Getting to the gospel conversation
In our recent Christianity Explored Ministries user survey, when asked “What are the main barriers to using the Christianity Explored course?”, 44% of respondents reported that they found it difficult to invite people. Many of us are comfortable answering questions about our faith and telling people about Jesus, but struggle to know how to bring up the subject in a natural way. We feel ill-equipped to move our conversation from shared interests and concern about our friends’ lives to the subject of salvation.
The Christian author and academic Randy Newman has focused on this area of “pre-evangelism”, with a desire to help Christians successfully instigate and navigate honest conversations about faith. He recently published a series of talks — Evangelism for the 21st Century — which encourage and equip Christians to share the good news about Jesus. Here we look at the key takeaways from the videos, and what you can expect to learn as you watch them.
Randy Newman on pre-evangelism
Evangelism is the verbal proclamation of the gospel message: that God sent his son to die for sinners so that those who trust in Him can be saved. However, it isn’t always easy to start conversations about this important subject, and that is where pre-evangelism comes in. It paves the way for gospel conversations and is a crucial component of the task before Christians today.
Here are six strategies for Christians who are seeking to break down barriers and enter into deep gospel conversations.
1. Level the playing field
It’s not unusual for non-believers to feel that they are smarter or morally superior to Christians due to cultural assumptions about faith and science, and the common belief that Christians are narrow minded.
In order to have a valuable gospel conversation, the playing field needs to be levelled — not in a way that belittles the people we’re talking to, but to point out that these assumptions are untrue. They may say, ‘‘I believe in science but you just have faith,” not considering that science also has elements of faith inherent in it. There are things that we believe about science that we can’t prove scientifically.
Christians certainly shouldn’t be anti-science. Science is a great gift to mankind – nothing less than the discovery of the way God made His world — but we can honour science while demonstrating that faith is not unique to Christians.
2. Acknowledge the elephant in the room
Many people find the subjects of faith and religion awkward and uncomfortable to talk about. One way to break down this barrier is to acknowledge it and say, “I get that this is kind of unusual, in fact sometimes I find it uncomfortable talking about this as well!”
You may even want to have a conversation about the conversation: “I wonder if you’d be okay with talking about something that people aren’t always comfortable with talking about.”
“Pre-evangelism paves the way for gospel conversations and is a crucial component of the task before Christians today.”
3. Turn down the thermostat
Humans are passionate. Discussions sometimes get heated, especially when they are around subjects close to people’s hearts — that is true for both believers and non-believers. Calmly acknowledging that the conversation has gone in a direction that neither participants want can diffuse the situation. If the person you’re speaking to finds your perspective hard to digest, try suggesting that you come back at another time to talk. . If you’re the one struggling with the other person’s point of view, try to apologise, and ask if you can start over. This can be an amazingly powerful evangelistic strategy.
4. Step on the clutch before shifting gears
When driving, if you try to change the gears without stepping on the clutch you’re going to do a lot of damage to the car. You have to do something first in order to make progress with something else.
Pre-evangelism might look like talking about something first before you go anywhere near the required topic. This is especially important with conversations that are emotionally charged like ones around the subject of sexuality and morality. A conversation about those issues sometimes needs a pre conversation before even venturing into that subject. Take a step back and look at the subject through a wider lens before stepping into the more personal aspects that are likely to arise.
5. Take off the mask
There were times that Jesus chose not to answer people’s questions. He knew that there was more on their heart than was in their question (Mark 11:27-33).
When we get asked questions, it might be appropriate to gently enquire if that is the real question or is there something else that is really bothering them. We need to help people feel comfortable enough to take off their mask so that true, honest conversations can be had.
6. Face the same direction
Change the dynamic of the conversation so that instead of facing each other, you turn and face something together. Find the common ground, look at God’s common grace, his general revelation, perhaps watch a beautiful sunset and ask them the question, “doesn’t that make you wonder if there’s something more?”
The best application of this strategy is where two people can look at the Bible together, inviting people to open up the Scriptures with us and discovering God’s Word together. You can do this by using Christianity Explored as a 1-1 or in a group setting, or other resources such as The Word One to One.
‘May it be that we can meet people on this spectrum, wherever they are and encourage them to move, however gradually and incrementally that God may work, so that more and more people can declare Jesus as their Lord and saviour.’ Randy Newman
If you want to hear more about Randy Newman’s approach to pre-evangelism, you can watch the full video below:
Randy Newman is senior fellow for apologetics and evangelism with The CS Lewis Institute. He is the author of Mere Evangelism: 10 Insights from CS Lewis to Help You Share Your Faith, the topic for the Evangelism Conference 2022.
Evangelism Conference 2022
At this year’s conference US apologist and evangelist Randy Newman (author of Questioning Evangelism, Bringing the Gospel Home and recently Mere Evangelism) will lead our thinking about conversational and relational evangelism that works for the 21st Century. What insights can we gain from Lewis to gain traction in today’s culture? And how do we equip ourselves and our churches for effective outreach and evangelism today?
He will be speaking alongside Glen Scrivener and Rico Tice.
Northern Ireland | Saturday 1st October
London | Tuesday 4th October
Edinburgh | Thursday 6th October
Manchester | Saturday 8th October