She was only thirteen when she was forced to leave her home country of Bhutan.…
HOW DO I START A GOSPEL CONVERSATION?
As that great preacher Shia Labeauff once said,
JUST DO IT!
I’m serious! How do we start a conversation with a stranger about the number one off-the-table-topic? We just do it. By the power of the Spirit of the Living God, we open our mouths in obedience to the Scripture and faithfully initiate a conversation that could save someone’s life for all of eternity.
What’s turned into a sort-of inside joke between some friends I went on a mission trip with might be a helpful tool. We were wrapping up our time sharing the gospel at a university out in Utah. One student had walked past us and was almost out of eyesight. A friend mentioned he had walked too far to talk with, but to me it was simple: just catch up to him, Philip-and-the-Ethiopian-Eunuch style, and start talking! I had the benefit of knowing it could work because I had done it several times, so I ended up chasing after him, and we had a great convo. I came back and my buddy said something to the effect of “Man, how do you do that? It’s so awkward! What do you say to someone you’re coming up behind to start that conversation?”
What follows are the very contents of my revolutionary and patent-pending, gospel-conversation-starting one-liner. I apologize if you do not possess the super-Saiyan-level synapse power necessary to grasp the genius of thousands of years of philological research and cognitive development. I will do my best to now unlock what was once bound in the ivory tower’s highest turret, but the odds of success are approximately 3,720 to 1 (and Han Solo doesn’t exist in this universe) but here it is: here is the genius; here lies the secret; here’s what I said to that student:
Forgive me for wasting your time with these shenanigans, but hopefully it highlights this one simple truth: starting a gospel conversation can be as simple as saying hi.
What if the answer to the question “What do I say?” was as simple as saying “What’s up?” (Important note: please do not co-opt slang or colloquial expressions that are foreign to your own natural speaking style. The point is the principle, not a word-for-word “say X and Y will happen.”)
Typically, people don’t walk up to strangers and ask if they can talk about heaven and hell. So how do you start what has the potential to be awkward and contentious? How do you start a really important, life-saving convo with someone who could care less?
Say “hi”. Look them right in the eye, smile, and with the confidence of an ambassador of Jesus Christ say “Hey how’s it going?” Or whatever floats your verbal boat.
Saying hi is about the most natural thing you can do to break the social norm of not talking to unknowns walking by you, and it has the benefit of being a warm thing to say in a world full of cold indecency and divisive verbal shoot-outs on social media. If you say it with confidence, they’ll probably at least acknowledge you, and then you have an opportunity to explain what you’re doing, which leads to an opportunity to ask questions, pose your own, and share the soul-crushing news of sin, and the life-infusing, joy-producing, faith-meriting news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Ok, so I said hi but now we’re standing here and I have no idea what to say next.”
More on that in the next blog, but suffice it to say it’s pretty difficult to tell someone about the gospel if you don’t have a reason to talk to them. Saying hi gets your foot in the door. Saying hi is the setup; it’s an alley oop you throw yourself so you can slam-dunk with a gospel presentation.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, four Christian students rode out a thunder storm under a haystack. They did not know their stormy confinement would be a catalyst to launch the modern missions movement, nor could Samuel Mills know we’d be here today, talking about him now, when he said, “We can do this if we will!”
Amen. We can do this if we will.
Should we study, watch Ray Comfort, take a class, etc., to increase our evangelism effectiveness? Absolutely with an emphasis of a 100% yes! But can you walk out your door right now and share the gospel with your neighbor? Because the Spirit dwells in us, we can if we will. We can stuff our fears of awkwardness and cowardice and be faithful, by the power of God’s Spirit.
Who knows: your neighbor might be one “hey man” away from the God-man.