Here is a conversational evangelism tip I use on a frequent basis: I dig for the question that is behind the question, emotion, or statement.
Let me tell a story.
Over a period of two years, I met a friend for coffee and conversation at the local coffee shop.
During that season of life where our lives intersected, he and I held long ongoing discussions about faith. We talked about many of his questions.
I first met him when he showed up at one of my bible study small groups, invited by his friend.
His attendance at the bible study was his attempt to stop the invitations from his friend rather than a sincere desire to seek the truth.
His friend had told me ahead of time that he was coming to the bible study that night.
I was told he was hostile to Christianity and likely coming ready to verbally argue against whatever the topic of the bible study was.
Evangelism Tip: Watch for the Nudge of the Holy Spirit
During that particular bible study, I quietly began to pray for all the first-time visitors who were attending that night.
I felt the Holy Spirit “nudge me” to pay attention. I felt the Holy Spirit “underline” him that night in the Bible study (as Phillip was nudged: Go stand next to THAT chariot, Acts 8).
I began to quietly pray for direction on how to proceed, and I received some guidance from the Lord.
I felt like the Lord gave me an ice-breaker activity around a question that could set the pace for the bible study that night.
I asked the group:
“What would you ask God, if He would answer one question to your satisfaction?”
Each member of the bible study group wrote down their answers on pieces of paper and turned them in to me, without putting their names on it to keep their question anonymous.
However, as their pastor, I knew my group pretty well.
The questions from each visitor were easy to determine.
Evangelism Tip: What is Behind the Question?
Why do your people behave the way they do?
His question revealed a window into his objections and hostility to Christianity.
It suggests that his hostility to Christianity is not an intellectual objection to belief, but an emotional objection based on his past experiences with Christians.
His hostility is an outgrowth of bad personal experiences with the people in the church. At the root of his hostility was emotional hurt.
By asking a question of the whole group that I felt the Lord give me, I was able to discover my friend’s real question behind his hostile feelings towards Christianity. His objections are not questions of truth.
Evangelism Tip: Schedule the next conversation
The bible study wasn’t the place or time to engage him in conversation about his choice of question to the small group game.
Instead, I suggested a next step for him.
I invited him to a deeper conversation at a coffee shop to learn more about his story.
He agreed to meet.
I learned that considered himself an ex-Christian, having had some rough experiences with how Christians do things.
He was very angry about all things Christian: the church, God, Jesus, and the Bible, etc. He didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them.
In conversation with me at the coffee shop, my friend had the venue to vent his anger at Christians to me.
By God’s grace, I listened with minimal interruptions.
As he talked with me at the first coffee shop conversation, I silently prayed for wisdom as to how I could point him to Jesus.
He was so far away from the Lord. I only needed to point to the next step in his journey to faith.
Read more: Next step is step 4 in how I do personal evangelism.
I prayed, “Lord, what is the next step?”
I sensed the Lord gave me two questions to ask my friend. I waited until it was appropriate. His hostility had been poured out and he was empty.
When the venting was over, I asked him those two questions.
- “Do you think you can come to the place of forgiving those who have hurt you?” and
- “Do you think God can help you forgive those people?”
His answer: “Perhaps.”
He was willing to give God a try.
This question opened the door to more conversations in the coffee shop.
Evangelism tip: Pray between conversations
Over the course of the next few months, our paths did not cross. But even then, I did not stop praying for the Lord to intervene. I asked the Lord to reveal Himself to my new friend.
One day, I felt that nudge of the Spirit to call my friend and check-in.
When he answered the phone, he greeted me.
“I have been thinking about calling you. I want to tell you what is going on. Can we meet again?”
When we met again at the coffee shop, he informed me of how he had come to the place of forgiving the church.
The fruit of that step is that he and I can now have deeper discussions about faith. He continues to explore Christianity and the claims of Christ upon his life.
The 1st Question Led to the Conversation
The questions of my friend had nothing to do with reason or apologetics.
Rather, they were a smoke screen for his real question — why had professed Christians treated him so badly?
By getting at the question behind the question, I received some discernment from the Lord about how and what to share about Christ with this friend.
His criticisms about Christianity and his driving thirst to study other world religions were an outgrowth of bad personal experiences with the church.
He is propelled to seek understanding and dialog – a thoroughly postmodern commitment to tolerance.
He has no desire at this point to put a stake in the ground and claim any religious system for himself.
His quest is not one for truth at the moment, but learning.
In the end
In the end, we had more coffee shop conversations about different world religions, claims of truth, and wonderful topics that any apologist would love to discuss.
But due to life changes, we both moved to different cities and lost the friend connection.
At this point, I have to trust in the sovereignty of God to keep working on my friend and bring more believers into his life who can continue to bring him closer to Jesus on a journey to faith.
What is your Evangelism Tip?
I’ve shared some evangelism tips that I’ve learned from this conversation.
Do you have your own favorite evangelism tip you’d like to share? Add it in the comments below. Don’t be afraid to be first.