I’d like to share with you the second-closest time I almost got beat up.
I was a college student walking through the main campus building when a student across the way shouts at me with an angry voice: “Hey You!” I point to myself with a puzzled look. “Yeah, you! Come over here!” I make my way and calmly ask “What’s the matter?” He says, “I’m really angry!” Awkward pause. The conversation seems to have stopped. So I ask, “Why are you angry?” “I was just about to buy lunch, and they were all out of chicken fingers!” Another awkward pause. I wonder, is there a camera team somewhere? Am I suppose to console this guy? I say “I’m sorry to hear that.” “Yeah! So am I! In fact, I just want to beat something up right now!” Another very awkward pause.
I was about to step back slowly. But thankfully he turned the other way and stormed off. I got to live another day.
We hear bad news all the time. Sometimes it’s racial tensions, sometimes it’s shootings, sometimes it’s the stock market, and sometimes it’s chicken fingers. This is why I have put to memory Psalm 112:7 which says “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” Among all the chaos we see out there, God’s promises still stand. And the greatest promise we have is found in the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is more powerful than any bad news you could ever hear.
Many of you understand the importance of sharing this good news. God calls us to it. Our world needs it. We were bought with a price. We are given the tools. We don’t have much time. People are dying… But if you are like me, we become experts at finding excuses. Most of our excuses are rooted in fear or apathy. But one of them I actually find to be rather legitimate: “I don’t know how.”
Well then, you’ve come to the right blog! I wish we spent more of our resources actually training people. How do we begin the conversation? How do we present the gospel clearly? How do we deal with fear? I don’t have the space to answer everything, but I want to offer a few creative ideas that take different amounts of boldness that you can use to get the conversation going.
- Sometimes I tip my waiter or waitress before they begin waiting on me. After the meal, I hand-write a message to that person on the back of my receipt: “Hi! This evening I gave you a tip before my meal. In doing so, you were able to serve me without the pressure to perform, and you did a great job! I did this to help illustrate the good news of Jesus Christ, who freely gave His life for your sake. It goes without saying, then, that you are worth a lot more than $5 to God!! Blessings, -Matthew.”
- When I was a college student I always kept a meal plan because I found the cafeteria to be a great place for conversation. I would share a meal with a classmate I didn’t know very well and ask about his/her personal life, like family and pets back at home. Then I would ask about activities they did. Then I would ask if they went to church together. (The question of church is an easy and non-invasive approach to a spiritual conversation.) In America, church is just a cultural thing, but it paves the way for the more important questions: Do you still go to church? Why or why not? What did your church teach about Jesus? God? Sin? Salvation? Would you like to see my church? …This doesn’t have to be a cafeteria either. It can work is almost any “mingling” situation.
- Sometimes a non-believer will ask a Christian why he or she is so different. But did you know, as a Christian, you don’t have to wait for that moment? For instance: a man in a public place drops his pile of papers on the floor. You come over to help pick everything up. He may not say “what makes you so different?” but he does say “thank you! You are very kind.” While it’s totally appropriate to respond with “You’re welcome,” you could also say something like “Well, I’m a Christian. And if Jesus died on the cross for me, this is the very least I can do for someone like you.” One simple statement and you just evangelized.
- I have gone out by myself or with a small group before, where we literally just ask people if they could use prayer. The conversation goes something like this: “Hey, sorry to bother you, but do you have a minute?” “Are you selling something?” “No, it’s not like that… My name is Matthew and this is Steve. We just want to bless people! Is there anything in your life that we could pray for?” I’ll never forget when I took this approach with a young man who turned out to be Muslim, and he was hurting so much from emptiness inside. So with his permission I prayed to Jesus that He would reveal Himself and bring peace.
Your situation will be different. Real conversation is never as rigid or scripted as I made it out to be. But I want to inspire you that there are many creative ways to enter into a spiritual conversation. From there, Lord willing, you can move into a gospel conversation.
Many people simply ask “Would you like to know what the good news of Jesus is all about?” I take a slightly different approach by saying “I would be honored if you would let me share what the good news of Jesus is all about!” I feel that this question helps to relieve the pressure on me and the person I’m talking to. If the person agrees, you now have the floor to lay it out. There are pocket-sized booklets and materials that I have used to present the Gospel. Cru has published their own booklets on an app called “God Tools.” I highly suggest you use them. But you should also be prepared to share the Gospel without the aids. Here is one of many ways. I call it the 1-1-1 structure that you can use as a skeleton to build a gospel conversation:
There is 1 God. He loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you.
There is 1 problem. We are separated from God because of sin.
There is 1 solution: Jesus died on the cross. Will you start a relationship with God by trusting and following Jesus?
I hope this has helped. When we know what we are doing, we reduce our fear and increase effectiveness. Remember what Paul said to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6) So the pressure’s off! God does the heavy-lifting. Effective evangelism is sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Just go for it!
Think of it this way: If a guy can go up to some random person to vent his frustrations over chicken fingers, I think we can go up to people to share our joy that we have found in knowing Jesus!