In the 15+ years that I’ve been teaching evangelism at Gateway Seminary, I’ve learned that fewer and fewer of our churches have an evangelism plan or training. With some exceptions (perhaps robust student ministries), gone are the CWT, FAITH, and EE days of “semesters” or weekly study, and training to be better communicators of the Gospel. Many of the seminary students sent from churches in the west and around the world don’t know where to start (or end) a conversation with a friend, family member, or “person X,” that gets to the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sin! Evangelism has become either synonymous with inviting someone to church or something more organic and free-flowing like a television series that never ends. Add to this the rapidly changing culture that we face daily, and many of us wind up with no plan to fulfill the Great Commission.
A few years ago, I found the need to just -kind of- draw this out. I mapped out everything I try to do in class and then tried to “map” how a Gospel conversation begins and ends. I’ve included it here below for reference. As you look at the map, from left to right, I’ll highlight a few of the major stops or speed bumps, along the way.
1) Getting into a spiritual conversation—Those exploratory questions can be modified and shaped for you and your personality. Don’t be afraid to ask them. Rarely are your fears, that others will lash back and hate you, realized. Most people are open to talking about such things. Just love people and be interested in their stories.
2) The second “speed bump”—After you listen and explored where someone is spiritually, you make a quick assessment of where the conversation goes next. Scripture is always necessary and needed and you must know and use the Word. Baby Boomers all knew and trained to share the Gospel using Scripture exclusively. And while you must, you might find you are talking to someone who has more in common with the philosophers at Mars Hill (Acts 17) than the listeners at Pentecost (Acts 2).
Your students tell me that the youth and younger people they talk to are not so much interested in exploring the arguments for the existence of God as they are in asking why God doesn’t affirm their feelings or their lifestyle. Questions like that require Scripture and an apologetic response.
3) The 3rd “Bump” is asking for some kind of response. What now? Depending on how the conversation has gone, you can ask any number of questions. When the conversation has been apologetic (the south part of the map), I like to ask something like, “Do you think you could see yourself following Jesus at some point in your life?” For those where the conversation has gone north and I’ve walked through the Roman Road, then a traditional question like: “Would you want to make the decision to follow Jesus right now?”
Before you go and utilize this mind map, let me set up you with a few more pointers:
1) Develop relationships
2) Find and pray for lost people- Many believers know few lost people.
3) Be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting- this might demand you take time. Drive-thru conversations might be seed planting but you can rarely get through the Gospel.
4) Train with a method like the 3 Circles. Have a course or conversation in mind.
5) Remember to talk about the truth and power of the resurrection!