More than Words: The 80/20 Rule of Evangelism

by May 17, 2022Christian Living, Evangelism Training

The Gospel changes everything. It brings dead things to life and brings hope to the hopeless. The Gospel changes everything.

It brings dead things to life and brings hope to the hopeless. And in wanting others to share in the unparalleled joys and freedoms promised in Christ, we often put too much pressure on ourselves to say all the right things, all at one time. However, it isn’t just about how much you say, but how attentively you listen that paves the way to communicate the gospel message in a profound manner. It is God’s careful love and attention, expressed through you, that draws people closer to His heart. 

Put your focus on listening.

Make your focus on listening rather than informing especially in your initial conversations. Consider the 80/20 rule of evangelism. Dedicate 80% of your time to active and prayerful listening, and let the remaining 20% be when you speak. As you speak, respond graciously, point people to Christ as you share how He has worked in your life, and lead with questions that give insight into their story of how they came to believe what they believe. Active listening conveys a sincere message, and it shows how much you care which in turn reflects God’s nature. Here are some tips to consider: 

  • Show them that they have your full attention. It communicates that you value them. Remember they, too, are made in the image of God and esteemed by their Creator.
  • Be prepared to divert from your agenda. There will be times when you will have to redirect your conversation from something you had planned to say to something more pressing in their life at the moment. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as it is still an opportunity to minister.
  • Set aside preconceptions: Be willing to hear their heart and avoid overgeneralizing because no story is like the other.
  • Thank them for their vulnerability if they share something personal. You could be the answer to their prayers because it might be the first time they are opening up to another person. It shows their trust in you.
  • Listen for key points as they share. In this way, you can minister to them personally as you address and speak to specific areas of their life.
  • Follow up with intentional questions. Listening helps you lead conversations with good questions.
  • Ask authentic, well-placed questions. Whenever you are unclear about what they might have said, don’t assume, ask for clarification, or say, “tell me more”.

Consider the example of Christ. 

Jesus met two disheartened men on their 7-mile journey to Emmaus. Fully aware of the fact that they were mourning His death, Jesus asked them what they were talking about but refrained from revealing Himself to them until much later. At any point of the journey, Jesus could have opened their eyes to recognize that He was the One they were speaking about, but instead He cared for their concerns, pointed them back to scripture, gave them time to process, and fellowshipped with them over a meal. It was only after He broke bread and left that they realized how their hearts were “burning within [them]” (Luke 24:32). Their hearts were responding to Christ even before they were fully aware of His presence among them. What a remarkably patient way to reveal the earth-shattering news of His resurrection!  

Leading people to Christ can take time. You might feel like progress is not being made because you haven’t had a chance to say everything you feel like you need to say. Sometimes it takes walking “7 miles” with people as you listen to them open up to you, and letting the Lord slowly reveal Himself through your intentional care and attention.  

Be an image bearer. 

One of the most impactful things you can do, especially while having a gospel centered conversation with someone who does not know Christ, is to bear His image well. Let them experience the character of God through you. There are numerous references to God’s attentive nature in Scripture. Psalm 116:2 says, “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Our Heavenly Father inclines His ear to us and listens graciously when we take our doubts and questions to him, mercifully as we repent, and patiently even when we don’t know what to say. Remember how kind the Lord has been to you and let that be your example as you lead people to Christ.  Give people a taste of what living as a redeemed child of God looks like because, ultimately, that is exactly what we are inviting them to, a personal and eternal relationship with a loving Father, who desires to be in fellowship with his children.