I did an Outsiders Interview this weekend. Afterwards I invite the audience (typically Christian leaders) to send me questions. This one is not exactly stated along the lines of the title of this post but it gets to the same thing. I asked my good friend, colleague and actual evangelist (unlike me) Randy Siever who leads Doable Evangelism to respond. He was masterful and I wanted to share it with all of you.
Here’s the question.
“The subject of how to get past the point of nice conversation to a point of decision for Christ keeps coming up. Thoughts here also?”
Here’s Randy’s Response
This is not an easy one to answer, at least not in the context of the new paradigm we live in today. There are whole books written on how to “steer” conversations to “spiritual things” which enable us to get someone to a “point of decision”. I taught these principles for decades. But that paradigm isn’t working very well anymore. Almost nobody is really doing it anymore, either (less than 10%…and as low as 3% if you believe the late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ). In the post ww2 years, people seemed to come to faith by us talking and them listening. We’re finding more people coming to faith these days by us listening to THEM talk. The old paradigm of presenting a case and demanding a verdict just isn’t working anymore (and nobody is doing it anyway). So what DOES work? And how can we get more people engaged with the process of spreading the Gospel?
Here’s what I’m banking on these days: Listening. Hearing their story. Finding out what God has been up to in their life and (gently) calling their attention to it. Becoming a safe person for others to share their doubts, fears, anger and distress with regarding life. And then, in that kind of context, being asked to share YOUR story (which is simply what Christ has done in your life), and in that context HIS story (as simply as you can). An invitation to follow Jesus may or may not fit that initial conversation. But we should be ready for it just in case, I think.
We should also be willing to let go of the outcome entirely. Let go of trying to steer conversations to some pre-determined end. Just listen and work to discover what God has been up to in other’s lives. We are being invited to join Him in that mission, but we must not sabbotage it. Sometimes we just need to stay out of His way. And we only know how to act/respond by being present and paying attention, especially to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. Some people, I think (perhaps those with the gift of evangelism?) are granted the opportunity to ask someone else to consider following Jesus quite directly. Most of the time we will simply listen and engage with others in meaningful ways and pay attention to how God wants us to lead someone to choosing to be a disciple of Jesus. How that happens isn’t really spelled out for us in the New Testament, by the way. Jesus never did it the same way twice.
So, I am suggesting we give up the obsession with making converts and start getting serious about calling others to join us as disciples (students) of Christ. That process is messy, hard to “count”, and unpredictable. But I think it’s more like what Jesus was asking us to do in the “Great Commission”. So the short answer to your question is, “Quit doing that. Make disciples, not just converts.”
There’s a lot more on our website, and I actually present Seminars and Workshops on this very subject all over North America (you can find out more about that on our website as well). These ideas and concepts were initially formulated from Jim’s book “Evangelism Without Additives” which I think you would find enormously helpful. If you like that, I’ve written a four-week course which we make available on our website that takes a group through that book and gets them to practice. Just poke around and see what you think.”