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Creating Thirst in Your Spiritual Conversations

Nov 5, 2007
In my opinion most of the evangelistic training that is available is geared towards non-receptive people and is apologetically driven. Don't get me wrong, I believe we should all be trained and be able to give a reason for what we believe. But I am convinced there needs to be more training on how to identify those who have a higher degree of receptivity to the gospel message.

Here are some "quick hits" on how to create thirst in your spiritual conversations:

1. Look for God's work in the lives of people

In light of man's natural bent away from God and the things of God (Ephesians 2:1-3) we can easily see the hand of God drawing in someone. Leonard Sweet writes, "Postmodern evangelism is recognizing that God is already at work in people's lives before we arrive on the scene and that our role is helping people to see how God is present and active in their lives, calling them home." The Father is drawing people to himself (John 6:44). The Son is seeking the lost (Luke 19:10). The Holy Spirit is convicting the world (John 16:8). All we need to do is figure out how to get into God's redemptive flow and recognize his hand on the lives of those around us.

If someone expresses interest in Jesus, the Bible or church...these are good signs. If people are taking steps forward such as attending events, worship services, small groups or if someone is open to a conversation with you on spiritual things...this is God at work. We need to bring our complete focus and our dependence on God because he is working right in front of us.

In reality evangelism is more about "spotting" than creating. It is more about "joining" than initiating.

2. Practice the "man of peace" principle

The "Man of Peace Principle" is a Scriptural concept Jesus taught his disciples as he sent them out on a mission. In Luke 10:5-6 Jesus said, "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house." (Luke 10:5-6 NIV) The term "man of peace" literally means "a man who is searching for peace."

Consider a few Scriptural examples of men and women of peace and the profound impact that they had in their sphere of influence:

-Andrew - John 1:35-42
-The woman at the well - John 4:1-26; 39-42
-Levi - Luke 5:27-32
-Cornelius - Acts 1-48

What does a man or woman of peace look like? Here are a few things to look for: 1) They are not just open to the gospel but they receive the gospel freely. 2) They are in a position of great influence over their family, friends and within the community. 3) They have the ability to introduce church planters into their sphere of influence effectively. 4) They are also great "bringers and includers" of others into the life of the church.

How does one identify a man or woman of peace? Jesus instructed his disciples, "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'" (Luke 10:5 NIV) Apparently there was something in a way a person responded to the blessing "Peace to this house" that revealed the level of receptivity in that house. I would contend that it is our duty to discover the "Peace to this house" statement for our generation.

3. Be willing to take a risk

Darryn Scheske, one of the best evangelists I know, writes, "In my experience, engaging in Spirit-led spiritual conversations with others always requires me to take a personal risk of some kind. You see, nearly every opportunity to have a spiritual conversation will produce some kind of anxiety in me. Usually I'm too tired. Or, I'm on my way somewhere else and I really don't have the time. Or, I might be intimidated by the person; their life circumstances or credentials. I might just be afraid of what they will think. If you're going to seek out spiritual conversations, they won't come when you're ready or available. They happen in the middle of your everyday life."

4. Learn to ask good questions

Being too directive can come across as intrusive and pushy. Trusting the Holy Spirit to plant and nurture the seeds that have been sown through good questions is vital to creating and sustaining spiritual conversations. Randy Newman in his book Questioning Evangelism writes, "By asking questions in our evangelism, our conversations can lead to conversions, rather than presentations that lead to preconceptions. An exchange of ideas might lead both participants to the truth of the gospel. For one participant, it will be the first arrival at that point; for the other participant, it will be a rediscovery and a new appreciation of the message of the Cross."

Here are a couple questions I have used:

-Do you believe people are on a spiritual journey?
-Do you have any type of spiritual heritage in your background?
-Have you read a good book on spirituality lately?
-Have you ever heard what the difference is between Christianity and religion?
-When you think about God what image comes into your mind?

5. Get into their stories

Get people talking about themselves, the more you get them talking, the more you can discover God's hand in their lives. Remember, it is not about you, it is about them and their lives, their journey and their eternity. Every church planter should read the classic relational text, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. This timeless text is based on the biblical principle: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31). Relational prowess will increase as you connect sincerely and authentically with the world around you.

6. Get permission to go deeper

This is simply a loving and polite act to get someone's permission to take the conversation to another level. Get permission to explore a question or topic further. "Do you have time to explore the topic in more depth?" Ask for their permission to tell the story around your spiritual journey. "My spiritual journey was an eye opening experience. Do you have a minute for me to give you the Cliff notes version?" Ask for their OK in offering a suggested resource or the next step in the relationship. "Could I send you an article on the subject? It might be helpful in giving you another perspective."

7. Guard your heart

The heart never lies! People smell a "fake" from a mile away. A genuine love for people and a servant's spirit is attractive to people. If my motives are questionable people will intuitively perceive it. We all need to take heed to Peter's words, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (I Peter 3:15-17)
About the Author
Gary Rohrmayer has a unique focus in mentoring leaders within God's mission. He is a sought after personal coach for pastors, church planters and missional leaders. He specializes in the areas of spiritual formation, church multiplication and church health.
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