by Mark Slaughter
However, while here I have been deeply moved by the vibrancy of the Church in this land. For Christians here, as long as they stay within the law, there is much freedom to worship, get into spiritual conversations, and even distribute Bibles and Christian literature.
As our host was showing us some of their strategic ministries, he commented, “We simply believe that when a door is closed, God opens a window!”
I remembered how the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 4:3, “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”
Often, I hear people express their frustration and disappointment that their friends and family are not open to talking about spiritual matters, and are especially closed to talking about Jesus. They describe how their friends are ‘closed’ or ‘just not interested’ in God. But could it be that despite these closed doors, God is actually ‘opening windows’ into their souls? How can we see God open windows? Here are some ideas.
- Watchful prayer. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”Being watchful means being alert, like a security guard, being fully attentive to what God is doing. We can begin by asking God to help us notice the people around us and how He is already arousing spiritual interest and curiosity.
- Asking questions about life & spiritual experiences.Asking questions shows a genuine interest in others. A highly respected leader once told me, “There are two kinds of people in the world—those who walk into a room and say, ‘Here I am,’ and those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are.'” A “there you are” person is more interested in learning about others, and where God is at work in their lives than they are about themselves.
Two kinds of questions seem especially helpful. After talking about surface-level topics, asking questions about feelings, fears, or dreams can lead to deeper conversations. Some examples include: What did you enjoy about that experience? or What do you hope will happen in that situation? I’ve found, too, that asking “Why?” often leads to more vulnerable conversations about life.
I also like to ask people about their spiritual experiences before I ask about their spiritual beliefs (see Evangelism Outside the Box by Rick Richardson!). Often, I’ve asked, “So what have been your experiences with Christian faith (or Christians!)?” or “Have you had a time when you felt close to God? What was that like for you?” People today seem more ready to talk about their experiences than to begin by talking about their beliefs. This may then open doors to discuss beliefs. Questions can help us discover the windows God is opening.
- Listening. Listening to both the Holy Spirit’s promptings and to the feelings underneath what people have said it critical. We can identify with their questions, struggles, and doubts as they relate to our own journeys.By reflecting back to them the facts and the feelings you’ve heard can show them you care about them (“That sounds like it was confusing.”). And, listen for the deeper longings underneath the story—longings for community, identity, purpose, significance, and healing.
- Sharing your story.As I listen carefully, often I find common ground with my own faith story. This provides a natural opportunity to share briefly about how following Jesus has brought life and healing into my life and soul, and how His love and grace continues to do so.
It is time to turn our frustrations with closed doors into opportunities to see God open windows into our friends’ souls as we honor them and love them. You never know…we just may see the light of the world shine through those windows.
Mark Slaughter (@MarkASlaughter) is an InterVarsity evangelist and national facilitator of Emerging Generations for the Mission America Coalition. He is a former pastor who is passionate about empowering the next generation of evangelism leaders and raising the evangelism temperature. Learn more: markslaughter.org.