How willing do you think people are these days to talk about spiritual things? In particular, I’m thinking about the people you know who would not call themselves Christians. Some people genuinely do not want to talk about this stuff, but I’m amazed by the number of people who really do.
My friend Charmaine Lillestrand works with the City Ministry of Cru. She helped lead in-depth research into how and when people want to talk about spiritual things.
Charmaine says, “Large numbers of people are ready and willing to have meaningful spiritual conversations about God. But these people need to be approached with sensitivity and empathy. We can do that if we take the time to think about what they need from us.”
What makes people ready for a gospel conversation?
Charmaine’s research suggests that when certain conditions are in place, a spiritually curious person is more open to having an honest conversation with a Christian about what he or she believes.
These five behaviors could help someone in your life feel safe enough to have that conversation with you.
1. Be fully present
Instead of looking to get your words out, pray as you listen for insight into the other person’s life. Follow the conversation rather than trying to drive or control it too strongly.
2. Find common ground
You probably have some things in common, so have fun discovering what you both like doing. Build a relational bridge that overcomes any spiritual distance between the two of you.
3. Walk in the other person’s shoes
Set out to understand the other person, including the hurts and joys he or she has experienced. How can God use you in that person’s story?
4. Talk like a real person
Try to imagine which words are foreign to someone you want to speak to. Even terms that feel core to explaining the gospel — like sin and judgment — might be foreign or carry a different meaning for the other person.
People feel stupid when they struggle to understand the words we use when talking about God. This is the last thing we want.
5. Create a better story
Most people understand there is a decision to be made surrounding Jesus. What they have yet to discover is whether following him is worth it. They need to hear why you believe it is.
So tell them what difference Jesus makes in your life today.
Far more people than we might think are ready and willing to talk with us about spiritual things if we can approach them in this way. This is not what many people expect from us as Christians, though. So we need to ask God to help us communicate in this way.