“If you talk to a man in the language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela – former South African president
This is true in all relationships – marriage, family, friendships, church or where you work. Good advice for public speakers and preachers alike. A truth we all need to learn. And especially if you want to increase your effectiveness when talking to others about the Lord Jesus.
Before telling others about Jesus listen to what language they speak. And, I don’t mean Russian , English or Japanese. Watch their body language, how they are dressed, who they are with, how they are acting. Then speak “their language” and speak to their hearts and not just their heads.
Some time ago I entered one of my favorite coffee shops (has a quiet corner for writing my daily blogs) and spotted an older man sitting by himself. I had seen him there a number of times before and there was always a lady with him (I assumed his wife). He was sitting alone this time. However, everything about his “language” told me that something was wrong – the way he looked, the way he sat, the way he held his head, the look in his eyes. So, I went over and asked if I could join him for a coffee as I had just purchased one and my favorite corner was occupied. He agreed. I listened further to his language as we briefly got to know each other. Something was wrong and his heart was heavy and sad.
In a brief conversation over one medium coffee (I must be getting old as can no longer drink an extra large or even a large) I discovered that his wife had just died and been buried and he was struggling with living as a single in a married world (his world at least) for the first time in 50+ years. I heard his heart and was able to speak his language – and I don’t mean English.
Christians should show the love of God and the compassion of the Lord Jesus in all their relationships. This is especially true even in “temporary” relationships which you begin in the hope of sharing the Good News. If you want to let people know that you really do love them and that they are not simply another ‘target’ or ‘trophy’ for you then watch carefully, look at who you are approaching and see what heart language they speak, and then listen first to see if you are right in your rapid assessment. Listen so that they know you care. Show them that you are sincerely interested in them (and not just interested in presenting your message) by “listening” to them, and then speak accordingly – speak their heart language.
The relationship may not remain “temporary” for long as you may find you win someone to the Lord and will then become involved in their lives as you disciple them in the Christian faith.
Evangelism Secret # 2
I am an introvert. Those who see me minister don’t believe this about me but it is true. I have simply, over the years, learned how to be extroverted when ministering and wherever necessary. But, my basic personality is an extreme introvert. I prize quiet time alone where I can read and write, journal and pray and thus recharge my personal internal batteries.
Therefore, when I am out and about doing daily life – filling the car with gas, grocery shopping, banking, walking the dog – I work hard at coming out of my introvertedness (is there even such a word?) and being open and friendly with people I come into contact with. I do more than look for openings – I make them. I start conversations with almost every person I am able to – clerks, others at the same checkout counter or cash till, the bank teller, people walking dogs … I find ways to start a conversation and keep that conversation interesting and moving forward. Often I have opportunity to speak about Jesus with these people. Maybe it does not happen the first time but if you use the same gas station, the same bank, the same grocery store, the same path to walk your dog you find yourself running in to the same people over and over again. So, you can build on what you have learned or said the times before.
As an introvert I have learned some simple “tricks” to get things started. One of them that comes naturally is found in the acrostic of the word “form”… I simply remember the word “form” and ask questions centered around this word… (This idea was picked up from a book by Ron Puryear)
F – Family – everyone has one and most people are thrilled to have someone ask about their family.
O – Occupation – even retired people do something in their life – and as a job (volunteer or paid) takes up a substantial part of every person’s life this is a good place to go in the conversation.
R – Recreation – almost everyone does something for exercise and to unwind. In my neighborhood there are many homes with large boats parked in front or out back … be observant and ask about what they do in their free time.
M – Message – Everyone has something on their heart to share. A cause they believe deeply in, a group they belong to, even something they believe is a “life cause” that they have dedicated time to (the environment, hockey moms, the local SPCA, Save the Whales…).
As an introvert I often simply remember “form” and move forward initiating a conversation with one or more of these four topics. These allow me to get them talking about their favorite subject – themselves. And, it allows me to find or make openings to talk about my favourite subject – Jesus!
Evangelism Secret # 3
If we are to win the lost and fulfill the call upon every believer’s life to “go into all (their) world…” we need to know and understand.
Charles F. Kettering is quoted as saying, “There is a great deal of difference between knowing and understanding. You can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”
The first thing we need to know and understand is the good news that we have to share. Many who calls themselves believers or Christians are not for they really do not know the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. They are church attenders and religious people. Good citizens and nice people but they do not truly “know” the gospel personally so we would not want them evangelizing.
Many believers “know” enough to actually be saved but do not “know” how to share what they “know” with others. They do not really “understand” the gospel at any depth. They could not speak it out in a way that would make sense to another person, a non-believer. They really have not given much thought to sharing it or how they would go about expressing what they “know” to be truth. So, they too do not truly “understand” it well enough to share it in a way that others around them would “understand” and then “know” it is the truth.
There are some believers who have spent the time and made the effort to both “know” and “understand” and have patiently practiced sharing the gospel with others until they are now decent at presenting the good news that Jesus saves. But still they are not seeing people come to know the Lord in spite of all their hard work.
This is because there is a second level of “know” and “understand.” Again the quote…
Charles F. Kettering is quoted as saying, “There is a great deal of difference between knowing and understanding. You can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”
Along with “knowing” and “understanding” the gospel it is very important to “know” and “understand” the person you are trying to share it with. This relates to knowing and understanding the age group you are working with, their interests, what they believe in general, how they view life, and what their worldview is. Are they old enough to hve a ‘Christian consciousness’ or are they totally void of any reference (heart or head) to the Bible, Jesus, and the Church?
It is important that we “know” those with whom we hope to share the Gospel. However, this takes more than reading books and studying about the qualities and beliefs of a certain group or age bracket. We must also listen to them so that we truly “understand” them; how they view life and what their unique personal concerns are at the time you are wanting to share with them. “Know” – yes. “Understand” – absolutely essential. And hard work. Listening so you can “understand” always is. But it is also rewarding.
If you want to be a believer who is following Jesus and thus becoming a “fisher of men” as He promised, then you need to “know” and “understand” both the message and your method of sharing the message. The latter is dependant upon the person or group you are planning to speak with. So, you also need to “know” and “understand” them as well.
Welcome to an effective ministry of evangelism.
Evangelism Secret # 4
If you are building a relationship with someone you don’t know and want to move that relationship into high gear quickly … moving away from talk about the weather and sports … If you want to get to know someone quickly then ask them three questions – answers to these questions will give you great insights into people’s hearts…
Question #1: What do you dream about?
People are often willing to share what they dream about. They dream of retiring (they are only 33) which means a safe assumption is they are bored with their job… good jump in to move the conversation forward. They dream of getting away from the cold and permanently moving somewhere warm which would lead me to ask what their family thought of this idea (good depth producer here). You get the idea – people’s dreams (hopes) about what they want in life can reveal a great deal about them if we listen with our hearts and heads and ask appropriate questions. We can certainly find a place to share Jesus with them if we will do this.
Question #2: What do you sing about?
You are asking them what they are happy about in their lives. What are they celebrating? It may be the season’s tickets they just bought to the home games for the local football team. It may be the swimming pool they just had built in their back yard. A new home they are purchasing / building. So, if that is what they are rejoicing (are happy) about – join them in their song. This might just give you an opportunity to share the Gospel with them.
Question #3: What do you cry about?
What currently in your life is causing you pain – emotional, mental or physical pain. Be prepared – if you ask this question be prepared to hear some fairly deep pain and emotion about that pain. Everyone “crys” about something on a daily basis. Life is not without its pain, challenges, setbacks, and relational disasters. Enter into where they are hurting by being a good listener and you will certainly have an opportunity to be like Jesus for them and maybe even share Him with them.
Three simply questions – word them differently if you are more comfortable with different wording – that help open the doors to a person’s heart and mind rather quickly. Good questions to remember. Ask them with genuine care and listen in love. God will open the doors each time for you to share Jesus with them because God wills that all people be saved.
Evangelism Secret # 4
There is an old saying that if there is a mist in the pulpit there is a fog in the pew. The meaning is simply that if the preacher is not 100% sure what he is trying to say and how to say it then the people will have no clue what he just said and why he said it.
Ronnie Ding tells the story: after a church service, the pastor shook hands with members of his congregation, and one of them commented on his sermon, saying “Pastor, you are smarter than Albert Einstein.”
The pastor was surprised and flattered by that statment, but he didn’t know how to respond. In fact, the more he thought about the comment, the more mystified he was by it. He couldn’t sleep properly for a week!
The following Sunday, he finally asked the member what he meant by it.
“You see,” the man responded, “Albert Einstein wrote something so difficult that only ten persons could understand him at that time. But when you preached, no one could understand you.”
Speaking of Albert Einstein – he once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.”
Ah! Here is the problem with most of us who want to go out witnessing telling others about Jesus. It is also the issue when we look at those who do go out and tell others about the Lord. We simply do not know the Gospel nor the culture (target audience) well enough to speak in such as way as to connect and be understood.
We need to study the Gospel inside and out. It is our only message. We need to know ten to fifteen different ways to explain it depending on the person we are with and the situation we find ourselves in. We need we read books on reaching others and sharing the faith. We need to really know what it is we are attempting to communicate – looking at it from all angles and deeply understanding these profound truths so that we can present them in a simple to understand way without using a lot of Church words. This takes time and a serious investment of money and effort.
We need to practice explaining the Gospel out loud so we hear ourselves do it and actually hear what we are saying and how it is sounding. We need to practice fishing. We need to connect with another believer and share the gospel with one another receiving input as to how we are coming across. We simply need to become comfortable speaking the Gospel out loud. It may make sense when you are “preaching” to yourself in your head but do not assume that this means it will make sense when you are sharing it out loud with someone else. It seldom translates.
And, it would not hurt to do some reading in the area of apologetics. Yes, more money, time and effort. In today’s culture (world) people are asking questions – good questions – and we, as believers and followers of Jesus, must be able to correctly and properly answer their questions (this is the field of study known as apologetics). And, do so without being defensive or offensive.
I personally am continually reading books on soul winning and evangelism. I look at and often purchase many of the newest books on the market. Going on the internet many of the bookstores now have a system of allowing you to read reviews, see the table of contents, and sometimes even read a chapter before purchasing the book. I also read widely on the culture in which we find ourselves.
When going overseas I find history books on the country I am going to visit as well as other available literature about the culture (a lot is on-line) so that I am familiar with the background and cultural context of the nation or region I am going to be ministering in. With the constantly changing landscape of culture here in North America I am constantly browsing through magazines and books (biographies, best sellers and self-help areas of the local Chapters store -over a Starbucks coffee) to keep in touch with my own nation and the people I am trying to reach for the Lord.
This is the work of the Church and of every true believer and follower of the Lord. This is the mandate the Lord left us – for each believer to reach non-believers with the Gospel. No cost is too great to do it. Jesus said, follow Me and I will make you fishers of men. In the natural, people spend money on boats and fishing equipment so they can catch fish. It is no different when fishing for men. It will cost each and every believer a great deal to do as the Lord commands.
As one who drives a lot of foggy roads in the spring and fall … I believe it is worth the effort to be able to communicate clearly so that everyone can see and understand.
Evangelism Secret # 6
There are three S’s when it comes to evangelism – with family members, close friends, work associates or simple strangers you meet and have an opportunity to share with. The three S’s of friendly fishing or effective evangelism. These actually work for any form of communication but are especially important when it comes to evangelism and influencing people to move across the line of faith.
1> Have a smile
You warm up the atmosphere if you will simply smile as you approach the person you are hoping to share with. If your face makes it look like this is a serious effort and strickly a discipline; if your face looks like you are nervous and uptight; if your face looks like this is the last thing on earth you would really want to be doing… your body language will instantly warn the person you are approaching to put their guard up and go into a defensive position.
Remember, you have GOOD news to share – not bad news. You are about to make them an offer that anyone in their right mind would not refuse (see 2 Corinthians 4:4). You are bringing hope to them and giving them an opportunity to secure their eternal destination. So smile as you are bringing to them a great message that they need to hear.
2> Keep it simple
When you present the Gospel it is the old K.I.S.S. routine – Keep It Simple Saints. The Good News is profound, it is signifigant, it is powerful, it is life-changing. But it can be none of those things if it is not presented in a way that the person listening can actually understand it. Don’t complicate the basic Gospel. Don’t try to impress people with what you know. Don’t use Church words (Christianeze) or even Bible words without defining them – and most of the words we use that the average person would not know the meaning of can be explained without using the technical term. Remember, you are not talking to believers. Just talk in the normal street language of your area and learn to communicate biblical truths simply.
3> Say it slowly
Because it is not new to you and you speak about the Gospel a lot you will tend to move quickly through the presentation of the Good News. Or, if you are nervous, you will move quickly through your content. Not good. Move slowly. Allow room for questions. Let them ask if they need clarification of something you said. Repeat yourself frequently as people don’t always remember what you said or how one point connects to the next. So, go slow.
Nothing earthshattering. Just three simple hints that I have learned over the years that I have been sharing the Gospel – and often need to relearn.
Several Sundays ago I was sharing the Gospel with some people at a camp ground. Maybe 10 in total. And because I knew a good number of them were believers I rushed through the presentation… Later as I listened to one lady and her sister pack up their trailer to go as they had another place to be early in the evening and heard them fighting, swearing, almost coming to blows (do I see a fist fight breaking out)… I realize that I went through the Gospel too fast because I made a wrong assumption (that everyone was born again) and didn’t want to bore the believers. The Gospel is never boring.
So always share the Gospel every opportunity you have – do so with a smile on your face, do so simply even though it is a profound message, and speak slowly allowing time for your words to sink in and their questions to rise to the surface.
Evangelism Secret # 7
When studying some material that is currently out there on the market regarding communicating in today’s world I ran across something called “The Cemetery Syndrome.” All public speakers know about this syndrome whether they are motivational speakers, pastors preaching from a pulpit, someone training staff in a boardroom or simply someone sharing the Gospel with others.
The Cemetery Syndrome states: Lots of people are out there, but nobody is listening.
To overcome this problem – and it is a problem when believers are working at fulfilling the Church’s mandate to “seek and save the lost” – we need to ‘connect’ with the people we are about to speak to or share with. We need to ‘connect’ on a heart level (feelings and important life issues) before we can ever hope to connect on a head level (share important and life-changing information). Good ‘connectors’ also manage to set people at ease so that they are open to listening to what they have to say.
Here are some hints to help you, a believer, ‘connect’ with your audience when you are following Jesus and fishing for people as He said we would. These are suggestions that allow us to ‘connect’ and earn the right to be heard – sort of the way to wake up the dead and defeat The Cemetery Syndrome.
- Work at adjusting and changing your personality, mannerisms, and approach to people so that you have the ability to make others feel comfortable.
- Always appear to be confident and at ease. Never come across nervous or uptight.
- Have an ability to laugh at yourself (not at others).
- Show interest in others; maintain eye contact, self-disclose, ask questions, and actively listen.
- Extend yourself to those you are wanting to connect with – lean into a greeting with a firm handshake and a smile.
- Convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm – a joie de vivre.
- Be well rounded, well informed, and well-mannered.
- Prepare short stories of actual experiences that are interesting, humorous, and appropriate.
- Maintain an infectious enthusiasm.
- Convey respect and genuinely like people – the core of connecting and communicating.
(Adapted from a list called “magnificent minglers” by Susan RoAne)
Remember, when trying to share and communicate THE most important message on the earth we need to represent Jesus well and do what He did … and He did all of the above. And, as a result, He connected and communicated.
Evangelism Secret # 8
Someone once said:
“Talk at me and you’ll talk alone
Talk to me and I’ll listen
Talk about me and I’ll listen for hours.”
Here’s a hint for anyone sharing Jesus with those who don’t know Him. Don’t talk down to people. You are not a bearer of Good News if your message comes across as “I’m perfect and safe and you are doomed.” Don’t talk at a person because then you are treating them as a target and as another notch on your Gospel gun. They are not some trophy to be displayed. They are a human being made in God’s image with an eternal soul inside of them.
Secondly, don’t just talk to a person. Listen first and find out something about them. Remember, this is about them and not about you. And don’t constantly relate what they are saying back to your life and thus cut them off so you can share out of “empathy.” Get your counselling and feel good sessions elsewhere. Listen carefully and hear what they are saying and how they are saying it – tired, excited, determined, satisfied… Then you will be able to talk to them at their level about what is happening in their life and relate it to the Gospel and their eternal destiny. Note the number of “their” and the lack of “you” or “I”). Keep yourself and your stuggles and victories to yourself. It is not about you – it is about the person you are talking with and Jesus and the possible relationship they might have if you share the Gospel and they receive it.
Having listened – not you can talk about them and they will listen, literally for hours. But, again, talk to them about Jesus. If you have to mention what He has done in your life – briefly and get right to the point. Long stories centered on your experience are not helpful. Your whole testimony – from sinner to saint – should never occupy more than two or three minutes of any conversation (any longer and you are boring them – your life story to them is boring).
Actress Lisa Kirk is quoted as saying: “A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.”
She understood human nature very well. Take heed believer and watch your success rate go up. You will get to share the Gospel much more often.
Evangelism Secret # 9
When you share the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation, do you often feel like it is falling on deaf ears? Do you feel like you are talking to a brick wall? Ever thought that no one is interested in hearing truth these days so why bother trying? I mean, everyone is doing their own thing and most don’t even believe in God anymore. If they don’t want what I am offering and are not willing or even able to hear it – why do I keep trying?
If you have had thoughts like that – asked yourself questions like that – prayed to God in that mood – you are not alone. Many faithful believers and soul winners feel this way. But don’t give up being obedient and going witnessing. This is what we are commanded to do – to love our neighbors. Just remember that only God can answer the heartfelt sinister stalemate of the radically unchurched, the neo-atheist, or your lost relative, friend or neighbor. Only God knows what is on and in their hearts.
I had “given up” sort of on someone I have visited briefly several times a month over the last few years. Not interested in the Gospel I said to myself. Hard hearted and the seed is falling on hard ground and never getting to take root. A waste of my time. So, I had not seen this person in a good three months or maybe even somewhat longer. Then last Sunday I was driving home dodging hail storms and tornados and received a call on my cell phone. The long and the short of it – I will be having coffee with this person in mid-August at their invite. Ah! Maybe God is up to something.
And that is the key – God must be up to something in a person’s life and preparing them ahead of time to hear the Gospel or else we are seriously wasting our precious time and effort. This means that doubling our efforts and blindly going out and witnessing to anyone and everyone who will stop long enough to listen may not be the answer to our frustration and questions. And, may not bring any better results for all our increased effort then we have seen in the past.
Here’s a suggestion. In your time with the Lord in the morning ask the Lord to help you to be aware of what He is doing in people’s lives and in situations in which you will find yourself throughout the day. Ask Him to reveal the one or two people who are open and ready to listen and receive the Gospel. Ask Him to give you a word for or a prophetic sense about them. Then, when you become aware during the day who that person is – speak boldly what the Lord is showing you (prophesy) and watch your words release life and go straight to the heart as only a prophetic word can do. Speak to their potential, the opportunity God is giving them right there and then. Seize the moment.
In other words, change your approach to your neighborhood, work place, city or nation. See it the way God sees it. Change what you are thinking about those who you have tried to win to the Lord who have simply turned you off or rejected your message. Don’t look at what has been – look at the potential instead of the problem of hard hearts or lack of interest in the Gospel. Remember, when you are prophesying you are speaking to their potential and giving them an opportunity to say yes to what God is wanting to do for them, in them, and then through them. Speak His prophetic word and aim straight for the heart.
Ezekiel was told to prophesy toward (or over) that which obviously could not hear (not just would not hear), yet God caused them to become what was spoken. That valley went from a “to the bone” death camp to a vast vibrant army. The same will happen through you if you will ask the Lord to show you the one (or more) person He has been preparing to hear the Gospel and to make you sensitive to His voice so that you will recognize this person when you are with them during the day. Pray and ask God to give you a prophetic word for that person and then, when the opportunity is right, speak what God has revealed to you and watch the transformation begin. Be ready, as well, to present the Gospel because the situation will change very rapidly and you will, most likely, have an opportunity to witness and share the Gospel.
We have entered a time when the gift of prophecy is being strongly connected to our call to evangelize. And prophetic evangelism takes you on a journey of insight and discovery on a daily basis – showing you that there is a quality of experience waiting for you that will trigger a quantity of result. In other words, you will enjoy what you are doing more and more each day (quality) and more and more people will hear and respond to the Gospel (quantity).
Remember, we are all able to prophesy as the Bible states “you can prophesy.” And, all believers are called to “go into all the world and share the Gospel…” So, God is now joining those two callings together to enable you and I to evangelize supernaturally.
Although the miracle of the bones could only be affected by the divine power, God desired the prophetic utterance of a human vessel. As Ezekiel prophesied to the bones, supernatural breath came into them. This breath brought life and mobilized them. This is what the Gospel proclamation is all about – speaking life into those who are without life. This scene gives us a picture of prophetic evangelism and the impact that awaits a new breed of Spirit-led harvesting.
Evangelism Secret # 10
The vast majority of Christians I know desire greater effectiveness and fruitfulness, yet they are in the dark as to how to accomplish it. Former efforts to share Jesus with others have produced little fruit and have seemed, at times, counterproductive. At times we wonder if anything works any more. Many of the formulas and methods we’ve used seem cold, rigid, and mechanical and, admit it, unproductive.
Unproductive because most do not receive the Gospel. Some do but we seldom see them become regular members of the local church and therefore wonder if they are truly saved or converted. Something needs to change. Drastic change is needed if we are ever going to fulfill the biblical mandate of every nation hearing the Gospel and all people having an opportunity to respond to the message of hope that we proclaim and share.
I believe, and I am not alone in stating this, that we have entered a time when there is a release of a “new wind” of spiritual influence that will encourage a generation of harvesters to go public with their testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. The new model of spiritual influence is based on John 5:19-20, which portrays a certain dynamic not normally seen in current-day evangelistic efforts and programs.
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. (NIV)
The same verses – The Message Version: So Jesus explained himself at length. “I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing.
It is joining in on what the Father is already doing and picking up on what the Spirit is emphasizing that will bring the needed change to our evangelistic and soul-winning efforts. We need to become sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and thus moving as directed and speaking prophetically into the lives of non-believers. We need to simply do what we see the Father doing and speak what we hear the Father saying. This is something every born again believer is able to do because we are in a relationship with the Father through the shed blood of Jesus. His sheep hear His voice (John 10) and Jesus told us that we have ears to hear and eyes to see as born again believers and followers of the Lord.
As we become totally dependant upon the Father in this way we will see many changes in the way we evangelize and we will definitely see many lives touched and even radically changed by God. Jesus told us that the things He did we can do also (John 14:12) as we do it under the same anointing and power that He used (The Baptism in the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:8). Jesus promised that “as we go into all the world” to fulfill the Father’s mandate to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) that He would go with us. So, we simply need to go.
Failure to LAUNCH AND ENGAGE in this task would be disobedience. Failure to LAUNCH AND ENGAGE would mean that fear and not faith is a ruling force in your life. Failure to LAUNCH AND ENGAGE today’s generation will mean missing new opportunities that the Lord is offering His people. I fear missing out on new opportunities more than I fear stepping out. How about you?
Failure to LAUNCH AND ENGAGE means you are refusing to leave your comfort zone – your safe harbour of predictable routine and non-challenging life-style. Failure to LAUNCH AND ENGAGE means you have lost the cause that we were called to – to win the world for Jesus. Failure to LAUNCH AND ENGAGE means you have lost your forward momentum and are settling for stability and the status quo instead of entering into the greatest adventure offered to the human race.
The Christian faith is not for wimps. The Christian faith is not simply having “fire insurance” hoping that you are going to Heaven when you leave this life for the next. The Christian faith is following the Founder and He promised – stated clearly – that when we follow Him He will make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19)
The Message Version tells us (Matthew 4:19-20) “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
Can we do less? I think not. Let’s drop all the religious programming and things that occupy our time, effort and money and do what it is we are called to do – follow Him and let Him do what He is good at – remaking us into His image and then we will become fishers of men.
Evangelism Secret # 11
NEGOTIATING THE OBSTACLE COURSE
When sharing as you go about your “everyday life” I have discovered that there are a number of things I need to overcome. These would be the same for everyone no matter where they were sharing the good news that Jesus saved. These are not the normal things such as make sure you have prepared the way by being friendly, being polite, listening to find out where the person you hope to share with is currently struggling in their life, is there enough time to make adequate progress, and so on. Those are very important and always need to be considered. But, let’s talk about what I refer to as points of personal resistance.
POINTS OF PERSONAL RESISTANCE
- FEAR– this is the most common spiritual snag that trips people up. This appears in your personal life as ‘nervousness.’ This can defeat you in your “locker room” location before you actually get started. This dark spirit (as some refer to it) which attaches itself to soul winners, results in short-circuiting prophetic leadings and the ability to bridge the relational gap and properly relate to the person.
Remember that God has not given to us a spirit of fear but He has released in and around us His power and given us a sound mind based upon His Word to help us to conquer the fear. And the best way to conquer fear is simply to override it by obeying the Lord and following the prophetic leading of the Spirit. Fear is natural and usually does not go away with time and experience. So, you simply step out in faith and follow the prophetic sense that you have at the time and watch God move in spite of the fear.
- BEING MISUNDERSTOOD – Often when you are working under the direction of the Holy Spirit and moving prophetically you will be misunderstood. Perception is reality today. Those who are spiritually confused can misinterpret and misconstrue your attempts to rescue them. Peter and those in the upper room were misunderstood on the Day of Pentecost as they were accused of being drunk.
When moving prophetically to evangelize in your ‘locker room’ you will need a tough skin and you will need to keep your eyes on your calling to win the lost and the goal of this command – the salvation of souls. Remember, Ezekiel was told that his forehead was made like “adamant stone, harder than flint.” The answer for clay feet is a flint forehead. God also spoke to Ezekiel and told him not to be disappointed or frustrated by people’s looks. You will be misunderstood.
- DISCOURAGMENT– Discouragement can also take away physical, emotional, and spiritual energy needed to continue witnessing to others on a daily basis. Elijah got discouraged after the miracle on Mt. Carmel, when Ahab and Jezebel weren’t convinced nor consumed.
This feeling can be overwhelming and suffocate the flame of evangelistic enthusiasm and commitment. The key to dismissing discouragement is to look to God for your for encouragement and not to your current level of success or results or even to people’s reactions. You are “playing to an audience of one – God” and your focus is very important at times when you are feeling discouraged.
- DOUBT AND UNBELIEF – If you are feeling like you are wasting your time talking to a specific person; if you feel as if you have done all you can and you are not sure what difference your next conversation will really have; strong feelings of uncertainty and feeling as if the person is unlikely to respond to your words – can kill your evangelistic initiative. If we give up when we are feeling doubtful about the outcome of the time and effort we are investing we will not do much witnessing nor will we ever be effective.
The twin thieves of doubt and unbelief rob us of a precious harvest and create in us watered down expectations. Touching Jesus is the only antidote to doubt and unbelief. As we touch the presence of God and allow Jesus to touch our hearts during our daily time set aside to focus on Him we will defeat these twin enemies of witnessing enthusiasm.
- THE DEVIL – We don’t want to focus on the enemy but we do need to recognize that he does not want us doing what the Lord told us we are to do – win the lost at all costs. He stands to lose the most as souls are won to Christ. Remember, when witnessing there are visible hindrances and invisible hindrances, and what you don’t see can be the most lethal.
Remember that we are the ones with authority and power and know that the devil has limited authority and power. His work always involves deception and can be easily overcome by walking in the calling we have and the enabling power that ever believer has received. One author writes: “When we bring light and Christ’s authority to trapped hearts, Satan’s deceptive powers dissipate and we can multiply our converts by dividing the spoil. God is going to ultimately crush Satan underneath your ‘beautiful feet that bring the good news.’”
Evangelism Secret # 12
THE IDENTIFICATION FACTOR
As someone who works with Christians and for Christians I have to make a conscious effort to go where non-Christians are to reach them with the Gospel. One place I go frequently is the local gym. I do so for health reasons – to keep a strong heart and maintain my weight. At my age I recognize it is not for looks or to impress anyone. And, I am careful with what I do and what machines I use. Exercising regularly makes you feel good about yourself. My goal is not to look like some of the young fellas who exercise at the same time – my goal is to live a healthy life and thus extend my days upon the Earth for as long as possible. There is still much that I want to accomplish and do.
But, I am there and working hard and building a sweat for another reason. I need to meet people who are non-believers and then connect with them. This is much more than merely associating with them – it is connecting with them, identifying with them. It is letting them know by my lifestyle, actions and words that I am just like them with needs, opinions, and interests. Revealing that I can relate to and actually live in their world and go through similar things that they are struggling or dealing with. Yes, I have a different worldview but that is not seen immediately but it will come out in my conversations with them once I have built a bridge. However, here’s the point: the more closely you identify with your hearers, the more it’s going to help the weight of your words. So, two issues here – identification and your words.
The ability to identify with those with whom you are wanting to share the Gospel with – and for them to identify with you – is so very important. This does not mean you have to do something immoral or unethical if they are. It simply means they have to view you as someone who shares the same world they live in. This is a world of conflict, misunderstandings, pressures, financial stress, work-related incidents; too many demands, family concerns, and health issues. The list can be, and often is, endless. If they see you as weird and different (and many Christians come across like this) then they will not listen to what you say because how you behave is speaking so loudly.
Let’s be honest here. Many Christians come across as superior, victorious, better, separated, different, strange, and so-heavenly-minded that they are no-earthly-good. Time to be real and “normal” letting others know that being a believer does not solve all our problems and remove all the issues that life throws our way – but simply gives us Someone who adds meaning and purpose to life and solutions and insights to the problems we all face as human beings.
In other words, people want to see that you are ‘normal’ and actually live on and relate to the same planet that they do. Then and only then will you find them open to the Gospel because you will have built a bridge and connected with them – THE IDENTIFICATION FACTOR. They need to be able to say, “Yes, this person is just like me but they have something that definitely makes them different.”
There are three factors that influence people today – and that we need to be aware of if we hope to come across as real people and build the bridge necessary to then communicate the Good News with words that can be understood (see An Evangelism Secret – 13). Three factors that determine if they will feel that you can identify with what they are living with and going through.
- Logos (reason) –There are valid and basic reasons why someone should believe in Jesus Christ and give their heart and life to Him completely. There are excellent “arguments” for the existence of God; explanations about the meaning and purpose of life; insights into why evil exists and a loving God allows it to continue seemingly unabated. You need to know what you believe, why you believe it and how to adequately “defend” it (the Bible calls this “earnestly contending for the faith”). The target here is the HEAD.
- Pathos (emotions) –People are emotional creatures and every person you meet has a combination or mixture of often conflicting emotions going on inside them at all times. We need to openly share feelings with others with whom we are hoping to identify. They need to know what you are feeling and how things are going (emotionally) for you. This does not mean sharing on a deep level or speaking of things that are better kept to yourself. It just means being real – if you are having a bad day, you are feeling a little down emotionally, you are mad at something … then let them know in general terms. They can relate to each and every issue you could and should share briefly and they will reciprocate sharing their feelings with you. When they share how they are feeling – don’t try to fix anything. Just listen and let them know you identify with them. The target here is the HEART.
- Ethos (experience) –Of course, you are sharing experiences with them. In my case in the gym I change clothes, I work out, I shower and change back to street clothes, I have good days I want to be there and other days I come only as a matter of discipline – all of which are simple “shared experiences” as they do the same and often at the same time as I do… In conversations (brief though they may be) I talk about the latest sports scores and events, political and social issues, anything that is happening here in my city or district (the weather is always a big topic of interest here as it is often so severe), upcoming events – all of which means I need to be serious about knowing what is going on in our world. There must be mutual experiences if I hope to build a bridge and communicate the Gospel. The target here is the BODY – shared experiences because we are both humans living on the same planet.
Here is the key: These happen in the opposite order. There must first be mutual experiences (we both work out at the same gym at the same time most days). This is the EXPERIENCE level. Then there must be some sharing on an EMOTIONAL level even if it is as basic as, “I don’t feel like being here today.” Only when we have share experienced and have touched each other’s heart in some simple way will we find an opening to be heard and taken seriously so that we can share the Gospel. This is the head level where we begin to REASON with them about the truth and share our worldview with them.
Not difficult to do – but different than what we usually do. We often try to give them the Gospel (head – reason) before sharing any feelings that might help us to build a bridge and earn respect and trust (heart-emotions) and often we don’t take the time to be a part of their world (body – experience). Totally upside down to what works today. Lead with experience and not reason. Get involved in their world.
Evangelism Secret # 13
EXPERIENCE OR EXPLANATION
Rick Richardson wrote, “Mystery is very attractive to people today. People want an experience more than an explanation.” The problem is that we, the believers, have majored on answers (explanation) when what today’s generation really want and need is an experience.
Over the past few years I have witnessed the gospel becoming more political (at least here in North America) and more palatable. That means it has become less radical and life-changing. The gospel is being watered down so that it appears less offensive and more acceptable. We don’t want to rock the boat or appear intolerant. Yet, in fact, our message is offensive and does appear narrow-minded because the truth is there is only one way to Heaven and one way to be right with God the Father – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God created us in His image and so we are trans-rational. Everything does not need to be explained away or understood in minute detail. Some things can remain a mystery – and simply received in faith. There is an attempt today to normalize Christianity. To make it so normal that everyone can understand it. But God’s ways are past finding out. “His ways are above our ways; His thoughts above our thoughts.” There are aspects of God and the way He functions that I still cannot fathom and probably never will. Any God that can be totally understood becomes something less than God – it becomes a figment of our imagination.
God wants our faith to be experientially based on more than what we can figure out. Paul said, “Our gospel didn’t come to you with wise and persuasive words but with the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Biblical faith rests upon the power of God and does not rely simply on words and explanations.
To fully preach the Gospel we must move in what we do not always understand – the supernatural. This is “above the natural” and thus often above understanding. It is grasped by simply believing – by faith. Paul, in writing to the believers in Rome about his ministry said, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:18-19).
For us to win this generation we need to be walking in “signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit” so that we do more than explain the Good News but also demonstrate it. This way it is not only explanation but experience. So, it is not one or the other – explanation or experience – but both together.
So, as we go about our daily chores and activities – having asked the Lord to keep us sensitive to the moving and prompting of His Holy Spirit before the activities of the day began – we look for opportunities to touch a life with the power of God. We look for someone to speak to, selected ahead of time by the Lord, and then listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us about that person. Begin a simple and friendly conversation by being neighborly and let it move naturally into the supernatural. Speak what you have received for that person (experience) and then, having shown them that Jesus is alive and that Christianity is more than a religion of rituals, regulations and rules – that it is a living and dynamic personal relationship with the living God – you will have an open heart wanting to hear what you have to say (explanation).
It’s time for believers to walk in the fullness of the calling and commission that is ours – to “go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel” and to do it with miracles, signs and wonders. Words are no longer enough! Experience and explanation is the Bible way.
Evangelism Secret # 14
Are We Actually Communicating and Connecting?
The ability to verbalize the Gospel in words that your listener can easily and readily understand is of the utmost importance if we are hoping to win anyone to the Lord. But, most believers, although they understand the Gospel and are born again – they do not “know” it well enough to verbalize it so that others can understand what Jesus has accomplished through His death and resurrection and what the listen must do to receive what has been accomplished. Don’t believe me? Then ask two or three mature believers to tell you the Gospel! If you are not seriously confused by the time they have finished – I would be very surprised. I have asked close to a hundred mature believers over the last 16 months to tell me the Gospel. Two have spoken it in a way that it was understandable and actually told me what I needed to believe and what I needed to do.
So, here’s a challenge – one I placed myself under. Every day think of a fresh, new and creative way to word the Gospel. Find a new and dynamic way to share the basic Gospel of the Kingdom. Talk to people about spiritual issues and what’s going on right now in their lives so that you can think of new ways to relate to them and then to present the Gospel to them as well. As you read the Bible underline verses and stories that emphasize the Gospel and work at finding a way to present the Good News using those Bible stories and verses. Become “fluid” in your understanding of and presentation of the Gospel that is power of God unto salvation as well as knowledgeable of your potential audience.
Communications has always been important to the human race – but never more so than today in a season of instant text messaging, emails, world-wide access to information for any and every country. Statistics prove that communicating today – staying in touch with friends and family – is very important.
Read some of the current statistics:
- 96 -the number of text messages teens send or receive in a typical day (The Nielsen Co., June 2009)
47% – teens who say their social lives would end or be worsened if text messaging was not an option
(CTIA – The Wireless Association / Harris Interactive, September 2008)
- 61% of 13 to 17 year olds have a personal profile on social media sites such as MySpace, Friendster or Xanga. Half have posted pictures of themselves online. (Cox Communications / National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, May 2006)
- More than half of teens (52%) listen to online radio in 2008, up from 34% in 2007 (The NPD Group, 2008)
As noted these are older statistics and all media reports that the numbers – percentages – are even higher today than when the surveys were originally taken.
So, we need to learn how to communicate and connect in today’s mass media and technological world and how to do it effectively. And remember – no Christianese. Don’t use too many Christian or Bible terms unless you are able to explain them in a simply, street-wise manner. Find the dynamic equivalent so that unchurched people can understand what you are working so hard at communicating. Ask yourself where you’re saying words that don’t mean anything to the world. We must make sure that we are communicating in ways that people can understand. We must move towards them and not expect them to move towards us. It is our task to speak in a way that is clear, concise and understood. Not easily done!
Revivalist Charles Finney said, “God’s revelation to people does not usually suspend laws of the human mind and human audience, but occurs through those laws.” In other words, speak to be understood even if this means practicing to share the Gospel numerous ways after coming to understand it thoroughly yourself first.
Church father, Augustine, recommended that the Christian minister “plunder the Egyptians for their gold,” implying that we should learn secular communication to better communicate our Gospel. God is a God of creativity and He can give each of us a strategy and approach that is fresh and anointed and understood.
However, it would help if we would apply ourselves and do some reading on the subject of connecting and communicating cross-culturally today. You are needing to learn to express truth that is held close to the heart in the Christian sub-culture expressing it in words understood by another sub-culture – teens, skateboarders, musicians, drug addicts, whomever. I am constantly reading books on connecting, communicating, culture and society, preaching, public speaking, and networking. There is a lot out there that is well worth investing time reading and studying – both secular and Christian.
J.B. Phillips who translated the New Testament into modern English back in the 1960’s long before the Living Bible or The Message Version stated, “If words are to enter people’s hearts and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped to pass defences and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” In other words, as one author said recently, “We need a new sound – words that hit home, words that achieve deliverance of hearts and attract people to come under the sound of the Gospel.”
The message has not changed but the way we need to connect with people and then communicate truth certainly has.
Evangelism Secret # 15
Three Types of People We Can Witness To
In my experience in many nations there are three groups of people whom I witness to …
1> There are those who are “churched.” They are nominal Christians. Believers in name only. Christian and Easter believers. Sprinkle believers – sprinkle some water (baptism), sprinkle some rice (marriage) and sprinkle some dirt (burial). They go to church to worship at Christmas and Easter. They think, because of this, that they are in good standing with God. Of course their church’s teachings also tell them this – “There are two sacraments necessary for salvation – holy baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” So, they are baptized as babies and attend the Lord’s Supper as adults twice a year. Ask them if they are believers – they will tell you they are. There are a large number of people like this here in a city where the major Christian witness is still predominately mainline denominations who have been here since the area was first settled.
2> A second group are those who are “dechurched”. These are true believers who have stopped attending Church. 12 years ago Ann Rice, the author, declared that she is a born again Christian. She stopped writing vampire books and began writing Bible-based novels. After 12 years of studying her Bible and attending a mainline denominational Church she announced on a CNN interview on August 8th of 2010 that she has left the Church as she can no longer support their non-Biblical theology and teachings, practices and approach. She still believes in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God and the only way to Heaven but is now “dechurched.”
I meet and talk with people like this all of the time – daily. Most are born again and some are born again and spirit-filled. Yet they have stopped attending any and every church for one reason or another and are not interested in hearing what the Bible says about needing to be connected to Christian community. Often, a year or two later I speak to them again and they have moved to the third group and no longer claim to be a Christ-follower.
3> The third group are the “unchurched.” This group is growing in many nations in Europe and North America. They are often young and have seldom stepped inside a Church building. After all, weddings are now done outside and funerals are done from funeral homes or simply no longer held. This group has no “Christian consciousness.” They have no understanding of the Bible or the Christian tradition. Christian and Bible words means nothing and they have no context in which to understand that they are sinners in need of a Savior.
These are my favourite people to talk to as there are no barriers. They are real and not plastic. They are interested in what you have to say IF you are interested in them and are willing to listen to and care about them. They are looking for experience and not explanation; the supernatural and not the natural. They want to see the Christian faith being lived out by you and not just hear what the basic tenants of the faith are.
In most nations where I work today you will find all three types of people … and we need to be careful that we are investing our limited time and energy on those most open to the Gospel and ready to give it a fair hearing. Only you can determine who seems to be open to your message – but, in my experience, it is most often the unchurched. That does not mean I don’t listen to and work at ministering to the dechurched and the churched but I do invest my time mainly in the unchurched who often have never heard the Gospel.
Origen and Augustine observed and wrote in almost the same words, “There are many outside who appear to be inside, and many inside who appear to be outside.” An old Latin expression for this was Novit Deus qui sunt ejus: Only God knows who are His. Yes, but often we can discover who are and who are not simply by listening to what they are thinking and doing and by watching their lifestyle closely.