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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Personal Witnessing - Getting the Ball Rolling (Part 5b)

If you are just joining us now, you are in the middle of a series of postings on some practical tips about personal witnessing. Scroll down the page to find the other postings or click on the 'personal witnessing' label in the right margin and it will bring up all the previous postings. I am quoting extensively from Chapter 3 of Paul Little's classic book entitled: How to Give Away Your Faith. If you do not already have this paperback classic in your collection, click on the title to order it online.

Getting the Ball Rolling
You have an obvious opportunity to have a spiritual discussion with a person the Lord has caused to cross your path. Did you pray today that you would have such an encounter and that the Spirit of God would guide you and give you suitable words to speak and when to not speak and when to stop? You have found a springboard in a casual and secular and friendly chat to launch you into a spiritually focused chat. Its called a bridge or a segue. From a couple of things the person has said about their life and their struggles, you feel there is an openness to take the conversation further. We gave you a couple of examples of this in the last posting.

But let's say, the person has a totally different background that you have and a set of life circumstances to which you can not relate. Your background is so different. Could you, with any credibility, engage this person in a conversation?

When someone wants to share their story with you and you are lost for words about how you might relate to them you could say:

"You know, I would feel that way except for an experience that changed my outlook on life. Would you like me to tell you about it?

Those of us who have grown up in Christian homes and churches often develop an inferiority complex because we can't point to a dramatic change in our lives when we became Christians. We can't say, "Once I was a dope addict, but see what Christ has done for me!" If we came to new life in Christ as a child, we probably did not notice much change in our lifestyles.

We need not feel inferior or apologetic about this, as though somehow our experience were not as genuine as the more spectacular. Paul's conversion was wonderfully dramatic but we must always remember that Timothy's was just as real..... The great question for us is whether Jesus Christ really is a dynamic Lord to us today.

Life Circumstances as Door Openers
There are passages in people's lives that draw their attention to religion and give us wide-open opportunities to get the ball rolling. For students, academic failure, disappointment in love, or concern over career choices may open the door. For young couples, the birth of a first child may turn their thoughts to religious training. As families grow, teenage problems can cause parents to despair. Physical problems, emotional turmoil and financial reverses bring special fears. Divorces are particularly traumatic. We can use any one of these situations to bring up the need for God. When my neighbor phoned and said her husband had had a heart attack, I prayed with her on the phone. My wife brought the family supper. Since then I have given her a book to read.

A question I'm often asked when I'm travelling is, "What kind of work do you do?" I used to reply matter-of-factly, "I'm a staff member for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship." That answer took the conversation nowhere. Now, I explain my work instead: "I talk to students about how Jesus Christ relates to everyday life." This is more likely to bring the response, "That sounds interesting." "It is," I say. "Just the other night I was talking to a student who said...." and I briefly give the gist of an actual conversation. Then I ask, "By the way, are you interested in spiritual things? And the conversation is off and running.
In a discussion about today's headlines, the latest world crisis or some other current event, the query, "What do you think is wrong with the world?" may be appropriate. After listening while various external causes are blamed for mankind's problems, we can say, "I've gotten help from what Jesus Christ said about this." At times like this, if a person is still interested, I try to refer to Jesus' diagnosis of human nature (alienated from God) in Mark 7:21-23.
More later.

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