Tuesday, August 7

Evangelism as spiritual conversations

Gary Rohrmayer shares some helpful thoughts on evangelism as spiritual conversations.
Evangelism has moved in the last 20 years from being a monologue (one-sided conversation) to a dialog (two-way conversation.)

There are people all around us who are receptive to spiritual discussions and open genuine spiritual guidance. George Barna sites, “That 62% of American adults consider themselves to be not merely ‘religious,’ but ‘deeply spiritual.’” This means that there is more than a 50-50 chance of getting into some type of spiritual conversation with people who travel in and out of your life. Learning to engage people in a meaningful, spiritual dialog is critical for a spiritual leader...

It is important for a leader to think strategically about their conversations throughout the week. If you don't plan it or make room for it, the likelihood is that it is not going to get done. I agree with Brian McLaren’s statement, “We should count conversations rather than conversions, not because I don't believe in conversions, but because I don't think we'll get many conversions if we keep emphasizing them.” The number of conversations you have is directly related to the number of conversions you will see happen over a year.
Last week we finished up a good week of doing a lot of evangelism with a volunteer team visiting from Texas. One of the things I observed during the many visits with not-yet-believers is that the times where we conversed, we connected. Our monologue presentations of the Gospel usually ended up rather flat and unfruitful.

What seemed to work best was (after introductions) for one of the visiting volunteers to share their story. We then encouraged the listener to interact with what they had picked up on from the story. By engaging listeners with the story, they were more open to sharing their own stories and struggles. The focus of the conversation quickly shifts from the one sharing, to the listener's own story. Heartfelt matters have a way of coming out when we have set the example by being open and transparent with our own stories. Once heart matters have been addressed it becomes easy and natural to apply appropriate Scriptures, prayer, encouragement, tears, hugs, and to offer an invitation for the person to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. During the week we had numerous people pray to receive Christ, including one entire household.

Many times people are not opposed to the Gospel message; rather, they have some obstacle or issue in their life they believe prevents them from being able to turn their lives over to the Lord. Spiritual conversations which have been initiated by the sharing of our personal stories opens doors for effective evangelism.

4 comments:

Darrell said...

I whole heartedly agree Guy. I believe Jesus was a master of this. In order to really work where God is working we need to know what is going on inside the person we are talking to. The only way to find out is to ask questions and respond to what they share.

I have found this to be much more effective then "telling" people what I want them to here. First I want to find out where the person is with God then I can give them something they will understand and that will help them on their journey.

Ken Sorrell said...

A not surprising excellent post over-viewing a critical weakness in traditional evangelistic efforts. Hindsight being 20/20, it seems apparent that most evangelistic presentations, especially in SBC life were designed with the speaker in mind than the listener. Most people today do not know how to have a spiritual conversation.

I do like McLaren's quote about counting conversations. When I was a Min of Ed prior to missions, we put a lot of emphasis on making contact with others. We quickly learned that the higher the number of contacts, the higher the attendance.

One last thought. I've heard Dr. Thom Wolf speak on this several times. Here are some of the highlights.

* God is there before we arrive.
* A good conversation is about actively listening.
* Shift from microwave conversations to marinated converstaions.
* You can do or say almost anything if you begin with, "it's my custom".
* Instead of pushing for a decision, ask for clarification that they understood what you are saying. Again, let it marinate.
*Listen for the "echos" of God in what people are saying.

Tim Patterson said...

Thanks Guy for a very biblical perspective on evangelism.

Darrell is right, look no further than Jesus to see a great example of this (Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, etc.).

Thanks Ken for reminding us what Thom W. teaches... another thing I heard from Thom that is really helpful... Everyone we encounter is already in conversation with God through different encounters with people, things they have read, circumstances of life, creation, etc... we discern where they are in that conversation through questions/dialog... we move them closer to discovering for themselves what God is trying to reveal to them through our conversation... we may not be there when they make the leap of faith and commit to follow Jesus, but we can have a part in their journey.

Well, that is a very rough paraphrase... but it is the general jest of what he said.

GuyMuse said...

Darrell,

You write, "First I want to find out where the person is with God then I can give them something they will understand..." This is what we try to do as well and it works a lot better than a canned presentation of the Gospel.

Ken,

Good thoughts shared, thanks. The Thom Wolf highlights are also helpful. The "Listen for the 'echoes' of God in what people are saying" is the quickest way to get to the heart issues that really matter to the person. I hadn't thought of most formal Gospel presentations being given from the perspective of the speaker, but you are right. We need to focus on the listener. What do they understand? What do they identify with? What is their story? And then converse with them how the Good News enters into the picture they have painted.

Tim,

Your paraphrase of Thom about everyone we encounter is already in conversation with God is likewise very helpful. As you point out, the issue seems to be that in evangelism we try to help them understand what it is God is trying to say to them through all the things happening in their lives. Interesting.