I have often been asked over the years how to talk to people who don’t know Christ. How do I shift the conversation to spiritual things? Some people seem so hard to talk to!
For some reason, we have made this task much more difficult than it really is. We are so focused on trying to influence people for Christ that we forget to be normal, caring people. We have also become overwhelmed and confused with various evangelism strategies we have heard about over the years. In fact, people feel so intimidated and insecure about talking with others about Christ that they avoid it altogether!
I have been reading Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism by Wayne McDill (my Dad!). Dad suggests that the key to reaching people for Christ is (prepare yourself for a shock) . . . be a real friend.
I was particularly struck by the simplicity of Chapter 4: A Listening Ear. Here are a few highlights:
“If we are to take our responsibility for evangelism seriously we must upgrade these casual acquaintances to a level of real friendship. How do we break the ice? Where do we begin? . . . How do we awaken an awareness of Christ? How do we get inside their thinking with the gospel?”
“I want to give you a miracle key that unlocks another’s life to your influence for Christ. I guarantee it to work if you use it prayerfully and sincerely. . . . The key is simple: your sincere interest in your neighbor’s personal concerns. . . . Everyone needs someone who cares enough to listen to him.”
“Sincere listening says eloquently, ‘I care about you.’ It’s a matter of deliberately switching ‘channels’ to guide the conversation into the area of the other person’s interests. It means forfeiting the right to talk about yourself. It means cultivating listening skills—looking your friend in the eye, paying attention to what he says, asking pertinent questions, nodding, smiling, commenting briefly.”
“Two rather amazing things happen. For one thing, the Christian learns a lot about his friend—his attitudes, priorities, strengths, hurts, and fears. All this helps him know how to pray for him and relate to him. But a second things also happens: the listening Christian becomes very special to the unbeliever. He has found a friend!”
“As the relationship develops, the friends who has sensed your genuine interest will feel much freer to be himself. Only then will he share very personal needs and problems. He will also be more likely to listen to you.”
- “Make mental notes about what you hear. You must think about what you are hearing. . . . You will soon have a file on her in your own mind and in your prayer journal.”
- “Strive for full empathy. Only in this way can [you] begin to make connections between the deepest need of the neighbor and the answer of the gospel.”
I recommend this book to you as a life changing resource for fulfilling Jesus’ call to make disciples. But don’t wait to read it before practicing these simple listening tips. What a natural, authentic way to love others!