Relationship is the way to connect people with Christ.
I understand that there are many out there who feel the urgency to speak to people in such a way that they will know Christ in that moment to save them from hell and for heaven. However, the odds are that this person will not die in the next few hours and it is also just as unlikely that people you meet will not have heard or will not hear again.
Remember: the God we believe in loves those people more than you do. And if you forgot that, perhaps you want to take a look at John chapter 3 again.
It is vital that we pay attention to who we are talking to, and connect to the idea that no one wants to speak openly with someone who is fake. This takes time but the effort can be worth it. This also requires that we put into practice what we believe about God. If the God we serve is as powerful as we read, share, and believe, then God can take our efforts and make them meaningful if we focus on following God’s will for our lives in everything we do.
This is not only my idea. Take a look:
- Don’t start using the person’s name, as if you are a close personal friend, unless you actually are a close personal friend.
- Don’t start quoting from the Bible.
- Don’t bring up a topic, or try to find out what the person is interested in, just so you can bring it back around to how it’s all a metaphor for Jesus or Christianity.
- Don’t use the phrase “Good News.”
- Don’t talk about Jesus like he’s part of the conversation.
- Don’t plant literature.
- Don’t hide behind a fake front.
- Don’t assume that we have “God-shaped holes in our hearts” and try to get us to admit it.
- Don’t compare your past experiences to our present.
- Don’t talk down to us, as if we’re just not understanding something perfectly obvious.
Each of these points in their way expose strategies that Christians have used for years with the best of intention that usually comes with that spirit of urgency for the person’s soul. But the perception from those with whom these strategies have been used is that of distance, discontinuity, false concern, and uncaring interruption. What all these tips have in common is that they are asking for genuine, open conversation. They ask for us to take the time to understand and enter into the level of intimacy that these conversations require. If we truly believe that a person’s soul is at stake, then it is worth the further investment.
Interestingly enough I ran across this list in an article by Hemant Mehta who is the author of “I Sold My Soul on Ebay” and thus has been dubbed the “ebay Atheist.” As a “courtesy” he shares these ideas for what can help open up conversation. If right now you are wondering why I would be sharing advice about how to evangelize from an atheist, ask yourself who better to demonstrate how to reach outsiders.
Not listening to those outside our circles is exactally what is contributing to the problem that the church is facing with an increasingly weak influence in our world. We need to take the bold steps to listen to those with whom we disagree so that we can begin to have a conversation with our friends and neighbors that will make an eternal impact.