Home > Discipleship > Starting Spiritual Conversations Part 2

Starting Spiritual Conversations Part 2

In a previous post, I wrote about the internal preparation that is helpful for starting spiritual conversations, particularly with strangers.  In this post, we’ll tackle the external, practical side.

When I first became a Christian I couldn’t get over how much of Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching emphasized advancing the kingdom, proclaiming the gospel, reaching the lost and making disciples.  Nearly every chapter in the gospels involved Jesus’ and his disciples interacting with those who were far from God.

God began to give me an anguish for the lost and unsaved.  I desperately wanted people to believe in and follow Jesus. The problem was, I couldn’t even figure out how to start spiritual conversations with my closest friends, let alone people I didn’t know.

converse 2

In my experience, many people feel the same way. Through trial and error, reading, observation and some coaching from people who have gone before me, God has used the following big ideas to help me start spiritual conversations with people.

1. Initiating the conversation is half the battle.  This is one of the most difficult parts of witnessing, especially to people you don’t know. It can be super awkward. The truth is, the other person is just as concerned about it as you are.  Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll say something stupid.  If you do, the other person will be thankful it wasn’t them and will appreciate your initiative.

2. Comment on what you’ve already observed or know. One of the biggest obstacles to starting conversation is not knowing what to talk about.  Make it easy on yourself by talking about the things you’ve already seen or heard.  Tell them you like their shirt or purse or ask them about something you saw them do or heard them say.  This gives you opportunity to move the conversation along.

3. Identify shared interests and experiences. People naturally talk about their own interests and passions.  While you’re stating the obvious, they’ll usually respond with something personal.  It will be subtle, but once you crack the hard outer exterior they’ll tell you all kinds of information like where they’re from and what they like to do.   This will give you the opportunity to find common ground so that you can talk about things you’re both naturally interested in.

4. Play “tennis.” In a good tennis match, both players hit the ball back and forth over the net.  The same is true for good conversation.  Don’t monopolize the conversation by talking all the time.  Pay attention to what people are actually saying and ask a few good questions.  Comment briefly on what you’ve just heard, then ask a question about what the person just said to keep them engaged and talking.  This gives them more to talk about and often results in them asking questions in return.

5. Ask questions that if asked back to you would provide the opportunity to honestly mention Jesus. This is, in my opinion, the best natural way to get into a spiritual conversation.  People tend to ask the same questions of you that you have asked of them. Choose the questions that would provide you the opportunity to talk about spiritual things.

For example, when I meet people later in the week I like to ask them what their plans are for the weekend.  When they ask me, I tell them what I’m doing and am sure to mention that I’ll be attending church with my family.  That then allows me the opportunity to ask them if they go to church, which leads straight into a spiritual conversation. You can even make it easier on yourself by memorizing a brief starter response so that you don’t have to think about it.

6. Press the issue. Pay attention to what other people say and do.  If they get squeamish tell them that they appear to be put off and ask them if they’ve had a bad experience.  If they seem extraordinarily interested, tell them that you can see their excitement and ask them if they’ve ever heard the gospel or attended church.  When they say no, ask them if they’d like to hear it or attend with you and watch what the Holy Spirit does.

7. Put on your Nike’s. I love Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan. It’s so practical. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people that I don’t know and I still get nervous every time.  More often than not, the thing that gets me going is this simple phrase. Just do it, what do you have to lose?

8. Strive for ongoing dialogue. One of the reasons we often whiff on spiritual conversations is because we set the bar too high.  We unrealistically expect that the person we’re talking to is going to be venerated as a saint by the end of our conversation. When we have unrealistic expectations we walk away unbelievably disappointed.

Instead, think of your conversation more like a game of baseball.  Don’t go for the grand slam “bring them to Jesus moment” during your first conversation.  Start by getting on base and moving the runner along.  This means you’ll have to live to see another conversation, so plan to return to the same establishment, social club or group of friends frequently and try to start the conversation where you left off.  Remember, Jesus told us to make disciples, not to seek decisions.

Image courtesy of brainlinemilitary.org.

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