Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Steering a conversation toward the gospel

Years ago, when I worked in a customer service call center, we were instructed to always "control the call." In other words, as salespeople, we were to steer the phone conversation as much as possible through questions and suggestions to help lead the customer along and determine what product would best suit them. Some customers were notorious for just "chatting" on the phone, not realizing that other customers were often on hold, waiting to be served.

In our evangelism, the stakes are infinitely higher, because souls are involved. We too as Christians must learn to better "control the conversation." I don't mean forcing the gospel into a conversation in an inappropriate way, but learning through questions and answers to steer a conversation in the right direction, toward spiritual things and eventually toward a presentation of the gospel.

As I said last week, there are four common steps in evangelism: raising awareness, initial contact, pre-evangelism, and evangelism. For those who are not particularly sociable, and who struggle to make conversation, or perhaps are just terrified of being confrontational, it can be very daunting to move from pre-evangelism (relationship-building) to evangelism (actually sharing the gospel). Here are a few tools that may be helpful.

Years ago, in an evangelism class, I learned the acronym ROCI. This is a helpful way to facilitate conversation in any setting, and stands for:
  • Residence - Are you originally from this area? How long have you lived here? Where did you grow up?
  • Occupation - Where did/do you work? What's your dream job?
  • Children - How many kids do you have?
  • Interests - Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time? I noticed you like...
Some of these may naturally lead into a conversation about church, religion, values, and spiritual beliefs.

In the book Building on Firm Foundations, New Tribes Missions list many possible topics that can be intewoven into conversation and prepare a person for the seed of the gospel:
  • Creation (ask their beliefs about the world, its orderliness, bad things that happen)
  • God (ask their beliefs about His existence, location, activities, attributes, requirements)
  • Unseen spirits (ask their beliefs about their existence, what they're like, relationships with people, requirements)
  • Human beings (ask their beliefs about origin, differences, characteristics, sinful behavior)
  • Life after death (ask the reason for sickness and death, their beliefs about place of the dead, basis of knowing where a person goes, contact between living and dead, resurrection)
Finally, here are ten great questions from Donald Whitney that can help turn a conversation toward the gospel:
  1. When you die, if God says to you, "Why should I let you into Heaven?", what would you say?Are you interested in what the Bible says about your answer?
  2. If you were to die tonight, where do you think you would spend eternity? Why? Are you interested in what the Bible says about this?
  3. Do you think much about spiritual things?
  4. How is God involved in your life?
  5. How important is your faith to you?
  6. What has been your most meaningful spiritual experience?
  7. Do you find that your religious heritage answers your questions about life?
  8. Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs? If what you believe were not true, would you want to know it? Well, the Bible says . . . .
  9. To you, who is Jesus?
  10. I often like to pray for people I meet; how can I pray for you?
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