When we are communicating with another, we need to know what our purpose is and stay focused. This will help us with the preparatory work that goes into good communication as well. One of the best ways to have confidence in our success is to know the subject well and care deeply for the ones with whom we share it. If we are a serious student of God’s Word, who passionately talks about it with friends and family, always sharing new things that we have discovered, half of our battle is over in becoming a good communicator.
When sharing a biblical message informally with a person that we have never met, it is more beneficial to begin the spontaneous conversation on a current event so that we can build a little rapport. This generates a minor emotional bond or friendly relationship between us and the other person based on mutual liking, trust, and a sense that we understand and share each other’s concerns. We may be sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, and lean in and ask the lady next to us, “have you seen the news about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting?” Spending a few minutes talking about the issues of that tragedy, and then transition to the Bible, by speaking of a time when those things will be no more. In addition, our current event need not always be a tragic one.
When going out into the community to share our faith with others, we will come across a variety of responses to our Christian message. Some will be interested; other will be uninterested, while a few will be quarrelsome or even aggressively confrontational. In the case of the last two, we must keep in mind that our evangelism purpose is not to win debates with strangers. If the person we are communicating with becomes argumentative, it is best to leave on a respectful note. It is not our goal to push ourselves, or our beliefs on another, as it will only further upset and alienate them.
REVIEW QUESTION: Explain why we need to know our subject well. Why is rapport important? How should we handle people who become argumentative?
Speaking With Purpose
If we are going to garner the respect of the person we are speaking with, he needs to feel that we have the knowledge about what we are discussing. He needs to feel like we are the expert in the conversation. If he periodically asks questions about the Bible, and we are coming across in a hesitant, unsure way, he is not going to have confidence in our purpose for being there. We need to empathize with how the other person is viewing us. Do we come across as believable? If they are going to accept our words as true, we have to establish credibility with them at the outset, conveying confidence.
One way to establish that we are honest about the truth is, do not rationalize, justify or minimize anything that we know is true. If they make accusations that we know are true, admit them, and go on from there. Keep in mind that reasonable answers are not the same as rationalizing justifying or minimizing. For example, rationalizing is an attempt to justify irrational or unacceptable behavior (i.e., make excuses). If someone has stayed away from Christianity, because of all the scandals, he has seen in the news, and we say, “Well, we do our best. These things happen in an imperfect world.” This will come across as though we are dismissive of their feelings, appearing as if we are not troubled by immoral, unscrupulous activity. It would be better to show our righteous indignation and be troubled over the scandals.
Another way to keep our credibility intact is to be a person of our word. If we have a good visit at a person’s home and ask if we can return, and they agree to something like, ‘the same time next week.’ If we fail to follow through and do not return for another two or three weeks, this will remove our credibility. The person may have avoided doing something else because he knew we were coming, and is now angry for being stood up. He is now wondering if he should give us a second chance. If they have given us permission to come again, ask for a phone number, in case we have to cancel. Also, if we are fortunate to start a regular weekly Bible study with them; be there consistently, because inconsistency corrodes credibility as well.
Being truly genuine is another way to keep our credibility intact. We have chosen to visit the people in our community because of your love for God, and our love for neighbor. It just makes sense that we are going to be sincerely involved in their feelings and issues, making them important to us. They should be able to see this by our tone of voice, our facial expressions, and our body language. It is another mark of respect when they can see that we are truly listening to their concerns, which gives them confidence that our biblical counsel (i.e., guidance) is going to be beneficial after all.
Another way to gain or lose credibility is failing to provide evidence for the claims that we make. No one is expected to have an answer for every biblical issue, but one too many, “I do not know,” “I am not sure,” “I will have to look into that,” and they will begin to doubt the credibility of the Bible itself. Regular inabilities in our defense of God’s Word will erode the credibility of the Bible and Christianity. As the apostle Peter said, ‘always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.’―1 Peter 3:15.
REVIEW QUESTION: How should the person you are evangelizing feel about how you understand the discussion? Why is it important to be a person of your word? How can you be genuine and why is it important?
Roadblocks to Successful Communication
At times, there will be occasions when we will have to offer constructive criticism to the person we are speaking with, be it a person we just met, a person we have been visiting for some time, or a person we have been carrying on a Bible study with. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the constructive criticism is directed toward the issue, not the person. If it is a Bible student of ours, do not offer any constructive criticism in the beginning. Take a moment to have some social discussions about things that set the mood as friendly, and then offer the feedback. If the person is relatively new to us, simply be as kind and as tactful as we can, and our love and concern will shine through. If there is a Bible verse, read it, and let it do the speaking for us, because people are more receptive to the Bible counseling them. Constructive criticism can make one wise and is necessary for growth, but too much of any good thing can have the opposite effect. If a person is excessively barraged with constructive criticism, he may just give up altogether, wondering why he should even try.
The way we express, ourselves will be a determining factor in our success at times. If we are one who tends to use positive ways of saying something, we are likely to elicit positive results. While some authors use the second person pronoun “you,” this is not an effective way to offer advice or feedback in a conversation because it is as if you are pointing your finger at them. For example, “you unsuccessfully, “you ignored,” “you assert,” “you say that,” or “you state that.” These same statements could have started, “May I recommend that ” “one possibility open to us is,” “we can,” and “what could be considered is.” When we use pronouns that include “you,” leaving out the second personal pronoun, it generates more of positive atmosphere.
What is our purpose in evangelizing our communities? It is to carry out the Great Commission that we have been assigned, to make disciples for Jesus Christ, to bring persons into the faith, who will become our spiritual brother or sister. For a person, rightly to become a disciple Christ, it is essential that he clearly understands what he is being taught. It is also essential that we make ourselves available to teach.
Romans 10:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”
1 Corinthians 9:16 Updated American Standard Version
16 Now if I am proclaiming the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not proclaim the good news!
Why should you limit the use of the second person pronoun “you”?
Evangelism Opportunity: While sitting in the doctor’s office, reading the Bible, the woman next to you leans in and says, “The Bible is a good moral book but is not the inerrant word of God like you people say.”
You ask to clarify, “So you believe it is just, or should I say only a book by men, with humans only writing?”
She replies, “Yes, I have read evidence that it is filled with errors and contradictions: historical, geographical, and scientific errors, as well as contradictions.”
You respond, “…”
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Translation and Textual Criticism
 The person we are speaking with may have reservations, because of all the scandals within Christianity. On the other hand, he may not accept Christianity, because of its history in the Crusades and Inquisitions. Another may have had real issues within the church of their past. These should not be quickly dismissed. Rather, they should be dealt with appropriately in the conversation, with empathetic, active listening, and righteous indignation over any injustice. Again, some may bring up (1) the Inquisitions, (2) the Crusades, (3) Christian nations going to war, (4) sex scandals in the churches, (5) hypocrisy and worldliness of the church, to name just a few.
 Quotation from Isa 52:7; Nah 1:15