Obnoxious Habits in Personal Evangelism – The out of place transition

Yesterday, I enjoyed a personal day with my family and a few friends.

We checked out of life, drove to the beach, and stared at the ocean for hours, while our children dug the proverbial hole to China.

The conversation among the adults was awesome, as relationships were being strengthened as our families continued to learn about one another.

Confusion Road Sign

In those hours we talked about:

  • Electronics
  • Memories of similar beach trips
  • Vacation experiences
  • Words with Friends
  • Parenting
  • Plans for dinner
  • Our different work experiences.

Praying for an opening

I have been praying for our friends, asking the Lord to provide

I know that God’s sovereignty will provide the opportunity.

At one point in the discussion on parenting, my friend made a point about a particular aspect to parenting:

That is the most important thing in life.

In my mind, I quickly responded:

No, that’s not the most important thing, would you like me to tell you what is?

I’ve had a lot of training in sharing the gospel, and teach a lot of different methods as well.

Many methods teach to look for the conversational opportunity and steer the conversation to Christ.

But in this moment, I chose to remain silent and let it go.

The obnoxious transition

The conversational context would have been entirely inappropriate for this radical departure from the topic at hand.

I would have forced the person into my conversation, rather than continue on the theme we were addressing.

This is the obnoxious transition in evangelism.

It would have been an obnoxious left turn in a otherwise profound conversation on parenting.

In my early zeal, I used to seize any opportunity like this opening in the conversation.

The end result was people got defensive and closed that door.

My forced transitions were obnoxious.

Not a spiritually active moment

A key part of my evangelism teaching on conversation skills is watching for the activity of the Holy Spirit.

When the Holy Spirit opens the doors, transitions to spiritual things are appropriate.

When the Holy Spirit is at work in the conversational moment, a conversational transition is easy to make.

Conversational transitions at this point are not obnoxious.

This conversational moment at the beach was not one of those moments.

I didn’t sense any activity of God in this general life conversation.

Had I forced the conversation with my obnoxious left turn, I would have stepped into my agenda rather than God’s agenda.

Related Resource:

I have a DVD set that focuses on a conversational style evangelism that would help you with:

  • casual conversation between friends
  • causal conversation between strangers

Read more about the Effective Evangelism Conversations in the store.  It is a recording of a live seminar I gave in 2012 and is available on 3 DVDs.

Tim Keller’s 10 Personal Evangelism Tips

  1. Let people around you know you are a Christian (in a natural, unforced way)
  2. Ask friends about their faith – and just listen!
  3. Listen to your friends problems – maybe offer to pray for them
  4. Share your problems with others – testify to how your faith helps you
  5. Give them a book to read
  6. Share your story
  7. Answer objections and questions
  8. Invite them to a church event
  9. Offer to read the Bible with them
  10. Take them to an explore course

– Tim Keller [via: Salternlite]

Thanks for sharing the list.

You can download the message ($2.50) from the Redeemer Website here.

At the original post, various comment writers criticize this list for missing “share the gospel.”

The gist of the list is not how to share the gospel (that is assumed), but how to advance the personal 1-1 conversation about the gospel with your peers.

Christmas Party Icebreaker to Start Spiritual Conversations

Christmas Party Icebreaker

Here is a sample Christmas Party icebreaker and conversational guide that is similar to the one found on page 38 of Christmas Party Games from Creative Youth Ideas.

You can use this icebreaker as a Christmas party game for adults, for youth, and for kids.

You can probably find this party game for Christmas everywhere on the Internet but what I like is the discussion applications to help break the ice for some great faith oriented conversations over the eggnog or punch.

Christmas Party IceBreaker

Name of Party Game: Christmas Forward and Backward.

When I played variations of this Christmas Party game during other seasons, I called it Move to the Left or Right.

Energy level of Christmas Party Game: Low, using chairs in a line.

How to play: Move forward or backward depending on the criteria that is called.

If someone is already occupying that chair, sit on their lap.

Example criteria:

  • Move forward if you are wearing green.
  • If you like eggnog, move forward one chair
  • If you plan to go to church on Christmas eve, move back one chair.

The actual resource of Christmas Party Games for Youth (read my review of Christmas Collection from Creative Youth Ideas) suggests 30 different criteria for this Christmas party game.  That should be enough to stir your creativity for more.

Discussion starters

As a talking point, you can talk about moving forward or moving backward in life.

As you think about your relationships this past year, have you moved forward or backwards?

As you think about your spiritual life, have you moved forward or backwards?

Did you reach any goals you may have had at the beginning of the year for your spiritual life?

Then you can ask this an application:

Take a few moments to plan where you want to be spiritually at the end of next year.

  • In relationships?
  • In your education?
  • In your career?
  • In some personal goals?
  • In your relationship to God?

This party game for Christmas can be a great ice breaker to start future conversations later over that bowl of eggnog.

Your guests might volunteer with you 1-1 where they would like to grow spiritually later that year.

Read more about the  resource of Christmas Party Games for Youth.

5 Great Spiritual Conversation Questions

Organic Outreach for Ordinary PeopleWhat are some conversational starter questions that might lead to deep spiritual discussions in your personal evangelism?

Here are 5 as written out in Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally

The following is directly quoted from page 190.

Here are some questions that could move your conversations with nonbelievers to deeper levels of spiritual interaction:

1. What are some joys you are experiencing in this season of your life?

Most people would love to share about the good things in their lives, but they are afraid that others won’t care. Just by asking and listening, you open the door for great interaction. Also, if there are clear signs that God is blessing their life, you could open the door for conversation about the source of all good things.

2. What challenges and struggles are you facing?

People will share their pains and hurts with someone who truly cares about them and takes the time to listen. As they share, you may find that it becomes an opportunity to minister the grace of Jesus. Sharing struggles can also create space for you to pray for or with them.

3. What is your personal history when it comes to faith and God?

This question is not so much about what people believe as it is about their personal histories.

A person might say, “I have no history when it comes to religion,” or “I grew up going to Mass every week and my parents are quite devout,” or “I have always been very spiritual and I still read my horoscope daily and do a lot of meditation.”

No matter what answer they give, you end up learning something about their journey that may allow you to move the conversation to a deeper level.

4. What do you believe about God?

With this question, we move into more personal convictions and beliefs.

Again, no matter how they answer, remember that you are learning and already going deeper than a typical conversation.

Some Christians feel pressured to correct “wrong thinking” or “errant theology” in their conversations with nonbelievers. Try not to do this.

Just listen and learn where they are; then you’ll gain a sense of where they still need to go on their journey toward Jesus.

5.  What is your perception of Christians?

Or put a different way, “What is your perception of Christianity or of the Christian church?” It takes courage to ask this question, listen, and not get defensive. But I have found that it can be an open door to deeper conversations.

Taken from Harney, Kevin G. (2009-09-29). Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally (pp. 191-192).   Order your copy from Amazon by clicking the affiliate link and Amazon will pitch me a few pennies.

Sharing your faith with no results

Why do some people express great interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet they never cross the line of faith and discipleship?

Perhaps you’ve spent time sharing your faith (maybe a few years) by

  • Developing authentic relationships with non-believers
  • Faith sharing conversations over dinner
  • Answering difficult questions

Yet, they never seem to get the faith you share with them.

Years of faith sharing with little results

Some of you probably have encountered this.

I know I have.

There are people in my life that no matter how much I share my faith, they remain apart from Christ.

As an evangelist, that’s hard.

I remember one person with whom I shared my faith with for four years.  Nothing.

Apostle Paul shared his faith with the same person for two years!

At the end of Acts 23, the apostle Paul was sent to Felix, the governor. Felix had Paul guarded in Herod’s palace (Acts 23: 35) until he had the chance to hear Paul himself (Acts 24).

After the hearing, Felix gave Paul some “freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs” (24:23)

Felix had some level of spiritual curiosity, and some working knowledge about the followers of Jesus (Acts 24:22), even if it was only on a political level as the movement of Christianity spread.

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. (v24)

Paul and Felix discussed Jesus and what it means to follow Jesus.

 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

I can imagine that Felix even experienced the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in some of those conversations.  Even if there were some hidden motives for hearing Paul (like bribery – v. 26), Felix still got to hear of Jesus and the implications of being a disciple of Christ.

These faith sharing conversations went on for the next two years (v.27).

Even though Paul was a prisoner, it’s hard not to imagine that a friendship developed, or at least a level of mutual respect between these two men as Paul shared his faith.

We can speculate some of the relationship dynamics that changed over the course of the next two years.

Two years of faith sharing, no immediate fruit

I can imagine (and this is santicified imagination) Paul doing the following

  • Praying for Felix on a regular basis.
  • Asking God for how to talk with Felix.
  • Waiting for God to open the heart of Felix to respond.
  • Frustration when Felix cuts the conversation short when it gets personal.
  • Rejoicing when questions were answered to the satisfaction of Felix
  • Celebrating the apparent progress Felix was making on the journey to faith.

Yet Felix was appointed somewhere else and was no longer in Paul’s life.  The end of the road together had come.

Two years, Felix and Paul talked about Christianity, salvation, following Jesus, etc, yet Felix still walked away without having surrendered his life to Christ.  I would imagine author Luke would have reported on Felix’s conversion if it had happened.

Sharing faith without results?

Perhaps you are in a similar situation of sharing your faith with someone who seems to have spiritual curiosity, but just won’t surrender.

Like Felix, they keep cutting the faith conversation short when it gets personal.

They simply avoid the hard questions of surrender.

What can we do?

1.  Don’t give up.

Keep praying for your friend.

Keep spending time with them.

Enjoy life together.

Keep sharing your faith and answering their questions.  They are on a spiritual journey

They are your friend, not your evangelistic project, so keep the relationship authentic.

2.  Trust God’s sovereignty.

I’ve heard testimony from people who have come to faith 15 years after I shared with them.

Remember the friend I shared my faith with for nearly 4 years without success?

Fifteen years later, she tells me she became a Christian.  Those seeds I planted produced a harvest.

God can keep the story going, even if you are no longer in the picture.