It’s good to talk! Undeniably, and very encouragingly, the Church is enjoying a much stronger connection with those in our communities than we have for some time.
For the 28 years I’ve been in evangelistic ministry, I’ve felt that one of the greatest challenges Christians face is changing the perception people have of us and the Church.
There’s still a bit of a way to go (in reality, we’ll probably need to be constantly engaging with this challenge) but as the Talking Jesus research revealed, we are definitely making progress!
“It’s good to talk” was British Telecom’s advertising slogan many years ago. My personal motto is “making connections – changing perceptions”, so I’m all for connecting with people and building relationships.
But if we only ever connect with people and don’t communicate the good news of Jesus to them, I think we fall short of the Great Commission. And we also do a dis-service to those we connect with.
I’m not advocating here that we only connect to communicate the Good News – that’s an abuse of the relationship. Neither am I advocating communicating the gospel with no connection – that’s just unfruitful.
But I do feel, and it’s also been my experience, that the better the connection we have with people, the more likely we are to be able to talk about Jesus with them and in a way that’s natural.
Of course the other challenge is saying too much! A friend of mine rang me one day saying “you’ll be proud of me – I really let my new neighbours have it!” My reply was, “you may well have let ‘em have it, but I’m not sure they got it!”
‘Making the most of every opportunity’ (Ephesians 5:16), as we are encouraged to do in the Bible, doesn’t mean filling the space with as many words as possible.
Instead we need to be thinking “what do I need to say right now?” We need to be more intentional about talking about Jesus, but let’s make sure we do it with ‘gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15).
So let’s be people who work on the connection and the communication. Let me offer a few tips:
- Use words people can understand: There’s an increasing ignorance of Christianity in the UK, and as a result we can end up using words that either people haven’t heard, or they have their own interpretation of. This is due to the fact that we spend so much time in Church life. It’s important we make sure we don’t assume a knowledge base that just isn’t there.
- How we say it is as important, as what we say: Make sure you work on the delivery and not the just content. Often we can be so content-driven that we don’t work on how we say things. Lots of illustrations and stories will assist in this – after all, that’s what Jesus used to explain things.
- Keep it interesting, not intense: You don’t have to share the whole gospel in your first conversation! Think of what might be the best bit to share first. It’s easy to lose someone’s interest if you are too intense. Better to explain and apply one aspect rather than “letting ‘em have it” and not really explaining anything well!
- Start with your story: Work on naturally telling the story of your conversion, and not using it simply as an opportunity to preach at people. Think of a theme you can draw out from your story so that you can be more streamlined and interesting.
- Then when you’re chatting with people, be on the lookout for hooks that link with your theme – things that come up in passing and can allow you to start sharing your story as part of a natural conversation. Think about how you can build on that theme and share the different details of your conversion story.
- Also, make sure you’re up-to-date, sharing what God is doing in your life now as well as in the past. And remember to be honest – talk about the good and the bad!
- Brush up on answers to tough questions: The number one way we get into a conversation about faith is through being asked questions, and yet it’s often the thing we are most weak at and even fear!
- If you know there are questions you’d rather not be asked, it’s worth spending some time finding out how you could answer them, or where you could point people to find out more.
- Keep your language consistent with your life: Actions may well speak louder than words, but words still speak! Let’s connect well but also speak well about Jesus.
- Keep the conversation going: When I’ve talked about Jesus with someone and I feel it’s gone well, I try to keep the conversation active. I may finish with something like, “It would be good to chat about that some more, shall we meet up again?”, or “You said… it would be good to chat about that again some time”.
And make sure you do take the time to follow up the conversation at a later date.