How Do I Start To Talk To Others About Jesus?

Aug 07, 2019

Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others is the greatest privilege given to Christians. We are commanded to do this by Jesus himself in the Great Commission, and we have an intrinsic desire to share the same good news about the God who rescued us. Yet often we find ourselves crippled by fear and feelings of inadequacy when it comes to sharing the gospel with unbelieving members of our community. This week, Vince and Jo discuss how to begin talking to others about Jesus, offering some practical tips for conversational evangelism.

Question Asked in This Episode:
“I want to start evangelizing in my community, but I don’t know how to start that conversation. Do you have specific techniques that work well to start talking to others about Jesus? Is there a list of good icebreakers that can get the conversation started?”

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Michael Davis: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask Away, with Vince and Jo Vitale. I'm your host, Michael Davis. Having a desire to share our faith with those who do not know who Jesus is, should be all-consuming for those who have been saved by grace through faith. The fact that we have been commanded by Christ to make disciples of all people, of every tongue and every tribe, only compounds the desire for faithful Christians to evangelize their unbelieving friends and family.

Yet, all believers are at times, crippled by fear and feelings of inadequacy. Even people who truly love Jesus often times don't know where to start. How do we share our faith with those around us? Are there techniques and strategies that can make it less awkward?

Before we get started, Vince, can you tell our listeners a little bit about the RZIM Academy and why they should get involved?

Vince Vitale: Definitely. Well, this is a simple one. Just do it. You know, Nike had this one right. I mean, the academy is one of my favorite things in terms of RZIM resources. And, one of the reasons is because people have taken the RZIM academy courses from about 135 different countries. So, not only are you getting an online experience, which is highly practical, in addition to the content, which is asking you and inviting you to go out and have real conversations with real people, so you're not just learning in the head, but your heart's being changed, and you're actually engaging with people in a way that's going to develop habits of conversation and evangelism for the rest of your life that will be fruitful, but you're also in a cohort with almost a hundred other people from many different countries. And, the cultural perspective you get from that, and the insight that you get from that, it's a really rich experience.

So, RZIM Academy, can't recommend it enough.

Michael Davis: So, our first question is from Gabriel Marchant. And, I might be butchering your name, so I apologize.

"I want to start evangelizing in my community, but I don't know how to start that conversation. Do you have specific techniques that work well, to start talking to others about Jesus? Is there a list of good ice breakers that can get the conversation started?"

Jo Vitale: First, just let me say that Vince is mentioning Nike. The first time I heard that when I moved to America, I didn't know what people were talking about, because where I'm from in London, people pronounce it Nike.

Michael Davis: No. Really?

Jo Vitale: How hilarious is that? Like, what's Nike? So, I'm learning. I'm figuring it out.

Michael Davis: They also say Adidas.

Jo Vitale: We also say, we say Adidas, not Adidas. And what is...How do you say the other one? Puma? Puma? Puma, no idea, no idea.

Vince Vitale: Puma, Puma.

Michael Davis: You say Puma, right?

Vince Vitale: So, hold on. How do you say the Roman God, Nike, then? Is it because ...

Jo Vitale: Well, I didn't think I'd ever connected the two. I was like, "Who's Nike? Maybe he's..."I don't know.

Vince Vitale: Yeah, but the all-time, not to get off on too much of a tangent, but the all-time best one is the British pronunciation is aluminum.

Michael Davis: Yeah.

Vince Vitale: Which is...

Michael Davis: I can't even do it.

Jo Vitale: Aluminum.

Vince Vitale: Yeah, but it's actually spelled differently.

Michael Davis: Yeah, yeah, okay.

Vince Vitale: So, you know, fair enough. Fair enough.

Michael Davis: They misspell a lot of things.

Jo Vitale: So, Gabriel, that's one good ice breaker for you. It's always a good way in. Just, you know, laugh at other people's accents.

No, don't do that. Don't do that. This is a really important. Thank you for asking this question. It's good to get practical every so often, and not always focus on the philosophical or the things that make your head hurt. So, that's what I'm going to be doing today, just thinking through, how do you share the faith with your community?

The first thing I want to say, though, is that if you're already in this community, I hate to break it to you, but you've already started evangelizing in your community.

Vince Vitale: That's right.

Jo Vitale: Just being present, them seeing the life that you live, is already a powerful witness. And so, this doesn't start now. This has started way back, whenever you joined the community. Which is great, because it means you already have a foundation to be working from.

But, when it comes to thinking about how do you share faith within the community, I think in a way, your question gets the heart of it, that we feel like there's a kind of gear crunch or sudden shift when we move into evangelism. Or as, actually, I think evangelism is a much more organic thing that flows out of the conversations you're already having, which is great news for you. Because it means you don't have to start over.

Instead, you think, okay, what are the conversations I've already been having, and how do they just build from where we already are, rather than starting from scratch? Of course, when you're talking about evangelizing in your community, your community is made up of individuals. So, there isn't going to be a one effective approach to reach a community. It's really just going to be about, okay, who are the people in front of you, and how does each person relate to you? And, what are the particular struggles they're dealing with? What are the questions that they have as an individual?

And so, I think what you're going to find, the more you're reaching out into your community is that, for every different person, there's going to be a different way to do it. A different technique, a different ice breaker, a different conversation. And, while that may, at times, feel daunting, after a while, I think you're going to start to find that really fun. Because, it means you can't go in with a prescribed technique.

Instead, you're going to have to go in, totally relying on the Holy Spirit being very powerful. And, I think that's the first place to begin with any of this. Begin with prayer. I'm sure you've already been praying for them, but pray very specifically. Even in the morning, if you know you're going to spend time with people, ask the Lord in your prayer time that morning, are there any areas you want me to focus on in conversation with this individual, that individual? Are there any particular verses in the Bible you want to bring to mind, to help me? Are there any directions you need this conversation to go?

And, just ask the Holy Spirit to help you before you even get there. And then, I think you'll find that he'll start bringing things to your mind throughout the day. And, when you're in that conversation, sometimes, I walk into conversations and feel like God has really prepared the ground for me, because of things that have come to mind earlier for me suddenly come up in that very conversation. And so, don't limit what the Holy Spirit can do. He's a wonderful evangelist. He loves to evangelize, and so, you can trust he will go before you. He will help you in that process, and he'd be really excited to share that with you.

Vince Vitale: You can hear, you've gotten Jo on a passionate talk. That could have been one of the reasons I love her. I love what you said at the beginning there, Jo, that you've already started. I hadn't thought of it in quite those terms, but that's really good, actually. If you're in community and you're a Christian, you are evangelizing. Some of us are doing it well, and some of us are not doing it as well. But actually, if people know you're a Christian, and you're in community, then you are already representing Christ.

And actually, if you're in community, and people know you're a Christian, and you're not talking about him at all, that in itself also communicates something. Maybe that communicates that he's not quite important enough to have to share with people. And, actually, if we really believe the truths that Christianity claims about Jesus and about salvation, and about eternity, not communicating that to the people in your community, in your family, in your friendships groups, your neighbors, the people that you come across each day, could actually say something about where our hearts are with respect to those people. Do we love them enough to desperately want them to know what they need to know, in order to put their faith in Jesus, and for their life to be transformed, and for their destiny to be transformed, as well.

Michael Davis: So, this is actually kind of a direct split from this concept of preach the gospel, and at times, use words. You need to use words.

Jo Vitale: Right.

Vince Vitale: I think that's right. And, I highly doubt that St. Francis, as a preacher, ever said that.

Jo Vitale: He didn't say it. He actually didn't say it. It's a misquote. It is a misquote.

Vince Vitale: I think it's one of...I think it is.

Jo Vitale: In fact, he was a really effective evangelist, Francis of Assisi. Which doesn't mean he didn't live a great life. But, you bring both together. Of course, you do.

Vince Vitale: Yep, that's right. And, when you think about the fact that 90 percent of our communication is beyond just the words that you speak, right, those two things have to be integrated. If you're speaking it well, part of that communication is the life that you're living. And, everything else about the way you're interacting with the person. And, I like Jo, too, that you went to prayer first, as well.

And, you know, we say that sometimes as if, like, well, of course, of course you need to pray. But the reality is, there's a difference between praying for people evangelistically if you happen to remember once in a while.

Michael Davis: Yeah.

Vince Vitale: Or, actually being disciplined about that. And so, my question for people is often, how do you insure that your prayer for those who don't yet know Jesus is consistent and disciplined, and not just if you happen to remember?

I think there are lots of ways to answer that question. Some people use apps and reminders, or have it visually somewhere. You know, lots of different ways to do that, different times of the day. Whatever it is for you, fantastic. But, make sure you have some sort of rhythm to your life, where that type of prayer is a core aspect of your spiritual disciplines.

Jo Vitale: And not even just beforehand, but if I had to trace the trajectory of the conversations that I've had with people, where God has really shown up and moved in a powerful way, without a doubt, every time that something has gone beyond just a great, interesting conversation, to someone having an encounter with God, I've been sitting there praying fervently the whole time, under my breath. And, sometimes, out loud. But usually, under my breath.

So, don't discount the power of prayer in those moments, both to see your own heart in the conversation, and help you to say the right words and ask the right question, but also, to move the heart of the person that you're with. Because, that is what's going to do it here. And so, I think that's a huge thing.

I think we often talk about being multi-lingual. That's the phrase Vince likes to use for it. But, what he means by that is basically, one way to be effective when it comes to reaching people is, not just to start with the things you care about. That being the gospel, but to care deeply about the things that other people care about.

Vince Vitale: Yeah.

Jo Vitale: So, for example, if you have a friend who's a vegetarian, then, you know, I have good friends of mine who once became vegetarians for the sake of sharing the faith with somebody. Because they thought, they're not going to take what I care about seriously, unless I take what they about seriously.

Maybe you have someone who cares deeply about the environment in your life, and one way to think about how to love them well is to really take seriously, what are their concerns about the world, and how we're treating it? And, all the ways I could do better for the environment so they show, hey, I'm not just asking you to consider what I care about. I want to consider what you care about.

It could be things like, they love spoken word poetry, and they go and perform. So, you're going to show up for them. Michael, don't pull that face.

Michael Davis: Oh.

Jo Vitale: You know, why should they accept an invitation to come to church with you, if you're not going to go show up for their thing? So I think, sometimes, we think that's trivial because we think, well, hey, what I have to share with them is so important. It's the biggest question, most important question in the world. This will change their life. And yes, that's true.

Vince Vitale: Yeah.

Jo Vitale: But to them, it's not in that moment. To them, it's your hobby. It's your thing that you do, your special, strange thing that makes you a bit weird, bless you. And so, if they're trying to come to, get to grips with why they should care about what you care about, you've got to show that you care about what they care about first. And then, help them to understand why, maybe, if they think it's not a big deal, this is a big deal and a question that, perhaps, they'd want to consider.

Vince Vitale: Yeah. That's really good, and really goes a long way. And, sometimes, it's not even about something particularly significant. It might just be someone's love of a sports team. You know, I have a friend right now who's really connecting with a certain basketball team, because his brother really loves that basketball team. And so, it's giving them something to talk about, and something to build a relationship around. I think you can be really significant, and God can use those things.

One other thing, which has been really significant for me recently, we have a friend named Judy Dabbler, who heads up a conciliation ministry.

Michael Davis: She's great.

Vince Vitale: Really does fabulous work, and she spends a lot of time with our team doing training for us. And, one thing she talks about is connected questions. I've gotten really excited about this, because it's super simple, but makes a huge difference in terms of your conversations.

So, what she says is that, we tend to ask disconnected questions, right? Questions on independent topics. So, our conversations go something like this. I say, "What did you do this weekend?" And you give me an answer. Then, I switch to a different topic and say, "Do you have a busy week coming up?" And you say, "Oh, yeah, it's going to be really busy." Da, da, da.

And then, I switch to another completely independent topic, and I say, "Oh, isn't the weather terrible outside?" You say, "Oh, yeah, it's terrible. I got soaked on the way into work." Right, we've had three separate, very brief conversations on independent topics.

What Judy encourages is to ask connected questions. So, same first question, "What'd you do this weekend?" This is actually, a conversation I had awhile back. So, "What'd you do over the weekend?" The person responded to me, "I was renovating a room in our basement."

Okay, like, nothing particularly deep yet. Pretty surface of a conversation. But, rather than changing to a different topic, with connected questions, you simply ask another question about the information you've been given. So, I say, "What'd you do over the weekend?" They said, "Renovating a room in our basement." Now, I want to ask a question about that. So, I said, "Why were you renovating a room in your basement?"

He said, "My wife wants her sister to move in with us."

Michael Davis: Oh, there you go.

Vince Vitale: Okay, so now, I'm only one more level deep, and all of a sudden, it's getting interesting. So then, I said, "Was that an easy decision for you guys, for your wife's sister to move in? Or, was it a more challenging decision?" And then, just, this gush of information came about all the relational tension between him and his wife, and the relationship with the sister-in-law. And, literally, everything that was deeply on his mind and in his heart came flowing out.

It was too questions below the surface, but what Judy says is that, most people never get asked a fourth or a fifth connected question. And, even if you just get to that third question, you can take the most common daily, superficial question, but if you then just connect the questions and go deeper two or three times, you're usually only two or three simple questions away from really getting at what's going on in a person's life.

So, I love it, because this makes conversation a lot easier, actually. You don't have to have a hundred different topics in your mind, so that as soon as someone gives an answer to one of your questions, you have to switch to a new topic. And, after five or six topics, you're going, "I'm out of topics. Where do we go from here?"

Instead, you just ask a simple question about the information they've given you, and it makes you become a better listener, because you have to listen well to the information you're given in response to a question, and then, ask a thoughtful question in response to that. Incredibly simple, but the number of meaningful conversations you'll have throughout the year if you practice this will skyrocket. And, I think Jesus makes his way into those meaningful conversations quite naturally.

Jo Vitale: I think in the process of that, just bear with people. Because like Vince said, people are not used to being asked that level of questions often. And so, sometimes, people will give you sort of one word answers, already short answers, because they find it hard to believe you actually care, like, you actually want to know. So, sometimes, just repeat the question or ask a followup question. Or, you say, "Tell me more about that." Or, "I'm really interested."

Just, keep it going, because it takes a little while for people to get used to you. But, once they come to realize you're someone who isn't just asking for the sake of it, but really wants to know who they are, who care about the deep stuff in their life, then, increasingly, they will start sharing with you. Or, they may not share in the moment, but when something goes down that's really difficult, you'll come to mind as someone who's actually invested and interested. And, someone they can trust with these things.

With that, that means that you do have to be a trustworthy person. So, it means you have to be someone who actually really does care about someone. You know, it isn't going to work in your life if these become strategies for conversation because you're trying to get someone somewhere, and treating them like a project.

Michael Davis: Amen.

Jo Vitale: As opposed to just genuinely, really loving them, and actually, really, really wanting to know about their life, wanting to dig deep into their stuff. Wanting to, when they share it, be responsible with it, to make a note, to write it down so that you don't forget about the conversation. And the next time that you see them, you forget to ask, "How's your sister with cancer doing?" And then, they feel really discouraged that they poured out their heart, and you didn't even remember the conversation, that you didn't take care of it.

So, follow through. If you're going to ask deep questions, and people are going to trust you, then be trustworthy with the information that they give you, and make sure they know you're invested with them because you care, regardless of the outcome. And, that has to be clear to them, that you're not just in it for a while, and then when you see you can't push them into something, then you move onto the next person.

People matter. People are beloved by God regardless of whatever decision they're going to come to here. So, be like Christ in that. Love people well.

Vince Vitale: And, I'll tell you as a former atheist, you can spot that a mile away.

Michael Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Vince Vitale: A mile away.

Jo Vitale: Right.

Vince Vitale: One other thing I think is really important as we intend to go deeper in conversations is, as we're asking people to be vulnerable with us in terms of their questions, their desires, the needs of their heart, we need to be willing to be vulnerable with the people that we're talking to, as well.

I heard recently that every person expresses brokenness, on average, about 27 times over the course of a day. So, that brokenness can range from the superficial, "Man, I'm so busy. I don't know how I'm going to get all this work done," to, "I've just lost someone in my life." But, some form of brokenness or lack of wholeness gets expressed, on average, by every person 27 times in a day. That's a fantastic opportunity to intersect a person's story and your story in a genuine way, and be able to deeply connect with someone, if we're willing to be vulnerable, as well.

And, I often think that Jesus is our model in this respect. He could have communicated truth to us in all sorts of ways. He decided to do so in the most vulnerable way he possibly could have. And, I think of Thomas the Doubter who said, "I need to actually see the scars in Jesus' hands and feet, and in his side, and put my fingers there." And, Jesus allowed him to do so. And, it was because Thomas saw that Jesus was willing to be vulnerable with him, that he knew that he could be vulnerable with Jesus. And, that relationship was established.

So, I think that's a model for us. People in that place of doubt often need to see that the one that they're going to trust is willing to be vulnerable with them. And, if we're willing to be vulnerable with the people that we're having conversation with, that may point them, we hope, to a God who was willing to be ultimately vulnerable for their salvation.

Michael Davis: Well, guys, we are out of time. Vince, sum it up for us.

Vince Vitale: Well, Gabriel, thanks for asking about a topic that we're really passionate about. My deep prayer and longing for every Christian is to have that experience of seeing a friend go from not knowing God and from really being distrustful of God, to just that light that goes on in someone's eyes when they begin to see Jesus for who he is and what he's done. It's a beautiful thing. And, just having that chance to pray with a new believer, oftentimes, the best, most powerful, just raw, genuine, authentic prayers come out of the mouth of people who have just come to faith for the first time. It's an incredible privilege to be a part of that journey in someone's life.

I'm excited that you want to be a part of that, and I think our encouragement to everyone would be, take conversation seriously. Take relationships seriously. And often times, this gets left out of the spiritual disciplines. We rightly put front and center reading our Bibles and praying, and studying. But also, can we get to a point where, we're thinking about things like connected questions. We're thinking about how we respond to questions. We're thinking about the questions that we ask people. And, we actually want to get more and more Godly, more and more Christ-like in the way that we interact with people, so we wind up in those meaningful, deep conversations that Jesus finds his way into naturally.

Michael Davis: Vince, Jo, thank you guys for joining me. Thank you all for listening, and we will catch you guys next week.

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