In our noisy and self-promoting culture, taking the time to genuinely connect can make all the difference. Whether you’re a seasoned evangelist or someone looking to start, remember: it’s about relationship- the connection, and the heartfelt desire to share the love of God.
The art of relational evangelistic conversation is intricate, calling for skills, heart, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. By understanding and addressing the challenges, we can facilitate a space where faith journeys are shared, relationships are built, and the message of salvation reaches those searching for it.
In this post, we will explore the art of evangelistic conversation, focusing on methods to build genuine relationships and convey the transformative message of the gospel.
In our world today, it’s easy to notice how everyone is eager to speak but slow to listen. This observation is not lost in religious contexts, where sharing faith often becomes more about talking than actually connecting.
The Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4, is one of the most central prayers in the Jewish tradition. It starts with “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This command to “hear” can be expanded in the context of evangelistic conversations to mean more than just audibly recognizing sounds but deeply listening with a heart of unity (“being one”), empathy (“empathetic”), and submission (“obedient”).
In the Shema, the oneness signifies a united belief in one God. In terms of listening, this can mean being wholly present and focused during conversations. From a sociological perspective, this aligns with “active listening,” where the listener is fully engaged and connected with the speaker, ensuring mutual understanding.
Empathy in listening relates to understanding and feeling the emotions of the speaker. Psychologically, this is similar to “empathetic listening,” where one tunes into the emotional states and needs of the speaker, much like how Jesus connected with the Samaritan woman’s deep-seated feelings of rejection and loneliness.
The Shema calls for obedience to God. Listening obediently can mean being open and receptive to the message being shared without letting biases interfere. This is echoed in the “reflective listening” model where listeners mirror or paraphrase the speaker’s words to ensure understanding without imposing their interpretations.
Significance of Evangelistic Listening:
In a world dominated by self-expression and digital noise, genuine, Shema-inspired listening stands out. It becomes a tool to cut through superficiality, offering a deep, empathetic connection.
Skills of Listening in Today’s Outreach Context:
There is an obvious apprehension many feel about initiating evangelistic conversations. Concerns range from fear of judgment and fear of rejection, to not having the right answers. Addressing these fears through training, role-playing, and mentoring can be transformative, empowering more individuals to share their faith confidently.
Throughout the conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4), Jesus frequently uses the verb “say” to preface His statements (“Jesus said to her”). This emphasizes the deliberate and meaningful nature of His speech – He is not speaking idly but is carefully choosing His words to communicate truth and revelation.
Jesus’ saying was transformational by eliciting knowledge: γινώσκω (ginóskó). When the Samaritan woman recognizes that Jesus has profound knowledge about her life, she acknowledges Him as a prophet (John 4:19) and later as Messiah. Jesus’ understanding and speaking to her life’s core situation in a skillful way forms the basis for deeper theological conversation and transformation.
In Acts 17:17, Paul is described as reasoning or discussing in the synagogue and the marketplace. This emphasizes not just one-sided proclamation but active, two-way communication, where listening would be integral. As a result, the Athenians wanted to “hear” what Paul’s new teaching was. This underscores the importance of attentiveness and curiosity in observation and dialogue, setting the stage for Paul’s address at the Areopagus.
Skills of Sharing Faith:
Describe an evangelistic conversation that felt particularly meaningful. What made it stand out?
Recall a challenging evangelistic conversation you had. What made it challenging and how did you navigate it?
Are there recurring patterns or habits you’ve noticed in yours and others’ evangelistic conversations? If so, what are they?