The Interpersonal Side of Sharing God
By Vin Sparks
It starts with such great intentions. We’ve found something real and it has absolutely changed our lives. We want to share it, first with friends and family and then with those in all of our circles. After all, who wouldn’t want to feel the way we feel, to know what we know, and to receive what we’ve received? Well…apparently a lot of people.
We have all run into a brick wall attempting to share the faith. Our enthusiasm becomes deflated. We experience such anguish over our inability to share the good news in such a way that the people we care about can enjoy it as we do. Reflecting on our experiences, we would probably share that there have been arguments, there have been things said and bridges have been burned. We are devastated at the thought that we may have spoiled the gospel for the ones we love.
While our churches endeavor to teach those who are new to the Lord all the basics of Christian theology and life in the Way, there is an area in which we seem to lack focus – the subject of how we should go about sharing our faith. I’m not talking about the scriptural strategy – which passages to use to show folks their need for Christ. I am talking about the dynamics of interpersonal interaction.
Years ago I attended an event that was a part of a lecture series put on by The Speakers Forum. Featured at this event was Jim Rohn – an entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. There have been few of his stature in a field full of qualified speakers. He offered instruction on personal and professional relationship building. It has been a long time since I sat in that room. Much of what I heard that day had an impact on the way I did business throughout my career. I just came across the notes I took on a yellow pad at that event. As I looked them over, I realized that these could be of great value when applied to sharing our faith. The following tips are adapted from those notes. Thank you, Jim.
Top 10 Tips for Sharing Your Faith
1. Remember that the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it completely. No one wins. You may think you proved your case, but the objective was to get your prospect to adopt a favorable frame of mind with regard to the gospel enough to talk to you about it. To that end, you failed.
2. Show respect for the other person’s point of view and opinions. Never say, “You are wrong”. That just shuts down the conversation. Remember, to all of us, perception is reality. Our opinions and points of view are the results of many years of life’s experiences. It is absolutely absurd to tell someone that their life experiences are wrong.
3. If you are wrong about something, admit it – quickly and emphatically. Do not try to save face. Just admit your error. Contrary to what you might think, you won’t lose their respect; your stock will go up in their eyes. You become more credible when you are honest about being wrong.
4. Begin in a friendly way. Wait for the right time and engage your prospect in a low key manner without confrontation.
5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately. Start with common ground. Begin around the edges where you can enjoy some agreement before moving into areas that may be contested.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking and you listen – and I mean listen, not thinking about what you’ll say next. By doing so, your prospect will let you know where to take the conversation.
7. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view. Stephen Covey said that we should seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Once you understand your prospect, it will be easier to speak in an impactful way because you will be able to speak from his/her point of reference.
8. Be empathetic with the other person’s ideas, desires, and points of resistance. Everyone’s ideas or even objections are valid – from their point of view. Empathize. Don’t marginalize them. It can be as easy as saying something like, “Absolutely. I can understand how you might feel that way. As a matter of fact, I feel that way frequently too.”
9. Dramatize your ideas. Leave the preaching to your pastor on Sunday morning. Encapsulate your message in a story – your story. Tell your prospect about how you felt, about your struggle – both past and present. Let him/her see your humanity.
10. Throw down a challenge. Get them to prove God. Once you have established or re-established a connection and have gained their confidence, challenge them to see how God will respond if they begin to move in His direction.
These are just strategic tips, the basics regarding interpersonal discourse. They are no substitute for real friendship and prayer. Pray to ask God for an opportunity to share your faith and pray to recognize it when it comes. Pray for guidance once that opportunity presents itself and that you would listen to that guidance telling you to get out of the way and let the Spirit of God work through you. It is a beautiful thing.