active listening_

Many Christian evangelists may be struggling with gathering and holding the interest of prospective disciples. Do we find that we are struggling even to get a few words into the conversation? Are we being dismissed in the middle of our introduction or right afterward? If so, let us look to our exemplar, Jesus Christ,

Luke 10:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’

Most are thinking, ‘this comment will not go over too well today,’ and that would be correct. Nevertheless, it gives us the foundation for an introduction, getting us into the Bible discussion we so much desire. They need to see us as their friend, who comes with information that will be encouraging and bring them peace of mind in this wicked world. We could begin with, “I am very pleased that I found you at home. I have brought you a gift today, which I believe will make this day, the best day of your year.” This is a friendly opening, which is encouraging regardless of the person. Of course, whatever brief Scriptural message we have, must come across as being beneficial, not superficial. Below are more introductions that may get us into a good conversation.

Many Christians are struggling to capture and hold the interest of an unbeliever when starting a conversation. They need to have an effective introduction, which will enable them to arouse interest.

Jesus said that whatever house [or conversation] you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ (Lu 10:5) This is not a common way of greeting someone in the Western world; rather, it is more the Eastern way. However, let us consider the principle behind it, which may give us introductions into a conversation. What we are looking to do is introduce ourselves in a very friendly and respectful way, with the sense of something that may bring them a measure of peace now.

We might have a Bible tract with us that deals with what Christian life can be like in a wicked world, or what life will be like under Christ, or how living a Christian way can bring joy even now. If we cannot find such a Bible tract, have 3-4 verses ready to be read. We might say, “Hello, my name is ________, and I am sharing some very good news with my neighbors. What if I could read you a message in 90 seconds that would give you peace of mind today, tomorrow and the rest of your life?” This message is warm, friendly, and has two aspects that the unbeliever will appreciate: (1) we mention how short our comments will be, (2) a question that is so intriguing that few would walk away without the answer. Below are some other introductions that may work for us.

Warm Introductions

We might start by introducing ourselves, and say, “I have a gift for you that is certainly going to make life far more interesting, it is encouraging, to say the least, do you have 90 seconds?

If we shake their hand and introduce ourselves by giving our name, and as we are doing so, we see they are smiling, we might say,

“It certainly is nice to see someone smiling in these difficult times; you must have found a measure of happiness. This is what I am sharing with others, may I add to the happiness you apparently already have, it will take but a minute or two.”

If we shake their hand and introduce ourselves by giving our name, and as we are doing so, we see they are not smiling, we might say,

I know life in this world of evil, lack of love, crime, and violence, not to mention selfishness can be overwhelming, may I take 1-2 minutes, to offer you hope that can bring joy and happiness now.”

These are warm, they are thought provoking, very short ways of introducing unbelievers to the Word of God.

Hello, I am _________, have you ever wondered why Christians such as myself, risk themselves to share Bible messages with such persons as yourself?” Allow a response and building from there. If they say yes, they have wondered why, tell them why. If they respond with a sarcastic remark, treat it like a joke, and smile as you reason your way out of his trying to end your conversation. If more sarcasm is repeated, simply offer a Bible tract and move on, as we cannot reason with the unreasonable.

Subject Introductions

THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGISTA great way to break the ice is by introducing a subject that may be of interest to the unbeliever. We have to be cautious here because we do not know their worldview. Are the liberal, moderate, or conservative? These titles are not just a political position, but also relate one’s worldview as well. If we interject a topic by immediately take a Christian worldview, and the unbeliever is liberal, we will have ended the conversation before it has begun. Topics can be local, national, or even the world over, but they must be something that the unbeliever would have likely heard. One thing is certain about human nature; people love to share their views with others, even strangers. Therefore, introduce the subject as a question.

Another way to generate interest is to ask the unbeliever questions that we might not want to hear the answers to but will give us an opportunity at a lengthy conversation.

  • “Why do you think that so many people no longer believe the Bible to be the Word of God?”
  • We would like to get your view on, “Is the Bible inspired of God or is it just 66 books written by men?”
  • “What do you think about Christianity today?
  • “Do you think Armageddon is a real thing that we need to worry ”
  • “Do you believe the Bible is really the Word of God?”

Whatever way we decide to start a conversation, we must be prepared for the responses. Are we able to defend the Word of God as inspired and fully inerrant?[1] Are we able to defend the faith? Are we able to defend the Christian worldview? Are we able to effectively communicate without losing our temper, or letting it get into a debate?

Jumpstarting with a Subject

We might say, “We all thought that technology would give us more time, but would you not agree that our lives are even busier than ever, wishing we had more time?” Allow for a response, and then say, “Well, I do have some good news for you, did you know that the Bible actually has counsel on how we can buy out more time? May I share it with you?”

Another approach is to mention a local problem that is affecting their community. We might say, “We would love to hear your insights on _________________, it is greatly impacting our community.” People love to offer advice, and letting them speak at length is a way to build rapport. However, if their insights are not even close to being rational, do not attack their thoughts. Simply find an ounce of common ground within them, and move on into the biblical message we prepared. The objective of starting with the local problem was to jumpstart our biblical message, not debate.

Another conversation starter might be, “Have you ever contemplated what it might be like to live forever in a perfect world, with a perfect body and mind?”

Work with other Christians in your church, and generate some great conversation starters, based on the biblical message that you are seeking to convey. Then, create a Bible insert, so that it is handy when members are out evangelizing in the community.

Keep in mind that a well-prepared introduction does not mean that a person of interest will not go off in another direction. Do not be so prepared that we are thrown off our mission because they are not interested in what we came to talk about. Simply be happy that they are willing to talk, and take advantage of whatever subject they want to discuss.

Simple Introductions

We could simply start out with asking them, ‘how is your day going, I have brought something that will undoubtedly make it even better.”

CONVERSATION EVANGELISMIf we notice at the very beginning that he or she is a friendly person, because they are smiling and offering their hand, we might say, “It is so nice to meet someone with a pleasant disposition, which means you are making the best of this stressful world we live in. Would you not agree that there is little in the world where we can find true happiness?” Allow a response, and then share “I have come to bring you, even more, happiness.”

On the other hand, if you clearly see the other that you are about to engage is not I a good mood, say, “I have stopped you today because we are offering encouraging information, hope for a better future. As you read or listen to the news, there is not much to encourage us into believing life is going to be better for our children or grandchildren. Do you have a very brief moment, so that I might share some good news with you?”

Introductions need to be simple, short, and encouraging. They are designed as a stepping-stone into the biblical message that we want to share. We might simply say, “I am a Christian, and we are speaking with our neighbors about some good news. We do this because we love and care for our neighbors.”

Make Every Effort to See Them Again

We live in a world of skepticism, agnostics, atheists, who carry hopelessness around with them 24/7. Thus, one cannot just bring someone into Christianity overnight. Thus, when we engage someone in our evangelism work within our community, we need to make every effort to see them again. At first, it may be by sharing emails, or cell phone numbers, and hopefully, their address, so we can make a personal visit. Once we are regularly visiting them at their homes, we need to buy out the time to see them at least weekly, even for a just a few minutes; otherwise, all was for not. We (1) look for interested ones, and then, (2) we cultivate the interest of those we have already found.

We might ask ourselves, ‘am I open to developing disciples, or have I only been stuck in the mode of initiating interest?’ Once we discover one, who has a love for righteousness, ones who are upset over world conditions, who are receptive to biblical truths, we need to grow that one into a disciple. Simply because a person is dismissive in an initial discussion, this does not mean they are not open to biblical truths. We have to learn how to overcome those dismissive thoughts, which takes skill and practice. (Luke 19:3-5) How can we do this?

We have to be as skilled with our Bible, as one is with and tool from a professional trade. We can be in awe if we are able to see a skilled worker at work, thinking ‘it must have taken a very long time to develop them skills.’ In some cases, maybe so, but we can draw comfort in the fact that the human body and mind is very receptive to learning new skills. One way to begin is to have a regular Bible study program at home, studying (1) the Bible from cover to cover with commentary volumes, (2) how to interpret Scripture, (3) foundational doctrines, and (4) effective evangelism.

The more we know, the better we know, the more we practice, the more confident we will be, and the more effective we will be. There are many good books out there on how to become a better evangelist, how to communicate effectively with others, and how to reason from the Scripture, to overcome false reasoning, and to explain truths. Yes, the head knowledge of how is very important, but it must be followed up by practice and repetition. We can begin by having a full share in commenting at any Christian meeting that is designed for such. We can also share things that we learn with our spiritual brothers and sisters. We can also invite fellow spiritual brothers and sisters over, to role-play and work on better communication. Like any skilled person, it takes dedication, patience, and love to become good, or better yet, effective.

Whenever we do have an opportunity to spend some quality time with one who truly wants to talk about the Bible, how should we approach it? First, the first few times, let him do most of the talking if he is so inclined, and be an active listener, discovering how he feels, thinks, and believes. We also are building rapport, because he feels as though we are truly interested in him. In this stage, he is likely to make many statements that are unbiblical, dismiss the urge to correct him constantly. If you are commenting to help him move along, find some aspect of what is said to agree with, making a brief statement. Once things are developed, it is time to be more structured.

It is always best to use ourselves in this next approach of helping him appreciate that things must be biblically correct. Start with, “‘when I first started showing interest in the Bible, I would say things like, ‘I think, I feel, or I believe.’” I was shown Matthew 7:21, which reads, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” State, ‘clearly, you would agree, it is not our will, what we think, what we believe, or how we feel, but the will of the father, what he thinks, believes and feels that is important?’ If we read on in verse 23, it makes the point that we must always keep in mind. If we are only doing our will, Jesus will say to us, “‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Then say, “You would agree that our thinking must be biblically correct, right?”

This mindset of being biblical will be our guiding force until he has made it his own. We will have to keep sharing that point as we help him understand some of his beliefs are unbiblical. It is best to move a person into seeing the need of getting the correct understanding by having them see that is what the Bible requires, as the Bible carries the authority and power.

Hebrews 4:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

However, when it comes down to it, we have to be realistic, the world we live in has little interest, so we must address how we are to cope with such an environment.

Evangelizing in a World of Little Interest

How can we respectfully bow out of a conversation when we conclude that an unbeliever is not truly interested? (Pro. 15:23; 25:11) Should we try to overcome their attempts a rejecting the message until they out-and-out tell us to leave them alone? Would it not be better to end the conversation with them still having a measure of respect for us, a representative of Christianity? Ecclesiastes 3:7

We need to be able to discern between sharing biblical truths in a clear and understandable manner, giving the unbeliever the ability to make a choice, as opposed to forcing our truths on another. We are not some worldly salesperson. God never forced us to be his servants; rather he allowed us the freedom to whom or what we wanted to serve. (Josh. 24:15) We can feel good that we have carried out the Great Commission that Jesus gave all of us (Matt. 28:19-20), as long as we gave the unbeliever a clear and understandable message, even if he rejects that message.

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOKMoreover, if someone rejects our message, he is not rejecting us he is rejecting God. If he merely rejects us for personal reasons, or out of hand, we should not view him as an enemy of the truth, he may be reached somewhere down the road. However, if this one seems well prepared with antichrist type answers, with anti-biblical, with anti-Christian answers, he may very well be an enemy of the truth, who actually proactively evangelizes against the truth. We should respect both of them, and we should move on either way. However, with the latter, even though he seems interested in dialoguing, his goal is to stumble us, so we should not continue on, but rather respectfully bow out of the conversation.

For the one that is simply not interested, we can simply say, “I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking with you. Maybe a future conversation will go a little longer; nevertheless, I appreciate your time that you have given today. “May I simply leave you with this Bible tract?” If he says no, respect that too. Why should we take this approach?

The unbeliever will have gained respect for Christianity where it might have been lacking before. He will be impressed with the fact that you respected his right to choose. With the reasonableness that we showed him, it may mean the next Christian he talks to will get a better response. Thus, we watered, cultivated and God will use another to make the seeds of truth grow.

In instances where we are shut down before we ever get started, we need to have a Bible tract that we can offer. “Sir, may I at least leave you with this tract that takes but 1-2 minutes to read.” On the back of that tract should be some kind of contact information that will help the unbeliever to get back in touch with us. We have to be balanced, both having the ability to win over those not wanting to talk, and the ability to know when not to try out of respect.

We do not know why some are not interested. They simply may have had somewhere to be, or he was too busy. Another may be his experiences of Christians arguing with him, not respecting him, even insulting him. Alternatively, it could simply be he is available or even wanting to get into a lengthy conversation. The last reason is why it is important to always quality our conversation openers with some kind of adjective: brief, short, or a couple minutes. If we do say such a thing, we need to honor what we said and be brief.

Our doing any of the above does not mean that we never may an effort to overcome objections, or that we do not do as the apostle Paul, persuading ones to listen to the truth. (Ac 18:4; 26:28; 2 Cor. 5:20) We make allowances for those who show little or no interest, as they may be affected by time or circumstances, so we should not judge them as an enemy of the truth. If we get any indication that, we are trying to reason with the unreasonable, i.e., persuade a closed mind, we do not push ahead until we cause offense. Rather, we must use our God-given discernment, to warmly and respectful bow out of the conversation, leaving the unbeliever with one morsel of rapport.

We must also keep in mind that our ministry is more than winning souls for Christ. Another aspect of our ministry is warning the wicked, even though almost none will accept the truth because they have a closed heart and mind. Nevertheless, even though this chapter started out quite optimistically, we must also be realistic as to the other side of our evangelism job. If I have made one point clear in the entirety of this book, may, it be this. We are not doomsayers, like the Westboro Baptist Church. We do not get loud and yell, nor do we threaten them with eternal torment. This type of rhetoric wins no souls that last. They end up serving God out of fear, not love.

God’s people willingly offer themselves to their heavenly Father just before the return of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 110:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Your people will offer themselves willingly
on the day of your power,
in holy array;
from the womb of the dawn,
the dew of Your youth belongs to you.

Our heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ will be well pleased with those who offer themselves willingly, evangelizing with their whole soul, mind, heart and spirit.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

YOUR GUIDE FOR DEFENDING THE BIBLE_Third EditionIf God loves a cheerful giver, one that is not under compulsion, or reluctant, why did Paul say in his previous letter to the Corinthians, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Here Paul is saying, “Necessity is laid upon” him, and ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ Which is it? On the other hand, did Paul change his mind in the few months between First and Second Corinthians? It is not a contradiction, or change of mind, as they both agree. A necessity is laid upon us, but God wants us to do it willingly, not under compulsion. The “woe” that Paul felt was not out of some fear of reprisal, if he did not carry out his ministry of evangelism. Rather, it was a feeling of “woe,” because he felt the same as God, the love for the people fear that they would miss the hope of “life.” Paul was well aware of and empathetic to the Hebrew Old Testament texts, such as

Ezekiel 3:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

Warning the Wicked

It is our responsibility to give a warning to the wicked people, just as it was Ezekiel’s responsibility to give a warning to Judah. Ezekiel, Paul and us realize that God’s love for humanity, who suffers from imperfection and the desire to do wicked things; need to be warned as well. Yes, Paul loved the people he witnessed to, and so should we. If we go ahead and look at the next verse, we will see that Paul willingly carried out his ministry, making personal sacrifice in order to do so.

1 Corinthians 9:17 English Standard Version (ESV)

17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.

IS THE QURAN THE WORD OF GODIt should sadden all of us that so many out of so-called conservative Christianity are not arranging their lives around an evangelism program because their church is not carrying out the work. Nevertheless, an author on evangelism cannot judge the hearts its readers. However, Paul himself clearly said, “each one tests his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” (Gal. 6:4) We are well aware of the fact that many of us have families, and Paul was quite clear about our need to care for them too. He wrote, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8) Regardless, our love of our neighbor and even our enemy (Matt. 5:43-44), should move us to have some share in the evangelism work, we simply need to buy out the time. If our church has nothing along these lines, we may want to inquire as to why.

If we find joy in the fact we have offered a used coat to a homeless person or a meal to a hungry family at a shelter; imagine what our joy will be if we play a role in getting another person on the path to eternal life. Imagine how our inner person will shine as we see this unbeliever become a believer. Imagine each time they learn something new, or finally, grasp something that they have been struggling with, we will have a continued joy as they grow in the truth, and make it their own.

Review Questions

  • How does the principle behind Luke 10:5 help us with introductions?
  • Why are warm introductions so effective?
  • What are subject introductions, and why are they so effective?
  • Why are simple introductions effective?
  • Why is it important that we make every effort to see them again?
  • How are we to evangelize in a world with little interest?
  • What are some reasons why some may not engage us I a conversation?
  • We win souls for Christ, but what else are we doing while evangelizing?

[1] We recommend, IS THE BIBLE REALLY THE WORD OF GOD? Myths? Errors? Contradictions? Scientifically Inaccurate? [Second Edition] by Edward D. Andrews