The world is getting smaller. This is obviously not a statement regarding physical size but about technology. We can easily connect with people on the other side of the world through a phone in our pocket. We can reach distinct people groups through a post online or influence specific age groups through the social media or technology we select. We talk with people from every tribe and nation on an endless array of topics and issues. Considering this diversity, it helps to keep some simple communication guidelines at work for productive conversations.
Listening goes a long way – Everyone coming to us has a story and most desperately want to share it. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Most people like to hear themselves and letting them lay out their story, within reason, will often help you determine how to best manage the conversation and earn the right to share the Gospel. Listen for the clues as to what their relationship with Jesus is really like.
Keep things Simple – Don’t give them more than they need. We can’t solve every life issue the person has. Stick with the Gospel and how much Jesus loves them. For many that are coming back to their faith, or those that have been running from God, the idea of church is very scary. Give them the main points and allow time, discipleship, and other believers to augment their faith. None of us as new believers could understand all the finer points of theology, exact Bible references, the cultural background of the text, or the Hebrew/Greek meaning of each term during our first exposure to Jesus or His word. Be patient and know that simply sharing the Gospel is success!
Emphasize Concepts over Words – Don’t memorize an outline, but rather learn the concepts. Words change depending on whom you’re talking to. If you’re explaining the dangers of a hot stove or open water to a two-year old, you’ll use different words, tones, and illustrations than you would if you’re talking to an adult. Get the concepts down, the general direction of what you want to say, and the words will come as the Holy Spirit works through you. Know the concepts of Sin, Substitution, and Faith and be able to explain them using different words.
Mirror Conversation Styles – Don’t respond with long and overdrawn answers. This is especially true in digital conversations online or via text. Three of every four seekers are “talking” with us through a mobile device. Screens are small and we need to communicate in shorter bites to make sure the seeker is following along. You may want to insert simple statements such as “does that make sense” or “are you with me”. Simplify your answers to ensure anyone can understand the message and then meet them at the level they display.
Don’t assume those who claim to be “Christian” are so – We do not recommend you ask anyone if they are Christian or saved. Many will respond “yes” without knowing what is involved or having a true relationship with Jesus. When you probe about the seeker’s relationship with Jesus, you will often get a response related to going to church or some other activity or status that they mistakenly believe bestows Christianity. Gently ask “where Jesus is in your life and how he has transformed you”. Sometimes simply asking about where Jesus fits in their life can help show what their beliefs truly are.
Don’t judge or argue – We never debate or argue someone into believing. Some visitors will come looking to draw you into such a conversation. If you sense it going that direction, simply ask if the person is seeking Jesus or looking for something else from the conversation. Faith is ultimately directed by the Holy Spirit, and we can only pray that we are fortunate enough to play a role in that process. Show love so no matter how the conversations end, it will leave them appreciating how Christians live and what the Gospel preaches.
People come with different objectives and communication styles. Meeting them on the most basic level often earns us the right to share Jesus with love and grace.