment that they may think about the rest of the day that the Holy Spirit can use to keep stirring their hearts. My last comment to someone was, "Can I tell what I think makes Christianity different than every other religion?" I pray they thought about my answer the rest of the day.
5. Know the gospel.
If I asked you right now to share the gospel with me, could you? I think in our culture, the word "gospel" has become loaded. People call it everything to the point it means nothing. In hearing people talk about it and try and share it I've often thought, "That's not really the gospel."
I tell my students to remember four key words to share the gospel: God, man, Christ, and response. Your presentation can be short or long, but these four keys should be present. God is holy and just. He created everything and He makes the rules. Man sinned against God, which means He broke God's rules and deserved punishment for sinning against a holy God. Man can't be good enough to get back to God because God requires perfection. God, in His love, sent His only Son Jesus to bring man back to God. Jesus lived a perfect life, but was crucified on a cross unjustly. On the cross, God put His wrath on Jesus for sinners like you and me. When we are saved two things happen: God sees Jesus perfection on us and He sees Jesus' death as payment for our sin. This is great news! All you must do to be reunited with God is repent and believe: Turn from your sin and believe in Jesus' as the sacrifice in your place. Is that something you feel you should do today?
Obviously, we can explain that longer, but you see God, man, Christ, and response in the presentation. That is the gospel. That is the message we should be ready to share if the time is presented to us. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, " (emphasis mine).
My challenge to you is to step into greater joy. What I've found in my conversations thus far is that when I leave, I leave more joyful. I am blessed by getting to be a part of what God is doing and I am reminded of His goodness to me. I did not deserve to be saved and I am reminded of His grace every time I share. I hope you will begin to share more and get this joy as well.
Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."