by Laurel Bunker
Editor’s note: With this post, we continue our series One Question to the Gospel. We asked, “What one question has helped you begin a gospel conversation?”)
In today’s busy world, learning to share the gospel can seem like a daunting task. With individuals moving at the speed of light, finding an appropriate way to capture someone’s attention long enough to share the good news of Jesus Christ can cause the one desiring to share to feel quite desperate and out of sorts–like being in a maze with no clear path to the exit.
If you have read my blog posts before, you know that I am not a fan of what I call “hit-and-run” evangelism, the quick, non-captivating, “ambush-style” way of sharing Christ with an individual, leaving the person blinking and in shock, wondering what they just encountered. I prefer easing into a conversation with an individual in a way that communicates that I care about him or her as a person and that I am genuinely interested in his or her life and journey to this point.
Not only have I found sharing of the good news in this manner to be less daunting, but it also generally disarms individuals and gives them a reason to remain engaged. So how do I do it? There is nothing tricky about it: I pray, I pause, and I pursue.
Pray. Prayer is essential before we launch out to do anything for the Lord. Ensuring that I am operating out of right attitudes, motives, and behaviors (ensuring that it is not about me) is important. I must place everything at the foot of the cross before a word is spoken. Without this crucial step it is just too easy to make sharing the good news a “work” rather than an outgrowth of my relationship with Christ and a response to His commandments.
Pause. I find it helpful to stop and ask the Holy Spirit for direction or “Holy Spirit encounters” (“Lord, lead me to someone who is looking for you.”). It does not mean that I am inactive until I sense that some internal green light has gone off, but it does help me to be intentional and to remain focused on His will as I go.
Pursue. I go about my day with a level of intentionality, exchanging pleasantries with folks whom I meet along the way–in the grocery store, in the line at the coffee shop, sitting at a small table at Panera. My hope is to engage someone respectfully so that I can winsomely share Jesus with them. If an opportunity arises and a conversation ensues, I often begin not with a question, but rather a statement, “So, tell me your story.”
This open-ended statement allows the individual to have some means of control of what he or she shares and allows him or her to be as deep or as simple as he or she cares to be. The benefit of this is in that it seems less invasive since I have not been the determinant of what is shared. Plus, it gives me a level of permission to ask follow-up questions for clarity and means of engagement. One drawback is that a person who is particularly lonely, angry, or in need of support beyond what is normal may not know where to stop, derailing the conversation a bit.
Nevertheless, I have found repeatedly that offering individuals the chance to share their hearts has yielded wonderful results, opened countless doors, planted many seeds, and has changed many a life over the years, not the least of which has been mine.
Laurel Bunker is dean of campus ministries and campus pastor at Bethel University. Laurel’s mission is to radically impact the lives of individuals through empowered teaching and preaching and through mentoring others to be influencers of culture through Christ-centered leadership development.