What if I told you that God had an amazing adventure prepared for you? What if the adventure was way bigger than simply showing up at church next Sunday and serving in the nursery? What if it would require your total dependance on the Holy Spirit and would be the most rewarding and fruitful experience of your life? Would you be interested?
Jesus called His disciples to head into neighboring villages and share with them that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. He wanted them to start spiritual conversations with people of peace in that village. They were told to take nothing with them; no money, no bag, no extra shoes and definitely no smart phones. Jesus was so purposeful He even directed them to ignore people on the way to get to their destination.
This was a crazy adventure. Take nothing with you but what I've taught you, find a person of peace and share with them what you know of me. Start a Gospel conversation.
I was trained up in Bible college to be the answer man. It wasn't an intentional thing, but my education lead me to be the guy in the church who had all the answers. People would schedule appointments and ask me the tough questions. Early on I had great answers because they were fresh in my mind. But over time, it seemed to not be enough. Something was missing.
I simply asked people to keep showing up to church, keep serving, keep putting money in the plate, and this was the grand adventure of the follower of Jesus. He was going to transform your life if you let me answer all your questions about faith and the Bible, and if you add a "0" to your tithe check. All of this taught people in an unintentional way that they should just bring their friends to me. I had the answers. I would care for the people. I would take care of everything. I was the discipleship bottleneck.
My ego was in a good place. But the Kingdom was not.
The adventure is bigger than all of that. The adventure of relying on the Holy Spirit to show us a person of peace that we can strike up a Gospel conversation with. When I dream about the church, it's full of people who are able to do what Jesus' followers did.
Start a Gospel conversation.
This is what we should be training followers of Christ to do.
So what does the development of a Gospel conversation look like?
Most of us know how to begin a simple conversation with a neighbor or co-worker. Shallow conversations about the weather. This is the moment when you are in line for a cup of coffee and the guy behind you says, "Going to be a beautiful day."
You respond. "Yep."
"Alright, have a good one."
And that's it. You go about your day thinking nothing of it. You go to work, come home and you never see that person again. That's no adventure. That's boring! But it's where it all begins. Having a Gospel conversation starts casual but with intentionality to take it further. Much further.
A conversation with someone you don't know gets personal when you learn their name. A simple way to do this is when someone tells you it's going to be a nice day, you simply follow up with something like, "Agreed. Going to be beautiful. I'm _____________ by the way. I didn't catch your name."
"Oh, I'm Bill."
"Nice to meet you, Bill."
And suddenly the conversation is personal. Knowing someone's name is a big deal. They have let you into their world. Their wife, husband, mom, dad or children call them that. It's not to be taken lightly. You are now one step closer to sharing the Gospel.
Taking it a step further with this new person is as simple as learning their story. The first few times you ask someone their story, it can be a little scary. Unless you're an extrovert. Many extroverts can get to the meaningful part of the conversation pretty quickly without much effort.
Here are a couple of examples of how to get someone's story without turning them into a target or making it awkward for everyone involved.
When your waiter or waitress comes to your table during your dinner, simply ask them how they ended up in this job and what they do for fun. It's not that hard to simply be polite. You might find out pretty quickly that they are in college studying, let's say psychology, and this job is how they are supporting themselves for a while. Ask about their dreams and what they want to do with their psych degree and what lead them to that particular degree. They are a unique person made in the image of God with dreams and passions. They aren't a project for you to try and manage. This is where being sensitive to the Holy Spirit is absolutely crucial.
Retail Store |
You're standing in line at Target waiting to make your purchase. The guy in front of you has a tattoo down his arm.
Sidebar: You don't have to like tattoos. You don't have to have one yourself. You can even believe they are a sin if you want to. But this guy is a unique person made in God's image and God wants nothing more than for this guy to know Jesus. So he's extremely important to you regardless of your personal opinions about tattoos. If you struggle with seeing people that way, read this to help get you into the right mindset for making disciples.
Back to the guy with the tattoo down his arm. Personally, I love when people ask me about my tattoo. It gives me an opportunity to share part of my story. It also helps that my tattoo is Scripture and allows me to immediately start a spiritual conversation with someone. When you ask about the tattoo, it's pretty simple to say something like, "Wow! That's some nice ink. Where did you have that done?"
"Oh, thanks. Over at (insert local tattoo shop name)."
"Cool. Does it hold any particular meaning for you?"
And you're going to get an answer one way or another. You might have used the tattoo to enter into meaningful conversation, but now it's a good idea to backtrack and get a name. "I'm Stan by the way. Great to meet you."
The idea is not that your conversation is scripted, or that I can give you every single word in every situation to say, but that you are learning to follow the Spirit's leading to a person of peace. As the conversation progresses you will be able to discern if they are open or not. If you ask about the tattoo and they tell you to get lost, that might be a sign for you. But if they are open, you never know that a conversation in a line at Target or at a table in a restaurant, won't make its way to spiritual depths.
The key in the spiritual part of the conversation is to hear how God has intersected their story. As you have moved along in the conversation, somewhere along the way they mention Catholic School growing up or Sunday School classes. This is a great cue for you to come back to spiritual things.
"You mentioned going to Sunday School as a child. How is God intersecting your life today?"
They aren't going to be offended you asked. Why? Because they brought it up. Now they might say something like, "I don't believe in God anymore," and could make it very clear they don't want to go further. In that moment you must discern what the Spirit is prompting you to say or do. They might say, "I believe in God, but we aren't really on speaking terms right now." They might say, "I believe in God, but I'm really confused right now."
Whatever response you get, it's a piece of their story. This isn't the place to remind them about how they are hell bound if they don't get to church. This is the part where you listen and connect with their story to discern if they are a person of peace and if they are open to taking the final step with you in the conversation.
When you get to the Gospel part of the conversation, it can be terrifying, especially if you're just getting started. But as stated above, it's also the most exhilarating adventure you'll be on as the Spirit leads you. This is what it's all about. God reconciling humanity back to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ and you are the ambassador. This is where life is for the believer. It can feel an awful lot like deciding to step out of a boat in the middle of the sea during a storm with just you and Jesus.
That in my opinion is being fully alive.
You've walked this far and they share with you how God intersects their story. They haven't shut you down yet so maybe you have discerned that they are open to spiritual things, they could be a person of peace, this is it. A simple way to get into the Gospel conversation is to follow up their story with how God has intersected your story. Maybe it goes something like this,
"God wasn't very real to me through high school. I had a lot of doubts. But then in college I met a guy who helped me discover Jesus in a personal way and my life has never been the same. Have you ever had someone help you to discover that for yourself?"
You don't quote these lines, you tell your story. Share what God is doing in your life. How He has intersected your world. Share boldly and honestly. Then bring it back to a question that leaves the door open for them.
"Oh, man. I have some good news for you."
"If you're open, I'd be happy to walk with you for a season."
"Would you like to know more?"
"Would you be open to me sharing more about this with you when your shift is over?"
A question like that puts it back in the person's court. If they are open, fantastic. That's excellent news. Why? Because now you set up a time to get together with them for coffee or lunch and you have a launch point to share the Gospel. Where it goes from there is the entire discipleship journey and I will be writing more on that soon.
If they aren't open right away, this is where you let them simmer. Go back to that restaurant or store intentionally hoping to bump into them again in the future. Pray for them that God does something big in their life and that they want to continue the conversation.
One of the biggest things you can keep in mind at this point is that you are not responsible for the person's response. You are responsible to be available to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to open the door with a person of peace. You will find rocky soil. You will find soil that grows thorns and chokes out the Gospel. Some people will simply not be receptive. That's okay. We already know that's going to happen. Keep pursuing the Spirit's promptings to get you to a person of peace.
And when you do, walk confidently toward a Gospel conversation being bold in the process about what God has done in your life. There's nothing more exciting than when someone you share with says, "Yes, I'd love to know more. Let's get together." That's the kind of adventure I want as a disciple of Jesus. Every day allowing the Spirit to lead the way to people who are open to spiritual things and thirsty for the Gospel. And I want to invite you to join me on that same adventure.
What examples or questions would you add to the list?