One thing I wish I’d known before I started sharing my faith is to listen more to those who I am trying to evangelise.
When I was 18 years old, I joined a youth ministry team that travelled across South Africa using creative arts and sport to reach out to people of all ages and as part of our training we were equipped with a few different methods of evangelism. Armed with these various methods, based on key biblical texts that highlight God’s redemptive plan for all mankind, I took to the streets to share the good news with everyone.
Those early days of evangelism instilled in me a passion to reach people, engage with them and share the story of God and of how he wants us to become characters in his story.
As I look back over almost thirty years of sharing the good news of Christ’s grace and mercy for a world in desperate need of his love, there is an overwhelm ming sense of an important lesson that I wish I’d learnt before I started on this journey of evangelism. A lesson, that had I learnt it sooner, would have made a difference in people receiving the good news and responding positively, rather than creating a wedge between us. That lesson is to listen more to those I was trying to evangelise.
Stephen Covey once wrote that we are to listen to understand rather than to respond and this is a great reminder for us as we prepare to share the gospel with everyone. As we listen carefully, we begin to understand the other’s perspective.
In recent years there’s been a great shift towards this more engaging form of evangelism which sees us less as the sage, with all the answers to life’s questions and holders of all truth, but more as a navigator who guides the conversation towards discovery of the truth about Jesus.
In making this shift I have tapped into three helpful resources with a common theme that we need to ‘build bridges, not walls’ (Dr Martin Luther King).
Living in 3D
A few years ago, the personal evangelism approach that follows Jesus’ own example was introduced. We are challenged to step out of our circle of comfort and into encounters with people who long for someone to take an interest in them; as we develop friendships and listen to them, we discover their stories so that we can discern what are the most helpful next steps.
3 Circle Story
For a few years I served with Youth For Christ (YFC), an international youth movement that has for almost eighty years lived out their motto – anchored to the Rock. Geared to the times. Our YFC colleagues in America introduced us to the 3 Circle Story methodology of sharing our faith. This is a way of life that guides followers of Christ to be good news while telling stories of the good news. It encourages us to share God’s story, listen to their story and then share my story.
I was recently introduced to the third helpful resource by the team at Dare2Share. This resource has given me a great framework that has helped me formulate an engaging way to share the gospel with everyone: Ask – Admire – Admit
We need to ask discovering questions. As we read through the gospels, we notice that Jesus asked some pivotal questions: Who am I? Who touched me? Do you want to be healed? Can I have something to drink? Who showed the man compassion? The list goes on, but the point is clear — Jesus engaged with his listeners by asking questions that showed interest in them. He met them where they were, giving hope as he spoke the truth, in love.
Admire what you can about what they believe in with the focus on the areas you agree on.
Greg Stier reminds us that we can find something to admire in any belief system and goes on to remind us that we should keep the following three things in mind:
- Realise that simply admiring something in their religion doesn’t mean you’re endorsing their belief system.
- Remember to admire their honesty and openness in sharing their beliefs.
- Recognise that you’ll get to the areas of difference as you share the gospel message with them.
Once we have asked questions, have listened to understand and have shared about God’s love, we are presented with an opportunity to admit our need of Jesus and of what only he can provide and do in our lives.
We need to be comfortable with silence and a delay in receiving answers. Pray before you speak. And when you speak, speak kindly, compassionately and with boldness.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…. James 1:19
- How well do I listen to people when I share my faith?
- Are there any resources available that might help me in sharing my faith?
- When I share the gospel, am I seeking to build a bridge with that person, or a wall?
To find out more about some of the resources I’ve shared above,check out Youth for Christ USA https://training.yfc.net/training/3story_training/ and Dare2Share https://www.dare2share.org/resources/