Initiative Relational Evangelism: Other Ways To Initiate the Conversation

We need to know our story and God’s story if we are going to initiate spiritual conversations with others. Without knowing what God’s story is, it is just finding good friends. We want to have spiritual conversations.

We shared a few hours ago tools that Cru has to start spiritual conversations, but these are not the only ones available.Another way we can start spiritual conversations in our everyday life without using any tools is through connecting points. This can be done with people we have known for years, as well as people we are meeting for the first time. We use this term in Cru and you heard Jeremy use it as he talked about 3Story as well. It is fundamental to sharing our life and faith with those around us.

While a good starting point is to know our testimony, we can take this further. We all have connecting points in our lives to the Gospel. For instance, when someone asks what my job is, I tell them that I work for Cru. Depending on the setting, this can allow me to tell them why I work for Cru, and a little about what God has done in my life. We also have times in our life, though, when we have experienced loneliness, regret, the death of a friend, or something similar, in which we have really seen God show up in a significant way in our life. These areas of our life are also good connecting points to the gospel, as we initiate spiritual conversations with those around us. It is also important that we remember that we’re having a discussion. As Jeremy has already talked about, we need to know their story. This is true when we are interacting with those we already know, and it is equally true when we engage in a spiritual conversation with someone we are meeting with for the first time. As we hear their story, we can find connecting points between what they have experienced in their life, and what we have experienced in ours.

So what are some ways we can initiate with those around us?

Classic 3Story Evangelism
This happens best with people you are already naturally forming relationships with. I don’t need to go into much depth here, because Jeremy already did a great series about 3Story. As we interact with friends and others that we are already forming relationships with, we live a lifestyle that allows us to tie our story and their story to God’s story. We take the initiative to bring God into the equation and interact with them by sharing more deeply about us, learning more deeply about their life, and talking about deeper spiritual matters with them.

Starting Conversations with Strangers
If you think about it, this isn’t that uncommon. In our daily life most of us probably talk to people we don’t know. Sure, they are usually short conversations, like a brief conversation on the metro about the weather, or talking to someone in line at the post office about who they are sending their package to. Even when we talk to strangers, or people we won’t see ever again, we can move them towards the gospel by setting a good example in how we interact with them. When there are good connecting points, we can share a little more about how our story connects, and even their story connects to God’s story.

Leaving a Tract with Someone
I might know what you’re thinking here. Whenever I hear about someone leaving a tract with someone else, I think “what a cop out.” I think evangelism should be more hands on and relational. However, Bill Bright, the co-founder of Cru often did something similar to this with his Four Spiritual Laws and he had amazing stories about how God worked through him doing so. However, even when he did this he would have a relational aspect to it. An example of this is that after getting to know his seatmate on a plane he would say, “The things this booklet talks about changed my life. If you are interested, I’d love to talk to you about it. Would you like a copy to read yourself?” Then, if the individual chose to read it and they wanted to talk further, they could. If not, no problem. While I don’t think this is the most ideal situation, there may be times in our life when we can’t stay and talk to someone about the gospel, even though the Holy Spirit might be placing a strong burden on our heart to share with them. In that case, it might be a good idea to give them a tract like The Four Spiritual Laws or the newer Would You Like to Know God Personally booklet. With an introductory statement and a way to contact us, this could still be relational. (Or better yet, if possible we can find a way to contact them later on if we can do so without coming across as a creeper.) It can still give us a chance to eventually share more of our story, learn more about their story, and connect both of our stories with each other and God’s story. Even if we can’t connect with them later, it is possible that we helped move them closer to the gospel.

The way we initiate spiritual conversations is different in different settings. If we are approaching someone we have known for years, we would initiate a spiritual conversation differently than we would with someone we are talking to for the first time. While the truth of the gospel is always the same, the starting point, depth of the conversation, metaphors used, and so on can all vary. It helps to have a clear understanding of the gospel or, as we have already talked about, it helps to know God’s story, and be able to clearly communicate it. Within Cru, we use a booklet I’ve already mentioned that is called Would You like to Know God Personally. (This is a new version of the Four Spiritual Laws.) When we use this booklet to share, we already have a clear understanding of the Gospel, so we don’t ramble incoherently (which some of the shyer among us might otherwise do). It can sometimes be helpful to use tracts as we share God’s story with others, and less mature Christians might even find themselves needing to as they learn to clearly communicate the message of Jesus. When we can memorize the essence of the Gospel as it is presented in tools like Would You like to Know God Personally, then we can truly be prepared to give a clear concise answer for the hope that we have. Different methods may work better for different people, but we all have the common call to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that comes from Jesus.

Initiative Relational Evangelism

I remember when I was a student with Youth for Christ, when I first heard of 3Story Evangelism. I remember thinking how complicated witnessing seemed, what a beautiful thing it was the 3Story encapsulated the basics of what I needed to do to start sharing my faith in Christ, and the difference he has made in my life with those around me. With 3Story, we can talk to our friends, family and co-workers about our faith in Christ by knowing Our Story, listening to Their Story, and dialoguing with them about God’s Story.

In high school as I became more and more familiar with 3Story (which is a method of what is called relational evangelism), it became something I grew more comfortable doing. It is exciting to think about the impact that students can have for Christ merely by sharing their whole life, including their relationship with Christ with people they already know. Then I went to college. Early on, I became involved in Campus Crusade for Christ (soon to be renamed Cru). One thing that Cru does well is initiative evangelism, which is where students and staff take the initiative to start conversations with other students, both those that they know and don’t know yet. Now, I know what many of you might be thinking and I was thinking the same thing. When I thought of initiative evangelism, I thought of someone going door to door, his KJV at the ready, asking if you would like to know Jesus. This is something that I felt I would never be able to do, and every fiber of my being wanted to fight against the very idea of talking to people I didn’t know.

Eventually this changed. After a little while I learned more about what Cru means when they talk about initiative evangelism. In fact, as I learned more, I eventually made up a new term, initiative relational evangelism. The truth is that we are called to reach out to those around us, both those that we know and those that we don’t know, with the message of Christ. In every case, forming a sincere relationship is important, whether we have just met someone for the first time, or if we have known them for years. Over the next few days I am going to write more about initiative relational evangelism, but first I would like to hear your thoughts. How can we be relational when we are initiating spiritual conversations with people we don’t know? Can you think of any ways that what we have learned about 3Story as a form of relational evangelism can inform what we do when we are engaging in initiative relational evangelism?