When you think about the word evangelism, what comes to mind? Is it the guy holding a sign on the street corner? The evangelist at the stadium crusade? Or how about a Christian walking an unbeliever through the 4 spiritual laws or Roman’s road? Typically, when we think of evangelism we think about the Gospel being communicated in one way or another. But what if I told you that there was much more to evangelism than this? There are 4 simple words that I’m going to share with you that will change the way you share your faith forever. These 4 words will guide your conversation and automatically show the person a posture of care and love for them. These 4 words will even help you become more in tuned with how the Spirit of God is guiding the conversation. I’m putting a lot of weight in these 4 words. So, do you want to know what the 4 words are? Great, keep reading!
To illustrate, first I’d like to share a quick story: Once there was a really crafty car salesman that saw a businessman walking onto his car lot. The salesman spots him from across the parking lot and makes his way over to greet the well-dressed customer. “Glad you’re here! You’ve come to the right spot!” “Thanks, I had a friend that bought a car from you guys so I thought I’d stop by as well, but I only have about 10 mins as I’m on a short lunch break,” replied the businessman. “Not a problem, I have the perfect deal for you today; it’s the deal of the century, in fact!” The salesman noted as the businessman began to gleam in excitement to hear what kind of deal this was. “Today only, I’m offering this cherry red convertible 2-seater at a 30% mark down! Imagine yourself driving up the coast with the top down while you rip through the traffic! This puppy is the fastest car on the lot, and you’ll be the talk of the town once your friends see you in it. Go ahead, grab a seat in it!” After a few minutes of sitting and playing with the high tech gadgets, the salesman noticed how his 10 minutes with this great prospect had passed, so he asked, “So, what do you think? Do you want to take this beauty home with you today?” The businessman responded, “I’d love to, but I actually came here to look for a minivan for my wife and three kids. This convertible isn’t big enough for my entire family…but thanks for offering, it sure is pretty!” The businessman then hurried off back to work leaving the salesman standing in his tracks wondering what just happened.
Have you ever been in this salesman’s shoes? You think you have someone pegged by their appearance or their viewpoint; you are certain they are from this background or believe this, yet you eventually find out that you couldn’t be further off? The reason the salesman was so off base was because he didn’t take time to ask the businessman his context. He didn’t stop to ask the businessman about his needs and desires. He just went straight into “sales mode.” I think when we think about evangelism we can sometimes take a similar approach as the salesman as if we are hoping to “close the deal.” The reality is that Jesus is the one whom draws people in, and it’s not our role to sell people on his Kingdom. Our role is to simply be faithful in delivering the message. (I’m not suggesting that all evangelists are like salesman…Just using as an illustration)
Understanding context is so important. As you deliver a message of hope in Christ, it can be the difference in how you deliver a message that meets the person’s needs(or not). Because he is God, Jesus knew the context of people’s stories before speaking to them. Many times he didn’t need to ask them about their story because he already knew. We on the other hand, do not know the context or story each person is bringing to the discussion. We actually have to ask questions to find these things out.
Identifying context and someone’s story can be extracted by asking good questions, but we can only begin truly understanding someone’s context or story by listening. James says that we should be quick to listen, and slow to speak. I think he was on to something! Interestingly, listening now becomes a crucial piece of evangelism and us communicating a message that the listener needs to hear. Does this mean we change up the Gospel and speak a different message? No, of course not! It does mean, however, that we attentively listen to the person’s story and specific felt needs so that we can share a Gospel message that is directed specifically to whatever the person is going through. We rely on God’s Spirit as we listen, and we ask Him to guide our response.
So how do we do it, and finally, what are the 4 words already?!
As you think about how to approach that conversation with your neighbor, coworker, or friend, the words “Tell me your story” can be extremely powerful. First, it postures us in a place of listening instead of talking. As we’ve already noted, listening can help us understand the context of a person’s story. “Tell me your story” takes a position of care and concern over the person. It shows them that you have their interests in mind and that you’ve taken the time to think about them as a person.”Tell me your story” has the ability to revolutionize the way we, the Church, begin engaging with the lost world all around us.
This year, our theme at Fiducia are these 4 words. We believe these words can help each of us as we share the Kingdom of God with those that don’t know Christ.
So will you give it a try? The next time you are in conversation with a neighbor or coworker, will you simply say, “Tell me your story” and stop and listen? It could have huge implications on how God uses the conversation for his glory. Leave us a comment below how it went!