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Relational Evangelism

Looking for Conversations, Not Preaching Opportunities

By April 18, 2024No Comments
turning conversations into preaching opportunities.
This Article Upfront:
  • Humans are built for conversational relationships.
  • Transparency only happens with trust.
  • Learn to authentically love people.
  • Learn to enjoy good conversation.

Humans are built for conversational relationships. 

Humans are built for relationships. In fact, if you go all the way back to the creation account in the Bible, God says in Genesis 2:18 that “it is not good that the man should be alone.”  From our earliest history, humans have craved relationships with God and with other humans. And those relationships have been built largely on communication.  Communication is one of those beautiful things that makes humanity human, setting us apart from intelligent organisms with lesser verbal skills. 

What is amazing about conversation is how much joy it brings us.  Proverbs 15:23 says “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” Humans love good conversation!  In fact, by scientific observation, we have learned that humans in complete isolation go mad unless they learn to communicate with themselves, out loud! 

Here is the challenge with conversations about spiritual things (the stuff that Great Commission living is made of).  The real work of evangelism and discipleship is done at a level of transparency that most of our conversations never approach.  We spend much of our vocal energy and time on conversations that bog down in the cliché or fact-sharing levels.  We may even occasionally share opinions with those we trust!  But most humans avoid conversations that involve emotion and transparency, thus falling short of the life-giving potential of deeper conversation.  We, as believers, must not only be willing to go deeper, we must look for opportunities to go there!  This requires a biblical level of wisdom and understanding. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:5 

Transparency only happens with trust. 

To “back up the train” just a bit, a Christian interested in living out the Great Commission must figure out how to enter into transparent conversation with another human willing to participate at that deeper level. That only happens through trust. I have to convince people they can trust me.  And trust is built within the context of friendship. 

But friendships usually take hours to build, over the course of months of conversation.  They also take patience…and compassion…and selflessness…and humility.     

So, one could preach 100% gospel truth on a street corner, but without relationship, the likelihood of results is low.  The same individual could enter into conversation with patience and compassion and selflessness and humility over coffee with an unsaved friend and make great strides toward leading that friend to Christ! All believers are to preach the truth!  But we do so most effectively in the context of friendly conversations.  This is how Jesus and his apostles mostly dealt with people.  And this is how the modern believer can most effectively share the gospel.  

Along with my role as pastor, I have the privilege of serving my community as Police and Fire Chaplain.  The police “world” is a particularly cool place. It is exciting and intriguing and interesting for an outsider.  It is also particularly difficult to become an “insider.”  Christians want to believe the best of others.  Police tend to be skeptical.  Christians seek to embrace vulnerability with one another.  Police tend toward macho and bravado in isolation.  How is a civilian pastor supposed to speak into that world? There is only one consistent way: friendly conversations over a long period of time. 

Learn to authentically love people. 

I remember riding with one of our officers on night shift, talking about family, life, and the gospel.  He graciously let me share my faith in Christ and lovingly challenge him on his faith in religion.  He turned to me and said, “I don’t remember having other conversations about my private faith-life with anyone else.  Why are you so interested in my faith?”  I responded with the first thing that came to mind, something admittedly more acceptable in the church than in the world.  I said, “Because I love you enough to share the truth with you.  I don’t want you to go into eternity unprepared.” To which he responded, “OK, I definitely don’t remember another dude telling me he loved me. But I’m OK with it because I actually understand what you mean.  I know you legitimately care about my well-being as a friend, and for that I am grateful.” 

How do you get from macho surface-conversation to that deeper level?  It takes hours of sacrifice, kindness, and friendship.  These ingredients buy you the opportunity to “preach” truth in a way they can actually hear!  The old axiom is still true: “People only care how much you know when they know how much you care.” It’s easy to talk about being a caring person, but do those around you believe it?  “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” Proverbs 20:6 

Learn to enjoy good conversation. 

What are the key components to motivating yourself to gladly make that sacrifice and live with that kind of eager kindness toward sinful unbelievers? First, Christians must learn to authentically love people.  Remember, the biblical idea of love is not a feeling, but a commitment to sacrifice.  Are you personally committed to that kind of selfless living; giving up your time and comfort to authentically love people, not for what they can do for you, but for the purpose of the gospel? Second, Christians who are serious about the Great Commission must learn to enjoy conversation. For me, this involves three things: slowing down, listening well, and smiling more.  When you do these three things, most other humans will enjoy having conversations with you! And you will probably find that the feeling is mutual! 

I believe that if you pray for ideas on how to deepen conversations for the sake the gospel, if you pray for open doors in those conversations, and if you promise God you will walk through those doors as you see them open, He will give you the answer to that prayer! 

Brad Stille is the Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church of Wixom, Michigan and serves as an Exchange Trainer. Contact Brad about leading an Exchange Training Event or to discuss this article at [email protected] 

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