Talking is one of the most definitive and glorious skills that humans possess. Each day we share stories, relay information, and build relationships with others through our verbal exchanges. We long to tell others what we experience and what we think. Our words help us build and strengthen relationships.
For the Christian, our words are also meant to carry the Good News that God has come near to us in Christ Jesus to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, ESV). This Gospel mandate is a joy, but it is also a challenge. Talking may be a very natural thing, but specifically initiating conversations about the Gospel can be quite difficult. And so we try to make that easier: We attend training, we study techniques, and we discuss the pros and cons of one approach over another. Still, engaging in actual Gospel conversations with the people we know makes us rather tongue-tied.
One reason our training, techniques, and approaches fall short is that conversations cannot be run through a grid to produce a desired outcome.
We cannot begin to control our conversational exchanges and interactions with others. There will always be surprising tangents, twists, and turns. And this is a good thing!
This is the beauty of the human race—we are not all the same. We do not think alike, and we do not know every detail about each other. There are a million things that have shaped who we are, what we think about, what we believe. We have much to learn about each other.
What we don't know, however, produces great unrest and causes us to shy away from important conversations, including ones about faith. What if the conversation goes into unknown territory? What if there are questions? What if doesn't go well? Nagging fears like these are crippling.
Scripture, however, says the antidote to fear is love (1 John 4:18). Loving others certainly includes sharing the Gospel with them, but love is greater than the transference of knowledge. God showed His great love for us by coming to us in the flesh, to be with us, to walk among us, to know us.
Jesus is our example in how we use our Gospel training, techniques, and approaches. Being with people, walking with them, knowing them—this is how we love.
And along the way, we can listen with Gospel ears for ways to share the great news that God has come to save us from our sins.
Just as it’s easier to steer a moving ship, so too is it easier to steer an active conversation. That means we need to first get a conversation started, and then see where it will go. Caring about others means knowing them. You'll have to ask lots of questions. Cultivate interest in the lives of others. Then listen for ways to direct the conversation to the hope Jesus gives.
For example, when troubles and sorrows are mentioned, you have the opportunity to show empathy, share words of hope, and extend tangible support—and give the glory to God. When discussing current events, you can explore deeper conversation about what has gone wrong in the world and if there is any hope—and point to the beauty of the God's Story. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Praise others for how God has created them and how they are a blessing to you. Let your conversation continually steer toward Jesus as you extend love, grace, and mercy. Such conversations will not come back void.
Our conversations hold endless entry points to sharing the Gospel. Listen closely to others; look for ways to show God’s love. And trust that your common, everyday conversations are more powerful than you think.