I know how conversational evangelism is meant to go... They're meant to ask "Have you got a match?" and you reply "Yeah, Jesus for the devil any day!" And then... prepare the font because new birth is gonna break out! Or something.
But really, is there a place for conversational evangelism? Well, in spite of its bad press, yes. Of course there's a place for conversational evangelism. The gospel is for everything - especially for our speech. "I believe, therefore I spoke" said Paul (2 Corinthians 4:13).
Yet I wonder if our struggle in "conversational evangelism" isn't the evangelism bit. I wonder whether our real struggle is actually having conversations. And maybe it's our faulty notions of "evangelism" that scupper us.
I mean, if you're going to have a gospel conversation, a pre-requisite is probably having a normal conversation. It's pretty important to be in a conversation because you want to be in a conversation. People can tell if you don't!
A 'gospel conversation' is not an occasion for you to 'do your thing' to an unsuspecting victim. The triune God moves out from a fullness and a desire to bless. That's our motivation.
So listen. Explore their pet topics. Don't try to be interesting. Be interested.
In this way, be curious about people's deepest fears and greatest hopes. (And still, this isn't really evangelistic advice is it? This is true for your conversations after church too.)
Maybe as the conversation develops, genuinely ask if they think such fears/hopes can be answered. How? See where that leads.
And before and beyond any conversational tactics, know for yourself the answers to these questions:
- What do you love about Jesus? Specifically. What struck you about Him as you were getting to know Him? What is striking you as you're learning more.
- What do you love about life? I mean love. What thrills you and engages your heart? And think about how that reflects the Life-Giver and His love for life.
- What do you hate about life? Not grumbles, genuine despairs because you and/or the world are not what they should be. Where do you lose hope for yourself and the world and think "I/we just can't do it!"? Here you're thinking about our fallen condition, from which only Jesus can save us.
- What do you love about your church? Specifically. How have they blessed you, in the past, more recently?
And if you're talking about anything that remotely matters, and if you're engaged in the other person for their sake, then there's a fair chance you might be able to say something like "Yeah, that's what I love about Jesus/church..." And presto... you're speaking gospel truth. In a conversation no less!
But of course, if you can't finish the sentence "That's what I love about Jesus/church, etc...." then your real problem is not evangelism. Your problems run deeper.
Which is why this advice about "conversational evangelism" isn't really about evangelism at all. It's just about conversation. The reason we don't talk to non-Christians about the stuff that matters is because we rarely talk to other Christians about the stuff that matters.
We'll find, though, that if we do put words to our love for Jesus with Christians then, A) that love will be kindled all the more and B) the words are more likely to flow with non-Christians.
What would you say on the topic of conversational evangelism?