Have you ever met one of those door-to-door salesmen who immediately start talking about his product and his company and why you should buy from him? How inclined were you to “hear him out,” let alone buy anything?
Have you ever approached someone you thought you trusted and confided in them with some deep struggles and been met with a rather cold statement like, “just believe this” or “just fix this part of your life and everything will be alright.” How did that make you feel?
All too often, when people share about Jesus, I believe they could care less about what the person is actually going through before they start sharing the hope they have in Christ.
Looking back on my life, I’m burdened with the reality of many times when the Lord gave me an opportunity to share about Him, but I tainted my message by my uncaring delivery of it. But ask yourself this, “Is this person a project for me to apply some Gospel truth to or is he a living, breathing person with a real story, real hurts and disappointments, real dreams and ambitions and a real purpose that God has set in motion from before he took his first breath?”
I’m afraid that when we overlook the person we’re talking to, our lack of care for them, their story and their experiences discredits us and the message we bring by the way we’re presenting it . I’m not talking about not preaching or teaching the Gospel to large groups of people. I’m talking about in one-on-one conversations, when we have a real and tangible opportunity to show someone the warmth and love of Christ. There is a careful art in being quick to listen and slow to speak, especially with someone who might not even know you or your intentions.
How do we start conversations with acquaintances at work, neighbors taking the trash out, or even a stranger on the bus or in a community setting? How do we have conversations with non-yet believers about our faith or the Gospel that demonstrate real care about them as a person.
Here are a few practical tips for how to share the Gospel while demonstrating you care about the person:
Start with a question about the person or their experience
CONTEXT is critical! If you can get a little better understanding of what kind of experience this person has had with religion, church, God or Christians before you share about those topics, it will go a long way in communicating you actually care about them. You might ask something like, “What’s been your experience with church/Jesus over the years? Was your family involved in any of that when you were growing up?”
Ask for some clarifying details
The more you learn about their context, the way it made them feel, what it was like to be in that situation or family or church or environment, the better you’ll be able to empathize with them and what that is like. It’s like being blindly dropped into a town without having any bearings on your coordinates. Get your coordinates!
Empathize/Sympathize before continuing
After they’ve shared their story/experience and before you launch into your experience, take a second to acknowledge what you just heard. How many times do we, in our culture, just rush into what we want to say before truly acknowledging what was just shared? Are you running past powerful moments of really hearing and understanding someone?
Share briefly about your experience
Sometimes the best way to connect with someone is to share a story about your own life. Try to keep this short and to the point. It might help to, while you’re listening to the person, ask the Spirit “What’s one thing they might need to hear about Jesus or from the Gospel in this conversation?” People aren’t going to stay with you for long if you jump up on a one-sided soap box about the topic. This is why it’s important to give a relatively short and relevant explanation of the Gospel – noting how it answered their question/concern or simply how it’s helped you.
Tie it back to the person
Once you’ve shared, find a way to engage him with what you just shared so it’s not all about you sharing what you want to say. It’s about them hearing the Gospel and being engaged with it, encouraged by or even challenged by it. This might be the most important part of helping the person feel like you heard him , because it shows that you really do want to connect with him , not just talk at him. It might sound like, “I’m not sure if that answers your question, or not. Based on what you told me, I’ve found that the Gospel shows me that ____ or helps me to ____.” Or it might sound like, “I’m not sure if you’ve heard Jesus’ message explained like that before, but it seems like based on your experience, it might be a new way to look at it. Have you heard the Gospel described like that before?”
Next time you get the chance to share about Jesus with a co-worker, despite the temptation to get overly focused on what you’re going to say, try and ask God for His love for this person to well-up inside you so you can actually care about him while you share with him.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” – John 15:12
May we spend more and more of our energy in the work of love, trusting that the Gospel will come through our genuine care, as if God Himself was speaking to him.
Patrick Lowndes is an adopted son of God, husband and father of two daughters. As an evangelist and entrepreneur at heart, Patrick is the Founder and Lead Mobilizer of Walking Proclamation, a missional t-shirt company that seeks to provoke curiosity that starts conversations about God and His Gospel. Patrick is a part of a church plant in south Seattle and seeks to equip the Kingdom through entrepreneurial and evangelistic gifts.