This is a continuation of my series to help Christians to witness to their neighbour.
Lack of confidence
Young Christians usually want to witness to their friends about their faith in Christ but they lack confidence. They need guidance but they do not have many examples to follow. It is important for those who lack confidence to realise that it is not necessary to be personal in beginning a conversation, neither about themselves nor about others. I will deal with personal religion later. Here, I will begin with general discussion and particularly about beginning useful conversation.
Teaching or talking
Some Christians think that they do not know enough to teach others, and they worry that they will get out of their depth if the conversation goes too far. They are afraid that they will not know how to follow through. This is a mistake. It is the same mistake that prevents people in general from interacting with one another at a social level. You don’t need to teach, just to talk. The devil makes a mountain out of a molehill to stop you beginning anything good. You need to trick the devil and tell him you have no intention of climbing his high mountain and that you will do things your own way, one step at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time. So, we proceed one step at a time. The longest journey begins with one step. All the top athletes develop their skills by breaking down the skill into small steps and practicing these until they can put them together. Similarly with musicians practicing their musical instruments.
First, let us deal with the concern that you will not know how to follow through. Once you learn how to deal with this fear, Christian conversation will be much easier and more interesting for you.
The secret of the gentle art of conversation is to be genuinely interested in the other person. This means showing an interest in what interests them.
However, let us deal with the difficult conversations and difficult people first. You may discover that the other person is not interested in you and your opinions. This is indeed a rebuff, but it will simply teach you humility and more prayerfulness on behalf of such people manifesting such an arrogant spirit. Now your prayers have a practical purpose and a cutting edge to them. You will learn like Nehemiah to pray for guidance and His help in the very middle of your conversation Neh 2:4.
Such rebuffs demonstrate the importance of establishing rapport first. Why should someone believe what you say if they know nothing about you?
This is why conversation should begin with a genuine interest in the other person’s interests. In doing so, you may learn many interesting things, especially if you ask intelligent, open questions about whatever interests them.
With practice, it will be relatively easy to see opportunities to introduce a more important topic.
I am writing a book on personal evangelism and I have called this topic “entry points”, which is an interesting topic using lateral thinking and Christian prudence.
However, if your introduction of a useful Christian topic encounters a rebuff, you should simply return to the topic in hand and show your Christian interest in them and their interests. Although they may show no interest in your Christian interests, you should not repay this in kind, but show our Christian kindness by accommodating their wishes. In the process you can continue to build up a fund of information about things that you did not know before. This will develop your own conversation to the benefit of those who do want to hear it on another occasion.
However, if you should encounter continued resistance, the Lord releases you from your Christian obligation towards such people. You are permitted to move on to others, and Jesus even teaches His disciples to do so. The servant of the Lord must not strive. Sometimes you might even encounter swinish behaviour and the Saviour tells you not to cast your pearls of Gospel wisdom before swine.
However, such arrogant resistance is rare. You can put it down to experience – the experience of witnessing the arrogance of intellectual pride, the resistance of the ungodly to changing for the better, the reluctance to discuss the Christian Gospel.
Do not take it personally. God encouraged His prophet Samuel with the thought: “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me.” These people reject your Christian concern because they reject God.
It is important to deal with this subject first because early rebuffs often put off Christians from witnessing. Many are discouraged and persuaded that “outreach is not for me”. Not at all. This is the devil trying to chase you from the field, and he has succeeded too often.
It is possible that you can finish off with a suitably chosen one-liner for those who tell you that they do not want to hear this topic again. Remember that he Apostles experienced this also. We read in act6 of several repulses. Stephen and Paul each experienced this. When they resisted Stephen they stoned him. When they resisted Paul he sent then away with a final word. However, they were preachers and we are dealing here with ordinary Christian conversation.
Any one-liner will not do. After the conversation is finished, you will think of something you should have said. Store this in your memory for another occasion. One-liners take practice, and practice will make perfect. You can and should practice in much easier circumstances, such as with complete strangers that you meet in social situations. If the conversation goes wrong, you can withdraw with few of any repercussions to your personal relationships.
Give attention and listen to them instead of thinking of your next point, because your next point should follow naturally from what they say. Otherwise it is not conversation but simply dictating your agenda to them, and why should they bother with such a conversation?
In this manner every conversion can be mutually profitable. You should learn something from your conversations by asking genuinely open questions about what you would like to know.
It is useful to have a number of one-liners ready for use.
Your follow-through can use this one liner.
‘Let your conversation be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer everyone’ Col 4:6.
Many people do not read books, so publicists produced pamphlets. With the dumbing down of modern society, even pamphlets became too much effort to read and are often discarded without being read. So, to catch attention, flyers were produced and, with the passage of time, their message changed from paragraphs of prose to bullet-pointed lists. Then advertisers discovered that slogans were more likely to be noticed than flyers, and now even political debate has been reduced to one-liners as this is what most of the public will take in. “Take back control” and “Make America great again” have had significant consequences in the UK and USA. Then the losers complain about the level or absence of debate.
The purpose of one-liners is to convey an important truth to begin debate, not to end it. They need to be carefully chosen as people often close down debate. People who think that they are open-minded are in fact often closed-minded. It is not without reason that Allan Bloom entitled his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind.
Even the UK Government is encouraging people to speak to others as a means of dealing with loneliness and mental health issues.
It is possible that you are the first person to speak to this person today.
It is possible that you have broken in to a downward cycle of depressive and suicidal thoughts. Such is the depressive worldview in our secular society that there are those with nihilistic thoughts and contemplating suicide. Having little hope of heaven and not knowing about a lost eternity in hell, such people are taken up with their own thoughts. However, your cheerful conversation may break in and disrupt this deadly thinking.
As the Government encourages you to talk – speak up and let them know something hopeful.