Inviting someone to church is not evangelism. Bringing them into a friendship with Christ is.
The Bible describes our task as reconciling others to Christ. The suggestion is that of a broken friendship renewed. It’s less about conversion and more about a growing friendship.
Since most people believe in God as children, even adults who reject faith are candidates for reconciliation to that still small voice.
Why Our People Don’t Talk About God
The problem with motivating and mobilizing church folks to evangelize is twofold. First, we’ve allowed evangelism to devolve into inviting others to a church service to watch a show. That led to a certain shallowness in churches that should have been about equipping their members for real ministry. Second, the emphasis on conversion points not only reinforced the first problem, it effectively frightened many away from even talking with friends about the Lord. If you need to convert them, you need to answer all objections, etc.
I’ve found strength in reminding our people that most come to faith days or weeks before saying a short prayer at the end of a church meeting. The conversations outside of church are what help people reconcile to God.
The second strength was in scripting conversations that bring God into the discussion. There are three that you might find helpful in motivating your people to help reconcile friends to God.
Three Conversation Starters
1. One of my friends will bring God into the conversation, like talking about cars, women or football. The script is simple, “Hey, what do you think about God?” Next step: close your mouth and listen. Once they sound off, positive or negative, they’ll usually ask for your thoughts. This question brings the subject of God into the ongoing narrative, which defines a friendship.
2. Another friend will ask something like, “Hey, if there is a God, what do you think he’s trying to say to us through the recent election?” Substitute anything for the word “election” in that sentence. Again, you make conversation about God a part of the friendship.
3. My favorite is to talk about recent answers to prayer in the same tone as I would when discussing the price of gasoline or some other mundane thing. Again, I’m trying to bring God to the table. I do this from time to time as it seems appropriate. Then I wait (often for weeks) for the person to complain about a serious problem. I then ask if I can pray for them. Usually, the conversation goes, “You know that I follow Jesus, and I pray every morning. Can I have your permission to pray about what you just told me during my prayer time tomorrow?” No one has ever turned me down. The next step is to pray with them in person eventually. This process takes time, but relationships and reconciliation are not quickies. I’ve found that if someone permits me to pray, they start looking up, wondering if God will answer—even if they profess atheism.
Once God is allowed into ordinary conversations, good things begin to happen. One friend, who says he hates church, won’t let a conversation or a dinner go by without grabbing hands with my wife and me to pray. We started it. He now prays daily, though he remains antagonistic to church. After a recent lunch at a restaurant, he suddenly remembered that we hadn’t prayed except over the food. I was semi-embarrassed when heads turned as he loudly said, “Hey, we forgot to pray,” grabbing our hands and launching into a couple of minutes praying for everything from his immediate problems to the homeless to people struggling in Africa. Is he in church? No. Is he moving closer to God? Yes!
Telling stories like this and providing scripts in my preaching has always helped equip our people for friendship evangelism. BTW, don’t print scripts as it is too programmy. Simply introduce them in stories you tell and heroes you make.
What tools have you used to help others bring God into normal conversations and friendships? Please talk to us in the comments box below!