5 Tips for Managing Gospel Conversations
I grew up near the Ocoee River in Tennessee which is known for its whitewater rapids. Having been down that river several times, here is what I have learned:
- You cannot control the river. You simply navigate it.
- You will experience obstacles (rocks, hydraulic currents, etc.).
- No two trips are the same. Each trip is a new experience.
Navigating gospel conversations is a bit like whitewater rafting. First, we have no control over how the person will respond – all we can do is navigate the conversation. Second, we should anticipate obstacles (objections, hard questions, etc.). Not anticipating these can catch us off guard and impede our efforts. Finally, no two gospel conversations are alike. Just as people are different, their responses to what we say will be different.
The Apostle Paul’s experience in Athens demonstrates this. Notice the various responses to Paul’s message:
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. Acts 17:32-34
Paul gave one message but was met with multiple responses.
Even though we cannot predict how our conversations will go, we can employ wisdom as to how we approach them. Several tips will help
Five suggestions to help you best navigate conversations that lead to the gospel
- Accompany your conversations with others with conversations with God. Prayer is essential because we are dependent on the Lord during gospel conversations. He is the one who knows the heart of the other person. He is the One who can open their eyes to their need for Christ. Knowing He is ultimately in control, we need to pray before, during, and after our conversations and be sensitive to His leading.
- Strive to listen and lead. Let your gospel conversation be just that, a conversation. Be sure to listen to the person as you seek to lead them to Christ. Do not talk over the person or ignore their words just to get through your presentation. Understanding on their part is a vital part of the process.
- Be patient. We like to see instant results, “If I do this, I will get that.” Gospel conversations do not always lead to immediate or obvious results. They can take time and may require multiple conversations. Do not try to force the issue.
- Do not assume. Do not assume the reasons behind why someone believes something. Ask, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or “Why do you believe that?” Learning the rationale behind someone’s belief will help you know how to best respond and will help them as well. They may have never seriously considered why they believe what they believe.
- Show respect. Appreciate people’s right to have their own opinion. Be very careful that you do not talk down to people or use a trite phrase like, “I’ll pray for you” when they do not agree with what you are saying. Doing so may do more harm than good.
- Create a bridge to the next conversation. Do not feel like you must get through your gospel presentation in one sitting. It may require multiple conversations. Try ending the conversation with, “Would you be open to me sharing more about this with you later?” or “Would love to discuss this with you in greater detail next week? Would that be ok?”
If anyone were to ask me whether they should go whitewater rafting I would wholeheartedly say “Go for it!” The adventure is worth the effort. And I wholeheartedly say the same regarding gospel conversations. No, you cannot control the outcome. Yes, there will be obstacles. And yes, each conversation be different. However, the adventure is worth the effort as you partner with God in evangelism. God will be glorified, people will hear the good news, and you will grow in your faith and relationship with God.
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