For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Personal Witnessing - Finding Common Ground (Part 3)

Tomorrow you will be traveling. You have asked the Lord to give you the courage to share your faith with someone you will meet in your travels. Your big worry is how you will get a spiritual conversation started.


1. You have a responsibility to share the Gospel and you have absolutely no reason to be embarrassed of your faith in Christ. (Romans 1:16) Nothing to be ashamed of.

2. There is a requirement for Christians to be 'among people' - to be sociable. If we are going to meet people who are thirsting for Christ we have to get out of our little comfort zone - out of our bubble.

3. As the Holy Spirit guides you, you must become skilled in finding common ground with people who cross your path. You must find a bridge to smoothly take you from the topic at hand to a spiritual conversation.

That's the focus of this posting. For this series of posting we are quoting extensively from Paul E. Little's classic book How to Give Your Faith Away. If you click on the title, you will be able to purchase the book online.

Finding Common Ground
To be an effective witness you must take the time to establish common ground. Radio personalities and broadcasters are very skilled at making segues. "Speaking of the tornado that tore through the county in 1890, it looks like we have some not-so-nice weather heading our way the end of the week."

We Christians tend to pooh-hooh anything that calls for much time and preliminary preparation. We like to skip the 'non-essentials' and get right to the point. Preludes are a waste of time, or so we think. Let's give them the message, we insist impatiently. However, most people resent being trapped in a one-way conversation by those who move in and expound their favorite theme without even bothering to find out if the listeners are interested. We would resent it too. High pressure makes us question whether people care about us as individuals or whether we are just a project to them.

Before you open your mouth to witness for Christ, ask yourself if the approach you are about to use would be the way you would like to be approached if you were in their shoes.

Jesus was a master at relating to others. Were He here today he would certainly decry the oddballism we have seen in some power-hungry, money-grabbing Christian celebrities. Flamboyant behaviour may attract curiosity momentarily, but it both gives a caricature of true Christianity and discourages serious consideration of its message. Jesus did not call us to be oddballs.

If, for some reason, you should find yourself in the middle of a conversation criticizing such tacky Christian behaviour - use that as your bridge to not only distance yourself from such tactics but to share the attractiveness of Christ from your perspective.

John 4:7-8 Common Ground is a Desire for Water
When the Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

If I had been Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe, I probably would have blurted out to the woman at the very beginning, "Lady, do you know who I am?" But Jesus didn't approach her that way. He began by making a request. Would she draw him some water?

Notice the woman's reaction:
"You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For the Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) vs. 9

This request for a drink doesn't seem very dramatic until we see the whole picture. The mere fact that Jesus spoke to this woman at all was highly unusual. By this simple act he demolished social, religious and racial-political barriers. As a man He spoke to her, a woman. As a rabbi He spoke to her, an immoral woman. As a Jew He spoke to her, a Samaritan. Thus he startled her. While she couldn't quite grasp the significance of His words, she could sense a deeper dimension in His life. He refused to discriminate against her. He accepted her. This is lifestyle evangelism personified.

For this woman, Jesus' mere request was a treasured compliment. It put them on common ground. In the same way, bridge-building with our acquaintances must have a mutuality about it.

Sometimes your friendship may start when YOU ask your neighbor's help or advice. One close friend chides me with: "I don't always want to be a helpee; let me help you." Any friendship must be a two way street of mutual give and take. It may mean actively seeking opportunities to show love by running errands, helping with a yard project, baby-sitting - and allowing the other person to do the same for you.

Our society overvalues self-sufficiency. By allowing others to do for you, you are telling them you are willing to let down your defenses, to be vulnerable with them. This will give them the option of doing the same with you, perhaps about spiritual matters.
Can't you see Jesus with His water-gourd in hand, directing the conversation first to this known interest, the water in the well, and then to a spiritual reality about which the woman knew nothing?

Before you gently lead into a Spirit-led conversation ask yourself: what is the common ground here? How does what we have just been talking about link with the point I am now going to try to make spiritually?

Find areas of common interest. Build the relationship.
You can only do this by asking questions. Does your neighbor know more about cars than you do or more about gardening? Go to them with a question. Do they know more about money matters than you? Can you ask for some advice? This is one way to start building a relationship that will open to the door for future conversations about spiritual issues.

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