Appropriate Silence in Personal Witnessing

I’ve got a few friends who have always been hostile to talking about faith.

Their level of spiritual thirst has been low.  In fact, it’s downright hostile.

We remain friends, but talking about Jesus provokes emotional hostility or an evasive awkward silence.

Other times, they attempt to change the subject.

When I try to open up spiritual themes in a conversation,  or follow a possible avenue of spiritual thirst, the conversation is quickly moved on to another theme.

They are an unwilling conversational partner when it comes to faith.

D*** the torpedoes, full speed ahead

Some evangelism techniques encourage you to plow ahead, in spite of the resistance.

The urgency of sharing the gospel requires you to risk ruining the friendship so that you get the gospel to their ears.

It’s not your job to be polite, they say, but to deliver this message of salvation.

They could die of a heart attack in the next 4 minutes, so you need to be sure they hear the gospel and have a chance to respond.

Or, they say, it’s better to witness like this to a stranger on first contact, so there is no friendship to ruin.

You won’t see this person again soon, so share the gospel without regard to their reaction.

Give God the opportunity to work, they say.

They are not rejecting you, but the message.  God’s word will not return void, so plant the seed.

These are justifications some use to find comfort in the face of such unwanted evangelism conversations.

I have a problem with that

There may be times when personal witnessing in unwanted conversations is appropriate.  But many times, it is not.  It causes more harm than good.

The evangelist must know that he or she is riding a real leading of the Holy Spirit to confront sin or to keep pursuing a conversation when it is unwanted.

Peter didn’t step back in the face of unwanted conversations, and some of his sermons in Acts called hard hearted people to repentance.

The difference is in the working of the Holy Spirit.

Peter knew the Holy Spirit was at work, rapidly breaking the barriers.  He knew that the Holy Spirit was leading him to give such sermons.

But a lot of times, one might dangerously plow ahead in a conversation with an unwilling partner without that leading of the Spirit and cause more harm than good.

Save it for another day.

But Jesus did not answer. So the high priest said, With the living God looking on, you must tell the truth. Tell us, are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” (Matthew 26:63, CEV)

If there was ever a moment to witness, this was it.  Jesus had a a chance to speak directly to who He is.

This was a hostile conversation with Ciaphas.  Jesus knew that Ciaphas wasn’t interested in truth (v.59).

But knowing the heart, Jesus knew this was not the right time.

So he chose silence.

There may be times where you will drop the conversation.

It will not be the right time.

Even if your conversation partner is asking questions, you might discern that their questions are meant to be useless rabbit trails on pet peeves, or talking points that they want to make.

Now my friend is interested

In the last 14 days, there is a spiritual awakening happening in my friend.

Suddenly, there is a genuine openness to reading the Scripture, to prayer, to a relationship for Jesus.

God is working and now my friend’s spiritual thirst is obvious.

Because I’ve respected my friend’s boundaries in the past, because I’ve chosen silence at the other times, I have earned a right to be heard NOW.

I’m excited to see what God is doing in response to years of prayer.

Let me ask you this

Are there other times when silence is a better option?

(Image Credit: USNavy)

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  1. says

    Great stuff!

    Yes, I do think there are other times when silence is a better option. There are certain people that will never take a verbal message of Jesus, especially if it is a public place. Some people worry what others will think if they are listening or talking to someone that is sharing their faith in public. And some people are just turned off by the topic. But if you use a non-verbal form of communicating Jesus to them, they may accept the message.

    This is exactly what I have started to have a pssion for (Providing tools to spread the word of Jesus without the need for words)

    Corey | “Spread the word, without saying a word”

  2. says

    There have been times just this week where silence was the better option. There are more appropriate moments to share Christ than some of the conversations I had this week.

    However, I think that we have to get to word-based sharing at some point. We can no longer assume that people may get the message by our actions.

    That requires “reading between the lines” and assumes that people are observant enough and reflective enough to do it. I just don’t see much of that in my daily life.

    The times when I see it happen is when churches and people give of their time regularly in service to the poor – those good works may lead to conversations about the good news.

    But just being a good person and living a moral life may not be enough of a witness to spark a conversation towards Christ.

  3. says

    I completely agree with you. I do not believe that non-verbal should be the only form of witnessing any person should use. I just think it is the most effective form for some people and therefore should be used to spread the message to those people. If we only use one form of witnessing we will miss out on opportunities with the people that would better recieve a non-verbal message.

    I also do not think that we should be replacing verbal communication with non-verbal. Rather, we can use non-verbal messages at times when we cannot use verbal.

    Thanks for your ministry

    Corey | “Spread the word, without saying a word”

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