Grace Compass Church
7 Steps to More Spiritual Conversations
Here is what I do to engage people in a spiritual conversation:
1. Make it a priority. Be intentional
2. Pray for the opportunities.
3. Get out into the community.
4. Cultivate relationships.
5. Learn to ask good questions.
6. Look for God’s work in people.
7. Guard your heart.
Effective Evangelism Training
Power of the Holy Spirit emphasizes learning God’s vision for evangelism, and developing a passion for personal evangelism. This evangelism conference also seeks to develop practical evangelism skills in cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
The course uses a lot of the principles we teach about cooperating with the Holy Spirit and conversational evangelism, based on Phillip and Ethiopian Eunuch.
Phillip And The Ethiopian Eunuch
By EvangelismCoach • April 24, 2007
Acts Conversions
Let’s look at an “easy conversion,” that of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts Chapter 8.
This conversion was as simple as picking a ripe mango ready to fall from a tree.
It’s not so much about the Eunuch as it is about Phillip being God’s tool to help the man come to faith.
The fruit is ready

The Fruit is Ready
These are the kinds of evangelistic conversations I love because a person has been prepared by the Lord to this point, and I get to be the one God uses to bring that person into the kingdom.
It reminds me that God is the Evangelist, that the Holy Spirit goes before us to prepare the way, and that when we are obedient to His promptings, the Lord can use us.
The passage: Acts 8:26-40.
Phillip had been directed by the Lord to go on a scavenger hunt. “Go to the south road, the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
Phillip was then prompted to go and stand near a chariot that was on the road.
Phillip hears a man reading a particular passage from the book of Isaiah.
Phillip asks if he understands.
The man’s response: “How can I unless someone explains it to me? Please tell me who the prophet is talking about.”
Phillip began there and told him the good news about Jesus. The eunuch believed, he took baptism, and went on his way rejoicing, never to see Phillip again.
Reflections:
A seeker:
We know from the text what Phillip didn’t know at first. This man had been coming from Jerusalem, where he had been to worship God. Phillip didn’t know him, but found a man reading out loud from the Old Testament.
This man shows all the signs of one who is spiritualy thirsty.
• He had reworked his schedule to go to Jerusalem on his own.
• He was reading from the Scripture.
• He wanted somebody to explain what he was reading.
• He was willing to search for the truth.
• He was willing to understand.
This man was hungry for the things of God. He was spiritually thirsty. Prepared by God.
All he needed was a person to help explain.
An evangelist.

The Lord used an obedient Phillip to help this man into the kingdom.

Both sides always balance
God worked both sides of the equation, so to speak, putting Phillip and the spiritualy thirsty eunuch in the same place at the same time. This positioning is the Role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism.
All Phillip had to do in this encounter with a stranger was to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, Phillip got to work with God.
Phillip didn’t
• need to pry open a hard heart like a can of beans.
• have to waste hours of conversation about the existence of God.
• need to get the Eunuch to the starting point of a Gospel Script
All the talk in the world could not replace the work of God that prepared the eunuch ahead of time.
Luke on summarizes the conversation as “the good news about Jesus”. This was not a Scripted Evangelism Conversation.
So what?
For one brief afternoon, the stories of these two strangers intersected. Phillip was doing his ordinary routine when the Lord prompted him to go to specific place. The eunuch was simply going home after a pilgrimage.
But at one moment, their paths crossed and one man’s destiny was changed.
It is my desire that you spend time asking “God where are you at work?” It’s much easier to cooperate with God’s activity, rather than wasting hours of argument prying open a locked heart.
The key is that Phillip noticed “THAT” Chariot. God underlined the chariot and Phillip positioned himself.
We know that God’s Spirit is at work in us as believers, training us, teaching us, and transforming us.
But, I also want to point out how the Holy Spirit prepares the way for evangelism to occur naturally.
Consider Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Clearly the Spirit of God was at work in the life of the Eunuch.
• He had gone to Jerusalem to worship.
• He was reading Scripture.
• He wanted someone to explain Scripture to him.
The eunuch had a spiritual thirst, created by the Holy Spirit, and he was busy searching to slake that thirst. He was like the merchant looking for the fine pearl.
Easy Conversation
This was an easy conversation to for Phillip to participate in.
He didn’t have to
• argue with a loud voice
• apologetically stand up for his faith
• use the 10 commandments as a hammer.
• verbally convince the eunuch of his sinfulness.
• spend 10,000 words arguing God’s existence.
• rationally defend against opposite worldviews.
The Holy Spirit had prepared the way. The Holy Spirit had gone ahead of Phillip.
Both Sides of the Equation
There are two individuals involved in this story. One seeking faith, and the other obediently positioning himself to share his faith. Two sides of an equation.
The conversation would not have happened that day if both parties were not in the same GPS location at the same time, an encounter brought about in the sovereignty of God.
The Holy Spirit was working in Phillip and the Eunuch. To borrow a phrase from my old algebra teacher, God was working “Both sides of the equation.”
As you do personal evangelism, notice how God is already at work in preparing the harvest field for you. He has gone ahead of you!
More than just conversions
This is a learnable model of personal evangelism that can be done as a practical exercise.

Listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for those Kairos moments can bring good news to lots of people in many situations.
Effective Evangelism Training Lab Time

The basic premise is that we ask God to show us in whom he is working to draw unto Himself and then ask God how to participate in that work. Phillip was sensitive to the Lord’s leading to “Go stand next to that Chariot.” Likewise, we listen for those promptings.
The conversation that follows develops out of the context and the direction that the Lord gives.
“On the way to Gaza”
So we spend time in prayer and then give about 5 hours for people to find their “desert road on the way to Gaza” to see who they will encounter.
“Go stand next to that chariot”
When the people go out with a simple task of asking God to point out where he is working, I’m always personally amazed at the ease of conversation. Sometimes we plant, we water, or we harvest.
We always find people who are easily talkative about spiritual things, about their life, and in some cases, have pretty open questions. Conversations that follow are not forced, but natural.
Its a great exercise and over the years, the stories that have come back have been encouraging to see God at work.
So how can one provide effective practice sessions in a local evangelism training session?
1. Provide time for practical evangelism experience.
2. Build in time for feedback after each evangelism activity.
3. Include positive and constructive feedback for each encounter.
4. Help groups monitor their time (some feedback discussions chase theological rabbit trails)
5. Do it again.
When the people return from their outing, we have a debriefing time. We allow people to share their stories and we ask questions to help evaluate each encounter.
Some questions I like to ask are:
1. “How did God point out that person to you?”
2. “Where did you notice God was already at work?”
3. “What was their spiritual thirst?”
4. “What would you do differently?”
5. “What did you share about Christ?”
Let me ask you this?
Will you take the time today to ask God to show you where He is at work?
Conversion Stories from the NT - Paul
By EvangelismCoach • April 18, 2007
This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Acts Conversions
Sometimes conversions are just unbelievable. They “fall from heaven” so to speak. There is no evangelist, no gospel presentation, no explanation of the law, it just happens – God does all the work. While not the norm, it can happen. God is sovereign enough to make it happen.
For example, the apostle Paul’s conversion – fell from heaven. He’s busy “breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” On the road to Damascus, God interrupts his life. Read it yourself in Acts 9.
It was a dramatic encounter – voice from heaven, bright lights, temporary blindness. Paul’s travel companions heard the sound, they were dumbfounded – they were speechless.
While praying after the event, Paul sees a vision of a man named Ananias (small detail revealed by God) coming to lay hands on him. God, working both sides of the equation, sends Ananias to go and do that thing. Ananias lays hands on Paul and Paul is healed. He was baptized.
From what we know of the rest of Paul’s life from the New Testament, he grew in understanding what had happened to him.
Over time, the Lord revealed more about the richness of salvation, the wonder of grace, the relationship between the law and salvation, and how the gospel would go forth to the Gentiles. It is a plausible argument that Paul believed first, and then understood the richness of what happened to him.
It is my prayer that God in His sovereignty would bring more people into the Kingdom, even where there are no evangelists.
While not the normal approach to evangelism, we can’t exclude that it may happen. God can reveal Christ to people without us, should He choose.
Over the next few days, we’ll look at a couple more conversion stories in the New Testament and see what we might learn about the conversion experience.
Let me ask you this?
Would you pray for more conversions that fall from heaven?
For the series:
The Apostle Paul
Simon the Sorcerer
Ethiopian Eunuch
Psidian Antioch
Sergius Paulus
Cornelius
We cover topics like:
• Motivations for Evangelism
• The Role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism
• Practical Evangelism Skills
• Fearless Evangelism
• Cross-cultural Evangelism
• Spiritual Gifts in Evangelism.
Because we are using this setting for professional video taping for a future 10 week church based evangelism course, teachers from US, Canada, and the United Kingdom will be involved. This is your chance to get a multi-cultural evangelism training experience!
Questions Leading into Spiritual Conversations November 3, 2008
Posted by Gilbert Kingsley in Evangelism.
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A good friend of mine has three of his campuses doing a “Kill the Giants” Week over the next couple of weeks. It is events like that that encourages us to trust the Lord by demonstrating big faith to “kill” some personal and ministry giants in their lives. We know that for many students, personal evangelism is a significant giant that truly demands big faith. With that in mind, here are 31 conversation “starters” compiled by Patty Burgin and Bobb Biehl.
1. Where are you in your spiritual pilgrimage?
2. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
3. What single thing would you like to make absolutely certain you do (if at all possible) during your lifetime?
4. How do you think a person can keep from becoming a workaholic?
5. What character can you imagine yourself to be? (any period of history)
6. What are you reading that is not an assignment or required by your work?
7. How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?
8. How are your growing personally?
9. In a conversation with someone who has never heard about God, what would you say about Him from your experience?
10. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
11. How would you describe your father and his impact on your life?
12. Tell me about your mentor and his/her impact on your life.
13. What do you think would probably surprise most people about you? Why?
14. What is your greatest strength, and what are you doing to develop it?
15. Why do people do what they do? What are the assumptions you make about people?
16. How do you handle pressure? When the pressure is really on, what do you need from your friends?
17. Has anything ever happened to you that was dramatic, personal or spectacular enough to cause you to be certain there is a God who is both infinite and personally caring?
18. What do you consider to be two major turning points in your life?
19. What is something you consider to be a great personal success? Why was it so significant?
20. What is the key to maintaining balance in your life?
21. What are 2 or 3 major truths upon which you have based your decision-making?
22. Tell me about two of your life-long friends and why they have such an impact on your life. What made you choose them?
23. Have you dealt with the questions? “How much money is enough, and what do I do with the rest?”
24. How would you describe your mother and the impact she has had on your life?
25. In your opinion, who was/is Jesus Christ?
26. If you could know God personally, would you be interested?
27. How would you define materialism, and how do you deal with it in your life?
28. What have you found to be the best way of absorbing disappointment, rejection, distress and discouragement?
29. When you get to heaven, what will be the first three questions you will ask God?
30. If you were to inherit a million dollars today, and couldn’t spend it on your own enterprise or keep it for yourself, what would you do with it and why?
31. What do you find most attractive about Christianity/the person of Christ? What do you find least attractive about Christianity/the person of Christ?
And here is a list of questions intended to break through barriers in sharing the gospel compiled in the NorthEast several years ago.
1. Do you consider yourself a seeker of the truth?
2. What is your spiritual background?
3. Have you ever read the Bible?
4. Have your views on religion changed since you started college? How?
5. Have you ever discussed what Biblical Christianity is?
6. Why do you think you feel the way you do toward Jesus Christ and his message of love and forgiveness?
7. What is your philosophy of life based on?
8. Do you believe what you’ve been brought up with?
9. Why do you think Christianity isn’t relevant to your life?
10. If Christ was who He claimed to be, how would that affect your life?
11. What are you living for? What do you value most?
12. If your questions could be answered in a way that would satisfy you, would you then believe in Christ?
13. The Kennedy questions: First ask–”If you died today, do you know for sure you’d go to heaven?” Then ask–”If you died and stood before God and He asked you ‘Why should I let you into Heaven?’ What would you say?”
The key here is simply to begin conversations and then to listen to the heart of the one we are talking with. Sometimes it is hardest bringing up the gospel with our friends. We just need to keep asking questions that will reveal who they are.
44 Spiritual Conversation Starter Questions
By EvangelismCoach • November 28, 2008
One of the blogs I read (Gilbert’s Coaching Tips) wrote Questions Leading into Spiritual Conversations and complied the following List of 44 conversational questions.
1. Where are you in your spiritual pilgrimage?
2. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
3. What single thing would you like to make absolutely certain you do (if at all possible) during your lifetime?
4. How do you think a person can keep from becoming a workaholic?
5. What character can you imagine yourself to be? (any period of history)
6. What are you reading that is not an assignment or required by your work?
7. How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?
8. How are your growing personally?
9. In a conversation with someone who has never heard about God, what would you say about Him from your experience?
10. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
11. How would you describe your father and his impact on your life?
12. Tell me about your mentor and his/her impact on your life.
13. What do you think would probably surprise most people about you? Why?
14. What is your greatest strength, and what are you doing to develop it?
15. Why do people do what they do? What are the assumptions you make about people?
16. How do you handle pressure? When the pressure is really on, what do you need from your friends?
17. Has anything ever happened to you that was dramatic, personal or spectacular enough to cause you to be certain there is a God who is both infinite and personally caring?
18. What do you consider to be two major turning points in your life?
19. What is something you consider to be a great personal success? Why was it so significant?
20. What is the key to maintaining balance in your life?
21. What are 2 or 3 major truths upon which you have based your decision-making?
22. Tell me about two of your life-long friends and why they have such an impact on your life. What made you choose them?
23. Have you dealt with the questions? “How much money is enough, and what do I do with the rest?”
24. How would you describe your mother and the impact she has had on your life?
25. In your opinion, who was/is Jesus Christ?
26. If you could know God personally, would you be interested?
27. How would you define materialism, and how do you deal with it in your life?
28. What have you found to be the best way of absorbing disappointment, rejection, distress and discouragement?
29. When you get to heaven, what will be the first three questions you will ask God?
30. If you were to inherit a million dollars today, and couldn’t spend it on your own enterprise or keep it for yourself, what would you do with it and why?
31. What do you find most attractive about Christianity/the person of Christ? What do you find least attractive about Christianity/the person of Christ?
32. Do you consider yourself a seeker of the truth?
33. What is your spiritual background?
34. Have you ever read the Bible?
35. Have your views on religion changed since you started college? How?
36. Have you ever discussed what Biblical Christianity is?
37. Why do you think you feel the way you do toward Jesus Christ and his message of love and forgiveness?
38. What is your philosophy of life based on?
39. Do you believe what you’ve been brought up with?
40. Why do you think Christianity isn’t relevant to your life?
41. If Christ was who He claimed to be, how would that affect your life?
42. What are you living for? What do you value most?
43. If your questions could be answered in a way that would satisfy you, would you then believe in Christ?
44. The Kennedy questions: First ask–”If you died today, do you know for sure you’d go to heaven?” Then ask–”If you died and stood before God and He asked you ‘Why should I let you into Heaven?’ What would you say?”
The key here is simply to begin conversations and then to listen to the heart of the one we are talking with. Sometimes it is hardest bringing up the gospel with our friends. We just need to keep asking questions that will reveal who they are.
Thanks for sharing these.
In order to start a spiritual conversation, be aware of the following:

1. The Holy Spirit. Often we depend on our own insight or wisdom rather than be attentive to the voice of God. God has promised that His Holy Spirit will precede us. The Spirit must prepare a person’s heart to hear the Good News. Often the conversation will just open up in front of us as the Holy Spirit makes the way.

2. Timing. Sometimes we can blow up the whole process by rushing into a spiritual discussion that just is not there. We need to be willing to speak when the opportunity is there, but we cannot rush a person’s spiritual journey toward God. God moves people toward Himself one step at a time. Our well intentioned statement may do more to push people away than help them move forward.

3. Pray. Pray before, Pray during, Pray after. God moves in response to our prayers. He is willing to give us both the opportunity and the words if we are willing to ask.

4. Be natural. A word that is being overused lately is “Authentic.” But it does remind us that we need to be comfortable. We need to use typical words that everyone understands. We need to be humble and not preachy.

Often the simplest of questions will get the ball rolling.
Spiritual Conversation Killers
In April of 2003, National Public Radio aired a story about a standoff between an angry mob of Iraqi Shiites and a heavily armored patrol from the American 101st Airborne Division. Fearing that the soldiers were preparing to desecrate their most holy shrine, hundreds of unarmed civilians pressed in toward the patrol waving their hands and shouting defiantly. Although the patrol’s intentions were peaceful, the standoff would probably have been disastrous if not for the quick thinking of US Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hughes. Hughes, who was in command that day, picked up a loud speaker and barked out three simple commands to his men; the first was to take a knee, the second was to point their weapons toward the ground, the third and final
order was to look up and give everyone in that hostile crowd a friendly smile. Astoundingly, in few brief moments after they obeyed his order, the troops saw the demeanor of the crowd begin to change. Hostility and defiance melted away as shaking fists and screaming voices were replaced with smiles and friendly pats on the back.
Though it may not be immediately apparent, this hopeful story from the war in Iraq has important implications for spiritual conversations in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile towards the traditional
kinds of conversations Christians attempt to have. As Ravi Zacharias says, “We must learn to find the backdoor to people’s hearts because the front door is heavily guarded.” Many not-yet Christians react defensively much like the Shiites in the story above when the topic of conversation turns to spiritual matters. They anticipate and are amply prepared for any direct attack on the holy places and sacred shrines of their hearts. The conversations we have rarely penetrate the armor of their hearts because to them it just sounds like, “my worldview is better that your worldview, so let me tell you why I’m right and you’re wrong.” “And by the way if you don’t surrender to my point of view, I will launch the nuclear bomb called hell to bring you to repentance.” Instead of opening hearts to Jesus, many times we merely perpetuate the “us versus them” standoff. So how do we keep from becoming embroiled in these no-win, never-ending kind of spiritual conversation stalemates?

(A Scripture to Meditate On) The Message version of Colossians 4:5,6 puts the answer this way: “Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.”
The first sentence of this passage perfectly describes the approach Colonel Hughes took when he acted so decisively that day in Najaf. He was wise in the way he related to those who felt and believed differently than him. We need to be equally wise engaging people if we want the quality and quantity of our spiritual conversations to increase. If you truly believe as I do that real wisdom comes from above, could I encourage you to pause and invite the Holy Spirit to grant you this kind of wisdom as you start this book. (A Prayer to Offer) God, open my eyes to the ways I maybe hindering opportunities for spiritual conversationsin my daily life.
Now, allow the Spirit to have His way in your heart as you reflectively ponder my
top ten list of spiritual conversation killers. I’m all too familiar with each one of
them. You see I failed my way into writing this chapter of the book. So by all
means, go to school on my failures so that you can avoid the mistakes I made
early on when I was filled with zeal but lacked the wisdom spoken of in Colossians
5,6. At this point, I feel the need to issue a word of caution before you proceed. If
you choose to forgo the homework assignments in this chapter, the rest of
this book could be somewhat of a wasted read. Identifying and rectifying the
spiritual conversation killers in your life is a pivotal part of each Christ followers
journey into fulfilling the truth found in Colossians 4:5,6. God wants
to do something in us most of the time before He can do something through us
He is all about us becoming conformed to the very message we are trying to share
with others.
Having said that, spiritual conversation school is now in session. As previously mentioned, I earned my masters degree at the school of hard knocks. So please make every effort to turn my failures into your successes. It would ease my pain and make all my failures seem worthwhile.
Killer #1 The Heart is the Heart of the Matter
After speaking with countless Christ followers all over the world, I am convinced that the number one killer of spiritual conversation is unbelief. Could I ask you to stop and prayerfully ponder a question that penetrates to the heart of my conviction? Do you really believe the people in your Monday thru Saturday world want to talk about spiritual things? If you don’t, could I urge you to stop reading right now and invite Christ to help you with your unbelieving heart? Nothing else in this book will help you a whole lot until you change your mind about this
matter. In Matthew 12:34b, Jesus informs us that our lips reflect what is on our hearts. I have found that we will miss opportunity after opportunity if we’ve pre-determined that the people who cross our path have no interest in talking about spiritual matters. For those of you who are skeptical of my assertion due to the spiritual climate of your geographic location, please give me the benefit of the doubt. I’ve had spiritual conversations with people all over the world including the supposed “tough places”. I think it’s because the Holy Spirit has given me a
conviction that if God has put eternity in people’s hearts, which is what Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, then people were made for spiritual conversations. As I’ve learned how to naturally create “God Space” in my relational encounters
and avoid the nine spiritual conversation killers that you are about to read, spiritual conversations have become the norm, not the exception. Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the heart is right, the feet are swift.” Maybe he
picked this idea up from Jesus who said in Matthew 9:23b “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Your heart is the heart of the matter! Unbelief hampers the Holy Spirit’s desire to advance God’s Kingdom through you,
one spiritual conversation at a time.
Killer #2 Pre-Conversational History
The second greatest deterrent to having spiritual conversations occurs before most conversations have a chance to happen. Many un-believers have experienced some or all of the following eight spiritual conversation killers,
which are ranked in no particular order after numbers one and two. These experiences help to reinforce the age-old axiom that there are two things you don’t talk about in public, politics and religion. David Kinnaman in his book
“UnChristian” quotes one outsider who described Christianity this way: “Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, anti-choice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.” Like it or not our Christian jewelry, t-shirts, TV programs, tracts, and bumper stickers all serve to create a pre-conversational history that colors the perception of everyone you meet. This history greatly
inhibits the possibility of having spiritual conversations with others. When you identify with Jesus, you automatically inherit all the perceptions created by His followers. Getting out of this Christian box as quickly as possible is essential if you are going to have real conversations.
This became quite clear to me on one of my speaking trips. I was in Columbus, Ohio speaking at the annual Summer Institute at Xenos, a church that is intentionally trying to live out much of what this book is about. I was
having a problem with one of my slides in my Keynote presentation (Mac’s version of Powerpoint). So, I went to the Apple Store nearby to see if they could help me. The young lady assigned to work with me liked the challenging problem I presented to her. As she attempted to fix it, she was exposed to most of the content of my presentation on evangelism. I could not help wondering what was going through her mind. At that moment I realized that I wasn’t just in the box, “I was the box” to her. I sensed the atmosphere tighten up as she asked me to
scroll through the clips and slides in my presentation. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit helped get me out of the box with the following question. “I was wondering if you would be willing to help me in another way. I’m here in town to speak to a large gathering of Christians who would like to learn how to talk to their friends about spiritual matters. Has anyone ever tried to do that with you?” She immediately went on n impassioned rant about the negative experiences she has had with her born again sister. As I began to reflectively listen to her, she began to
calm down a little. I ask her the following question, which she was more than willing to answer. “If your sister were in the audience tomorrow when I speak, what would you like me to tell her so that your future conversations
turn out a little better?” I had now climbed out of the box. She began to realize that I was not like her sister. Now that her pre-conversational history was out on the table, I was able to avoid the landmines that might blow up the
opportunity to proceed talking about spiritual matters. We spent the rest of the time while she finished up my job doing just that. I walked away wishing there was some way her sister could be flown into the workshop I’d be doing the next day. I knew that was never going to happen, so I decided to share this story in hopes that someday she will read this book and connect the dots. Whether she does or not, this experience sure helped me to see that we can’t ignore ones pre-conversational history if we hope to increase the quality and quantity of our spiritual onversations.
Killer #3 Awkward Transitions
Several years ago, I found myself at home alone on a Sunday afternoon totally immersed in the last two minutes of a pro football game that would decide which team would make the playoff’s. I was annoyingly distracted from the gridiron drama by the sound of my doorbell. Somebody outside my house was obviously not in touch with what was going on inside my house. I prepared myself to quickly “stiff arm” (in Christian love of course) whoever was at the door so I could get back to my “Sunday football fix”. Unfortunately when I opened the door, two
Mormons stood ready to greet me. They wanted to engage me in spiritual conversation. I found myself suspended in a spiritual time warp as they fumbled the ball early and often in there struggle to start up a conversation with me.
As I listened to their awkward attempts to get a conversation started, pictures of bygone days began to flash through my mind of the times when I was the one attempting to start a spiritual conversation. All of a sudden I was filled with compassion for these two Mormons on their mission because they had reacquainted me with all those awkward feelings I had experienced when I was the one stammering through some awkward transition I had been taught to memorize. Awkward transitions create awkward feelings, which can leave people feeling pretty uptight. Most of the people I know, do not regularly sign up for conversations that leave them feeling “weirded out”. This raises the question I’m asked quite often, “So then, how do you transition into a spiritual conversation?”
As I’ve probed to better understand the nature of this question, I’ve discovered that most Christ followers are hoping for a sure fire transitional statement they can memorize which will produce great spiritual conversations every time they use it. Maybe we should take a cue from Jesus on this one. If He didn’t approach spiritual conversations this way, why should we? I am quite familiar with most of the different transitions Christian workers are taught to use. Even when practiced and delivered flawlessly, these transitions tend to create awkward feelings when the other person realizes you are trying to take the conversation somewhere. If their hearts are not prepared to go there, it might be the last spiritual conversation you will ever have with them. Later on in this book, I will
discuss how we can move into spiritual conversations naturally and avoid awkward transitions.
Killer #4 Our Language – Not Theirs
While I’m on the Mormons, I have to share a funny story that I hope will make Killer #4 seem quite obvious. My brother’s job required him to move to the greater Salt Lake City, Utah area a few years ago. After they had settled into the neighborhood, one of their neighbors came over one day to welcome them. As this lady began to engage my sister-in-law in conversation, she asked her the following question; “Are you LDS?” My sister-in-law looked at my brother and replied; “Well, neither one of us our ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), so we are
probably not LDS either.” I still laugh hysterically when I recall this story. However when I realize the implications for having spiritual conversations, I’m quite sobered. When we lead with questions like; “Are you saved?” or “Have you been born again?” we leave outsiders feeling like . . . outsiders. When we speak in
“Christianeze” we are unknowingly saying to others; “if you want to have a spiritual conversation with me you will have to do so on my terms.” Jesus modeled something quite to the contrary. He took the language of heaven
and injected into the language of the day. In Colossians 4:4, the apostle Paul asked believers to pray that he would proclaim the message clearly. When we use our language and not theirs, we end up killing conversations with confusion and which can leave folks feeling dumb or stupid. Jesus used language that built bridges and opened doors. We can do the same by learning to translate spiritual truth into the every day vernacular of the people we are having conversations with.
Killer #5 Disrespectful Conversations
How many of you know that your spiritual gift is being quick to speak and slow to listen? Unfortunately, I find myself going there real easy. James 1:19 admonishes us to flip-flop the two. We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. If this is not happening in our conversations, it’s quite easy for the other person to feel disrespected.
There is an overabundance of ways to unknowingly demonstrate disrespect in our conversations besides not listening. Condescending, or being parental in our conversations will do it every time. When we exceed the speed limit, run the stop signs, or hi-jack the conversation (the three most common evangelistic misdemeanors), we are not treating others, the way we would like to be treated. I don’t know about you but I do not regularly show up for conversations where I know I am going to be disrespected in these ways.
Killer #6 Agenda Driven Conversations
In the movie “The Big Kahuna” (A Movie to Watch) Larry (A character played by Kevin Spacey) asks Bob (A character portrayed as an evangelical Christian) how he ended up talking to Dick Fuller (a perspective business client) about religion in the first place? As Larry continues to probe, Bob eventually admits that the conversation got started due to a lead in. Larry astutely observes that Bob was looking for the opportunity to talk about what he believed. He went on to say that, “The conversation was not allowed to have a natural course because somebody was at the helm directing it.” Later in the movie, Phil (the character played by Danny DeVito) pulls Bob aside and shares the following advice with him. “If you want to talk to somebody honestly as a human being, ask him about his kids, find out what his dreams are, just to find out for no other reason because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore, it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being you’re a marketing rep.”
When I finished this movie I realized that Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito not only had some advice for Bob, but for me as well. In my early years in the ministry, I had become known as one of the chief marketing reps for Jesus. Unfortunately, I was actually affirmed for steering conversations towards my sales pitch for
Jesus. (A Quote to Memorize) Spiritual conversations should be our ultimate motive, not our ulterior motive. For the record, if people are ready for the agenda you had in mind for the conversation, you will be warmly embraced. If they are not, you will be assigned a label that will kill most of your opportunities for spiritual conversations in the future. In the words of Forrest Gump “that’s all I have to say about that.”
Killer #7 Controlling Conversations
How long does it usually take for you to takeover a conversation and dominate it with your worldview? This is a question I wish someone had challenged me to think about early on in my spiritual journey. During the 1980’s, I started the ministry of Athletes in Action at the University of Tennessee. If you dropped in on one of my appointments with the athletes back then this is what you would have probably seen. I’d usually start by asking a couple of questions to break the ice. I rarely listened because I did not want their response to derail the direction of
where I was planning to take the conversation. After I broke the ice, I usually followed with a transitional question that I had been taught to memorize to turn the conversation towards spiritual things. The rest of the hour long appointment consisted of me sharing something I believed they needed to hear. From beginning to end I was always in control of the conversation. Other ministries I’m acquainted with take this kind of control to the extreme. They teach their workers to treat questions as smoke screens. The question is deflected so the Christian worker can get back to his or her scripted presentation. Is it any wonder why more and more people are saying no thanks to these kinds of conversations? Being in control of the curriculum of a conversation is fine when someone has
willingly signed up for your lecture. But when you live in a world with such diversity, it’s essential to give up control.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that many Christ followers are afraid to be in settings where they are not in control of the conversation. This is why churches and ministries die. When we insist on having conversations in settings where only are fans are present, during the times we pick, with the activities we are comfortable with, we’d better start digging a six foot hole and playing taps. It’s only a matter of time before a church or ministry that insists on playing home games begins to fade into oblivion. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10:19-20 not to worry about what to say or how to say it because the Holy Spirit would give them what they needed when they needed it. Nothing pre-packaged or scripted about that, just an admonition to go and be in the moment under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Recently, I overheard a pastor as they were leaving a social setting consisting of very few church goers say this, “If you’d like to talk again some time you know where to find me on Sunday mornings”. I’m not sure what the pastor intended by this parting comment, but I thought to myself how different the outcome might be if the pastor had a go-to-them (road games) versus a come-to-me (home games) kind of a mindset.
Killer #8 Reactive Conversations
To many people in our culture, Christians have become known as the “disagreement people”. We’ve worked hard to earn this label one reaction at a time. Most of the time our body language, tone of voice, and verbal responses are a dead give away to the reality that we disagree with much of what people in culture are saying and doing. When we become self-designated spiritual umpires calling balls and strikes on the culture by writing letters to the editor, calling in on talk radio shows, and staging boycotts of one kind or another, our reactions speak for themselves. Essentially we are sending the culture this message: not only do we not endorse your point of view, we don’t accept you for where you are in your spiritual journey. This lack of acceptance crushes opportunities for spiritual conversations to happen. Acceptance does not mean endorsement. When we confuse these two words we destroy the very space God wants to work in. Many times not-yet Christians will say or do something just to see if we will react. This is many times a test to determine whether or not we are safe enough to have real conversations with. Reacting to things we hear or see comes naturally for most of us. We need supernatural responses that communicate a radical acceptance if we hope to create space for spiritual conversations to naturally happen.
Killer #9 Combative Conversations
It’s exhilarating to watch two good tennis players volley back and forth. Each tries to gain an advantage by causing the other to get out of position so they can hit a decisive shot called a “winner” which scores the point. Unfortunately, I use to view spiritual conversations in the same way. I viewed the person I was talking with as my opponent who must be won to my Christian point of view. I interned with Josh McDowell. I was trained by the best when it came to apologetics. On many occasions, I started my conversations with an overpowering serve. I
then prepared myself to pepper “winners” at my opponent who in many cases had walked away from the conversation the moment the contest began. Even if my opponent was up for it, most of the time these worldview challenges led to heated debates, heated debates eventually gave way to arguments, and arguments always brought about conversions to Christ. Quite to the contrary, I never argued anyone into the Kingdom of God. As Dallas Williard says “It’s very difficult to be right about something without hurting someone with it.” When a
conversation starts or turns combative, very rarely does anything of redemptive value occur. Even if we win the argument, we often lose the greater war when it turns into an us versus them show down. We need to remember that not-yet Christians are not the enemy, but victims of the enemy. This truth compels me to move out into culture with compassion and check my “onward Christian soldier” mindset at the door.
Killer #10 “It’s All About Me” Conversations
Have you ever been in a conversation where you felt like you couldn’t get a word in edge wise or the spot light never seems to shift off the person who is talking. If you have, I’m betting you just can’t wait for the next conversation with that person. I’ve come to believe that Christians fall into these “it’s all about me” kinds of conversations naturally. I believe . . . or I think . . . become over used introductions to the truth we dominate our conversations with. We are convinced that we have the absolute truth, which naturally leads us to believe that what
we think is all that really matters. This kind of thinking quickly turns conversations into monologues where we eventually end up talking to ourselves. We need to realize that if people are not asking us what we believe, we might be wiser to keep the spotlight on what they believe and think. The secret to being interesting in a conversation is to be interested. This seems to be a great application of Philippians 2:4 which encourages us to not only look to our own interests but to the interests of others. At the end of the day, I’m not so sure what I believe
really matters all that much any way. I want people to follow Jesus. I want to keep the spotlight on Him and what he said, not on what I think or believe. This requires us to bring the bible into our conversations. I will share more
on how to do this later on in the book. Just one of these ten killers has the potential to close down your opportunities for spiritual conversation in a
relationship for a lifetime. If you’re saying to your self “been there, and done that”. The good news is failure is usually never fatal or final, it’s just an opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Numerous people have
applied the following assignment to help rebuild the bridges they have burnt along the way with great success. If no previous conversation has come to mind as you read through this chapter, tuck this assignment away for another
day. At some point I think you’ll find it helpful.
(An Application to Make) After you pray, inform whomever you think you might have burned a bridge with that you have been reading a book which has caused you to do some personal inventory. Ask them if they would be willing to help you in the process. Explain to them that you are pretty sure you’ve had some blind spots. We all have them when it comes to talking to others about spiritual matters. Ask them what it honestly felt like to be them on the other end of your last spiritual conversation. Listen and take notes, probe further to understand what they are saying and what made them feel the way they did. When they are finished, sincerely apologize for anything you can truly take ownership of. Go the extra mile by asking them to bring this matter to your attention immediately if they ever sense you are doing the same thing over again. Colonel Hughes saved the day as he acted in wisdom toward outsiders. Let’s follow his example; let’s take a knee (a position of humility, whereby we come as listeners and learners in our conversations), let’s point our guns to the ground (let’s back away from the confrontational attempts to over power people with our dogmatic certainty which leaves others defensive and convinced of our arrogance), and look up and smile (communicate that we are respectful, warm, friendly, caring people). I’m just wondering what would happen if we were willing to let go of some of our attitudes and practices that literally kill the potential for spiritual conversations to happen? I have a “holy hunch” Colonel Hughes might be able to tell us. I’d like to think that he would recommend the rest of this book as a field manual for a different kind of Christian soldier needed for today’s world.
(A Book to Read) “UnChristian”
(A Question to Answer) As you read through my top 10 list of spiritual conversation killers, did the Holy Spirit clearly bring to mind anything that might be impeding the quality and quantity of spiritual conversations in your life?
(A Faith Experiment to Try) Ask the not‐yet Christians in your life to describe what it has been like for them when conversations turn to spiritual matters. Seek to understand their feelings by probing into what prompted them to feel the way they do.(Note) This is the unedited first chapter of a book I’m currently writing called “God Space: How to Naturally Create Room for Spiritual Conversations in Your Everyday Life”. It will be published and released in 2009 by Group Publishing. Go to my website at GodsGPS.com for info on the books release date as well as more resources to help you live an outward focused life in an inward focused world. Also, if you are interested in bringing me in to speak or do a workshop, all the information you will need is posted on this site.

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