Tag Archives: evangelism technique

How to Talk about Jesus without Freaking Out

22 Jul

A Hollywood producer, Karen Covell was used to speaking her mind on just about everything… except, that is, her faith.  For some reason, opening her mouth to explain why she trusted in Christ left her feeling weak-kneed.  Why was it that she had such difficulty expressing the one thing that mattered most?

Evangelism can be challengeing – especially for those of us who weren’t gifted with Billy Graham’s charisma.  Put us on the spot and we freeze.  We know we should say something, but what? Even if we do know what, how can we be sure we’ve said all of the “important” stuff?  And what do we do if the conversation turns hostile?  The answers to these questions may be simpler than we think.

In How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out), Karen, her husband Jim (a composer) and friend Victorya (an agent) draw upon their own experiences to teach readers a simple, relational way to talk about Christ without feeling awkward.  Like most things in Hollywood, the technique is based upon the concept of story-telling: the story of the person in front of you, your personal story, and the story of God and His love for humanity.  It’s about learning to give a testimony – in a way that clearly and honestly demonstrates the work of Christ in you.

Packed full of helpful hints and tips on everything from addressing personal fears to answering deep theological questions, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out) provides readers with a variety of effective techniques that will be comfortable for any personality type.  It’s a great introduction to evangelism for everyone whether they’re new to the faith or an old hand!

Re-released by Thrilling LIfe Publishers in 2013, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out) is available for $16.14 in paperback.

Witnessing to Jews: Practical ways to relate the love of Jesus

8 Jul

Sharing your Christian faith can be difficult – especially when the people with whom you are sharing come from a different cultural background.  Things said and done out of love or concern can take on new meaning; appearing too weak or informal to have any impact or being too blunt or aggressive to warrant being heard.  Only when we take the time to understand the cultures of those with whom we share will we experience the type of Christ-reflecting relationships that have the power to transform lives.  And this is where Moishe and Ceil Rosen’s Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus can help.

Messianic Jews Moishe and his wife begin their volume with a list of myths that frequently prevent Christians from attempting to share their faith.  From confronting fear and insecurity on the part of believers to addressing the level of knowledge possessed by Jews, themselves, the Rosen’s help Christians to understand the practical side of what it means to be Jewish and how they can make a difference in the lives of their Jewish friends.

While many of their tips are practical for any form of evangelism (like the “Witness on the Way” or WOW technique which advocates practical, action-based evangelism), much of the information contained in this volume is culture-specific.  Throughout the volume, you’ll be introduced to the stories of Jews who have embraced Jesus as their Messiah.  Drawing from their experiences, you’ll learn how to avoid accidentally giving (or taking) offense during a dialogue.  You’ll receive an introduction to arguing your faith from the Old Testament (books broadly accepted by the Jewish community) as well as detailed instructions for answering common Jewish objections to Jesus.  Then, see the lessons in action through sample conversations.  If you’re anything like me, by the end, you’ll feel well-prepared to put your best foot forward when it comes to boldly sharing your faith with God’s chosen people!

Published in 1998 by Purple Pomegranate Productions, Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus is an excellent guide for everyone looking to more effectively share their faith cross-culturally with their Jewish friends!  Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus is available in paperback for $13.43 through amazon.com.

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: An Introduction

5 Jul

Say the word “evangelism” and what comes to most of our minds is clever technique and skilled responses to difficult questions – the actual acts of sharing and defending the Gospel.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to allow these particular aspects of evangelism to “drown out” others which are equally important if we are to fulfill the commission of Matthew 28:19-20.  If we are to obediently “go” into the world to share the good news of God’s love, we must first take the time to prepare ourselves in spirit, mind, and body.  Indeed, without careful physical preparation, sharing the Gospel may not even be possible.  Imagine what would have happened had the disciples been too out of shape to walk from town to town with Jesus… or, later, across the world to tell the story of His life, death, and resurrection! Doubtless, the Good News wouldn’t have been spread as rapidly or as effectively as it was.

To prepare ourselves only for the mental aspect of evangelism is foolish.  It’s a bit like limiting our preparation for warfare to weapons classes and only weapons classes.  While the rapid fire of machine guns draws our attention, it isn’t just the ability to pull the trigger that wins the war. There is plenty that is going on behind the scenes to guarantee that the battle can take place to begin with.  There are Generals who strategize, secretaries who write down orders, supply officers who provide equipment, cooks who ensure the troops are eating properly, and medical officers who see to the physical health of future combatants.  Each of these people play an important role in ensuring that the battle takes place in such a way as to give the fighting men the best possible shot at victory.

If we’re to fight our spiritual battle (a battle that Scripture tells us in Ephesians 6:12 is not against flesh and blood) in a way that honors God and gives us the best possible opportunity for glorifying Him, we need to pay attention to everything that happens behind the scenes as well.  And this “behind the scenes” activity extends well beyond spiritual disciplines and into the practical activities of our daily lives – study, work, and play.

That’s why, for the next several weeks, we’ll be taking a look at a few of the more practical aspects of evangelism… and what the Scriptures (and common sense) have to tell us about some of these behind the scenes issues.  We’ll examine the importance of our physical health and the vital role that sleep, exercise, and healthy eating play in keeping us at the top of our game; ready to step in and do God’s work any time and any place.  We’ll discuss difficulties that Christians encounter as they try to develop a healthy lifestyle as well as a few of the dangers of overemphasizing our physical needs.  In the end, we hope to provide you with a good primer for keeping yourself “fighting fit”.

Before we begin, however, we’d like to take an opportunity to hear any questions you already have about these subjects.  While we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to answer every one, we’ll sure give it a try!

Hard Core

27 Jul

Last week, we discussed the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Case” objectors to Christianity.  This week, we’ll be taking a look at the first (and rarest) of those and discussing how to handle the sometimes aggressive situations which can develop when others adamantly oppose our Christian faith.  We’ll examine what provokes such people and consider some ways to maintain a Christian witness without escalating the conflict into an all-out war.

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus says: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

I confess that for years I found this passage to be puzzling.  Given the Scripture’s emphasis on the importance of evangelism, it seemed odd that something so apparently anti-evangelism would have come from Christ’s mouth.  It was not until I was sitting in a restaurant, trying to blend into the booth as a very hard core anti-Christian loudly berated my faith that I began to understand.

The friend with whom I was sharing was very quick to explain that she was well-versed in the case against Christ.  She was convinced that anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence could readily be talked out of Christianity.  Unfortunately, her conversation revealed that she hadn’t actually done her research.  She had spent a great deal of time reading books written in opposition to Jesus, but had never read the Bible or anything else written in favor of the Christian point of view.  Her case was made in complete ignorance of Biblical teaching or traditional Christian theology.  In order to cover for this, she’d change her position a thousand times during a single debate – sometimes being in favor of the very thing which she had adamantly opposed just moments earlier!  It often felt like I was speaking to a moving brick wall with built in cannonade.  Try to expose her error and “Kapow”, you were flat on your back.

It even reached a point where I began to hesitate to pick up her phone calls.  I didn’t want to spend time with her because I knew the only thing that would come of it was further attacks on my faith.  She was not sincerely interested in discussing the case for or against Christianity, but was merely seeking an argument.

It was then that my father sat down with me and had a talk about “casting pearls before swine”.  I had presented the gospel message to my friend and given her a Bible to read as well as access to other information in favor of Christianity.  To continue the pursuit, especially with her expressed disinterest in earnest discussion, was counter-productive and verging on Bible thumping.  It was wasting my time.  And it was wasting hers.

So what was I to do?  In Matthew 17:14-21, a man came to Jesus’ disciples and asked them to cast out the demon which possessed his son.  The disciples were unable to do so and when they asked Jesus why, He replied: “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

While I don’t believe my friend was demon possessed, I’m not ready to discount the activity of demons when it comes to holding someone in such bondage that they are both unwilling and unable to have a rational, controlled conversation with someone who sees the world from a different angle.  (And yes, there are some Christians who are equally as bound.)  This is what you might call hard-core evangelism and the only way to deal with it is through intense, ongoing prayer.  No fancy arguments or acts of love will win over someone like this;  only the supernatural power of God is capable of doing that.  He must be the One to break down the barriers.

Meanwhile, keeping the conversation from exploding into a profane rant requires a bit of finesse.  Most hard-core anti-Christians have trigger points – those things which bring the Christian faith so much to the forefront that they are incapable of restraining themselves from sharing their thoughts.  In such situations, it pays to learn those trigger points and, when possible, do your best to avoid them.  If that news story about abortion or the Gay Pride parade is going to send your friend, family member, or co-worker into a tirade, have the good sense not to mention it.  If you’ve arranged to get off a bit early to attend a Christian conference, they don’t need to know.  Keep your discussion of religious issues to a minimum.  Live your faith and leave God free to work in their heart.

There will be situations in which a trigger point can’t be avoided without our falling into sin.  In such cases, you will likely have a heads-up about what’s coming.  More often than not, your best bet is to sit and listen.  Hard core anti-Christians are used to those who are Christians attempting to answer each of their questions or rebuff their statements.  These activities only fuel the flames of indignation.  By sitting quietly and hearing what those opposed to our faith have to say, we indicate that their opinion does matter to us.  And by not responding we avoid getting embroiled in a conflict that will yield neither good will nor an honest examination of the case for Christ.  Proverbs 23:9 admonishes, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”  Remember that even our Master kept silent at times.  (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:59-64)

Next week, we’ll be taking a look at “Hard Cases” – those who object to Christianity for genuine moral, ethical, theological, or intellectual reasons.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own accounts of “Hard Core” evangelism in the comment box below!

Hard Core or Hard Case?

20 Jul

I looked awkwardly around the restaurant, pleased that it was mostly deserted.  The few customers who were there were staring at our table and I had to admit that I couldn’t blame them: I’d be doing the same if the shoe were on the other foot.  My friend had risen from her seat and in a voice that was far from conversational, was letting me (and everyone within a city block) know exactly how she felt about my Christian faith.

At some point during your evangelism adventures, you’re likely to encounter an adversarial situation.  The person may get angry and start yelling or calling names (as my friend did) or they may simply listen to you and then disdainfully walk away.  They may present you with rapid fire questions and allow you no opportunity to answer any of them or, if they do, may show an unwillingness to actually listen to the answers that you give.  Such people may be hard core anti-Christians (those who are unwilling to examine any evidence in favor of the faith and who are committed to its extermination) or they may simply be hard cases (those whose opposition is rooted in genuine questions and concerns about the faith).  While both may express themselves through similar words and actions, each must be approached differently.  For the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at what it means to be “hard core” or simply a “hard case” and discuss a few methods for defusing conflicts with both.

Before I begin, however, I need to take a moment to differentiate between “hard core” and “hard case”.  It is important to realize that true “hard core” anti-Christians are a rarity, despite their unique ability to attract the attention of the media.  These are people who really mean exactly what they’ve said against the faith and if Jesus Christ, Himself appeared before them, they’d spit in His face.  They may or may not have done their research, but they’re certain that nothing will cause them to ever become a Christian and their aggression towards those who are is truly genuine.  They view Christianity as a threat to a well-ordered and tolerant society or a truly religious society, depending upon which part of the world they hail from.  This doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time to share the Gospel with them, just that the techniques you use will be a little different.  Our God is big enough to convert even the most adamant of His opposition – just look at the Apostle Paul!

The more common of the two, however, is the “hard case”.  Such people often have sincere intellectual or moral questions about Christianity.  Their belief that these questions cannot be answered may lead to very adamant and direct statements such as, “Even if you could prove to me that it’s true, I will never become a Christian”.  What is usually meant by this is that they genuinely don’t believe that you can provide them with any serious evidence to that end that Christianity is true, not that they actually would reject the faith if such evidence were provided.  Many times, these are the true intellectuals among the “opposition” – they try to think things through and they aren’t going to bite unless a substantial case is made in favor of a given position.

It is also likely that their objections run deeper than what they’re expressing.  They may have had some unpleasant encounters with Christians in the past (face it, some who claim the name of Christ are a bit aggressive, themselves) and may feel awkward around those who appear to have proven themselves incapable of living peaceably with anyone who disagrees with their world view.   “Hard cases” may have grown up in a professing Christian home that failed to live up to the Biblical vision or have “done time” in a church seemed to do more harm than good.  It’s also quite possible that their understanding of Christianity is limited to what they’ve seen on PBS and the evening news – two generally reliable sources.  (It is important to note that such people aren’t getting their information from conspiracy websites.  “Hard cases” are not a part of the lunatic fringe and should never be treated as though they are!)

Taking the time to determine whether your friend, co-worker, or family member is simply “spouting off” or is quite sincere in what they’re expressing is the key to determining whether a person is “hard core” or a “hard case”.  It requires a delicate touch, a loving heart, and an immense amount of prayer!  Next week, we’ll begin taking a look at how to handle “hard core” situations and I’ll be sharing the rest of the story with which this article opened, but for now, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

The Two Minute Relationship: Relate

18 May

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the question “What’s in a Name” and dealt with the importance of taking the time to “Ask, Listen, and Observe”.  This week, we’ll be taking the art of the Two Minute Relationship a step further as we consider the importance not only of showing an interest in those whom we meet, but in taking the time to relate to them, ourselves.

I have often speculated that one of the many reasons God does not make us perfect (at least our vision of perfect) upon our acceptance of Christ is that, in many cases, perfect people are entirely unrelatable.  Think about it for a minute – how often do you pick up a book, only to put it down again when you realize that the author (or his characters) have nothing in common with you – no similar experiences, no shared struggles or triumphs.  You may even feel that you were born on separate planets!  Unfortunately, Christians often try so hard to “have a good testimony” that they cover up the commonalities between their lives and the lives of those who surround them and, as a result, they fail to have any testimony at all.  While, ideally, we shouldn’t handle our life experiences the same way we did before we knew God, we still have the same types of experiences that everyone else does.  Want to see someone loosen up and open themselves to a great conversation?  Take the time to show them (not just tell them) that you have some common ground!

One of the best ways to do this is through telling a good, clean joke.  Humor spans every form of human condition and telling a joke is a quick way to dispel the misconception that Christians are all serious all the time – in other words, it’s an ice-breaker.  God didn’t create humans just so we could spend our lives suffering the effects of an unjust universe and not everyone claiming the name of Christ has a persecution complex.  Telling a joke lets the person you’re talking to know that you’re human too and can appreciate the lighter side of things.  And, once they know you’re not some extremist whacko planning to take over society and implant everyone with cow brains, folks will be far more willing to engage in honest discussion about other topics.  In the thirty-seconds it takes to make someone laugh, you’ve formed a relational connection upon which you can build.

There’s more to the art of “relating”, however, than just demonstrating your ability to walk on the bright side of life. The truth is, you’re life probably isn’t a dream, or at least it isn’t 100% of the time.  You probably live in a house with people who don’t always see eye-to-eye or have had a teacher who failed you no matter how hard you tried.  You just barely make enough money to pay the bills and you know what it’s like to have a bad day at work.  Just as humor connects us to our fellow men (and women), so do struggle and sorrow.  Sometimes, our willingness to admit this makes the difference between a continuing dialogue and one that gets cut short.  Remember that the appeal of Christianity is not that it changes our world, but that it changes the perspective from which we view that world!  When people see you reacting with peace and joy in circumstances that only drag them down, they’re going to want what you have!

Finally, take the time to pray.  How does this relate to… well… relating?  Think of it this way – if I know you and the two of us have something in common, and I have an absolutely fantastic friend who also understands that commonality, it’s only natural that I’ll want to introduce you.  And that’s exactly what happens when a Christian offers to pray for an unbeliever.  It may sound crazy, but offering to pray for someone is one of the easiest and most inoffensive ways to share the Gospel.  Most people are amazed that someone they’ve never met before would take an interest in bringing them before God.

For a long while, I would offer to pray for people only after they’d jokingly made some comment about it.  (You hear, “Say one for me while you’re down there, will you?” quite a lot when you’re stocking the bottom shelves of a department store!)

The first time that I made the offer on my own was to a lady whose husband was a soldier in an Army National Guard unit which had been called up to fight in Iraq.  We met at a business meeting and I could tell that she was struggling;  trying to take care of the kids on her own, maintain and fix things around the house, and worrying that life might continue to be this way forever.  It was wearing on her.  Afterwards, I asked if I could pray for her and her husband.  Her response was an amazed and grateful yes.

As you go through your week, take the time to ask yourself whether your words and actions express concern and interest.  Do those around you relate to your circumstances?  And when you relate to theirs, do you let them know?  It doesn’t take much to form a relationship, just a genuine, honest, intentional approach – a willingness to let others see you as you really are, not as you wish you were.

The Two Minute Relationship: Ask, Listen, Observe

11 May

Last week, we discussed the question, “What’s in a Name?” One thing can be certain, if you’re looking to develop a meaningful relational connection, taking note of a person’s name is vital – but your efforts shouldn’t end there! If we are to live lives obedient to Christ’s command to “go into the world and preach the Gospel”, we need to be able to address others on a personal level, not a general one. Asking questions (and listening to and remembering a person’s responses) is one of the easiest ways to acquire the information necessary to do so.

This should be reassuring for those of us who find it nerve-wracking even thinking about starting a conversation with a stranger. If there is one thing people enjoy talking about more than other people, it’s themselves. Most people are eager to share their thoughts and feelings and will jump right in if you show even the slightest hint of interest. So here are some suggestions to get the conversation moving:

Try an icebreaker question. “How are you doing today?” is a great start, but keep in mind that this is one of the most misused questions in the English language. Most people can tell from your tone, body language, and your willingness to make eye-contact whether your interest in their day is passing or genuine, so be prepared. If you start with a question like this and it’s clear that you’re genuine, some people will be dead honest and launch right into an explanation of how their wife just left them and they’re living on SpaghettiO’s. In such cases, you’ve achieved exactly the relational connection that you’re seeking right off the bat. Your duty now is to listen carefully and, when appropriate, ask further questions. Don’t neglect this step and resort to repeatedly nodding your head or saying, “uh-huh”, since these habits are good cues that your eyes are about to glaze over! Express continued interest and then wait to see if God opens a door.

At the same time, recognize that some people may not see your overture as a caring question, but as a formality. If this is the case, try asking questions that require more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Then listen to what the other person has to say. Sometimes their response to “What do you think of all this rain we’ve had lately?” can give you great insights into their character and outlook on life and will lead to an unexpected opportunity to share the Gospel!

Be open and friendly. Sometimes a simple observation like, “It looks like you’re getting ready for a party” can lead a fellow shopper into a long explanation of how they’re cramming for the holiday because their husband’s family phoned yesterday and told them they would be here this afternoon. An understanding nod and sympathetic smile may go a long way towards a deeper conversation – and with all that stuff in her cart, you can bet she’ll welcome someone to chat with while she waits to be rung out!

Try the same technique with other students in study hall or customers in line at the bank. You’ll find that most people are willing to welcome small (or not so small) talk just about anywhere there’s a queue. It gives us a sense of community and makes the time pass more quickly for all involved.

Don’t push or pry. While most people readily open up when asked to share their personal views, some people don’t. If for some reason you try to start a conversation and the other person just isn’t interested in engaging in a dialogue, don’t push or pry. They might just be having a bad day or they may have noticed your cross and be recalling some negative experiences from the past. Your willingness to let them be might open the door for you or someone else to develop the right sort of relationship with that person at a later date. Not all evangelism is the result of the spoken word!

Showing an interest in another person is a great way to establish a quick relationship and can open up a multitude of opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Give it a try and see how it works. Then, take a moment to share your experiences in the comment box below!

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