By Shannon Culpepper
When I share Jesus, I don’t like to argue; I like to engage and learn. I don’t like to preach; I like to tell people about the beauty of Jesus. I don’t like to act like I have it all together; I like to proclaim how the message of Jesus gave me an answer for my brokenness. When I do these things, it helps me to find people who are spiritually hungry, who are attracted to Jesus, and who know their own brokenness. I’m not looking for people to get baptized right there. I’m not looking to disprove atheist concerns. I’m also not looking for nice, non-threatening people. I’m looking for the people the Holy Spirit is already working on. This takes lots of pressure off of me.
If you’re having trouble in this area, perhaps a few tips, and ideas can help:
Be yourself! If you have a relationship with God, that is going to shine through whether or not you say the right things. Be real about who you are: someone who is broken who has been rescued and is being made more like Jesus. People will be attracted to Jesus much more than they will be attracted to you. So there’s no pressure.
Listen. Listen. Listen. There is a reason you have two ears and one mouth. Be genuinely interested in the person you’re talking to and love them well by listening to their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Someone who feels heard will be much more willing and ready to listen later.
Relax. In all circumstances be reasonable, gentle, and respectful. There’s no reason to argue. There’s no reason to fear if you don’t know an answer. For the most part, people will match our tone. If we are being gentle, loving, and respectful, it will have a calming effect. So just relax. Remember: not everyone is spiritually hungry, and that’s just natural. Don’t push it if they don’t want to talk.
Okay, now that we have some ground rules for engaging with pre-believers (or anyone for that matter), here are some easy ways you can start a Spiritual Conversation.
Ask to pray for him/her. Then actually pray for him/her. I know, I know. It sounds crazy. A year ago I would’ve highly objected this approach. Then Jeff, someone I work with, encouraged me to do it and it changed my life. You would be amazed how much people feel blessed when you ask them how you can pray for them. The phrase we used was, “If God could do a miracle in your life, what would it be? And can we pray for it?” As we prayed for them, we would ask God to BLESS the person and their family. BLESS stands for Body (health), Labor (work), Economics (financial needs), Social (relationships), and Spiritual. God did amazing things through this approach. Trust me, it’s easier than you think.
Ask about his or her culture. Ask about what he or she believes in. At this point, if this person has allowed you to pray with them, spiritual things are on their mind! So ask! When I am talking to students who I know are from different cultural backgrounds, I ask about their upbringing. “Oh, you’re from Bangladesh! Tell me about it! What faiths are common there? What faith is your family?”
Engage them about their faith system. This is a great opportunity to learn about other faiths. Ask lots of questions. One of my favorites is to ask about salvation. “In your religion, how are you saved? Do you think you will be saved one day?”
Share your story and God’s story. At some point in your life, God rocked your world by revealing how incredible Jesus’ death on the cross was. Whether you were saved at seven or at 77, you have a story. Share what the good news of Jesus means to you. What’s First is a resource on our groups page that helps you write out and learn to tell your story and God’s story. Go through it with a friend and practice together.
Ask if he or she has ever read the Bible. Remember the point here? We’re looking for spiritually hungry people. Many people of other faiths and cultures would love to learn about the Bible. Just ask! Ask if they want to start reading the Bible together in their home with their friends. Tell them you’ll come and help them (note: don’t invite them to a Christian meeting—-that’s really scary if the person isn’t a believer!). The Film Discussion Guide on our groups page is great for this! It helps pre-believers get into the word and discover what it says for themselves.
And before you know it… you’ll have pre-believers engaged with the Bible and telling others what it says! Sharing your faith doesn’t have to be scary. These are all things you do at church every week already. You pray for people. You ask questions. You talk about what God is doing in your life. Now try it with your friends who are far from God. Let us know how it goes.
Get Training: Want some training in how to share Jesus and start I am Second groups? Learn more or sign up for online coaching here: www.iamsecond.com/onlinetraining
Get Gear: Still not sure you are ready to to start a spiritual conversation? Get some I am Second gear. You’ll be surprised by how many conversations you start just by wearing it: www.iamsecondstore.com
Get Small Group Materials: Whether you lead a small group now, or want to start one soon, I am Second has all the I am Second small group discussion guides you could want. Check them out here: www.iamsecond.com/groups/discussion-guides/