In your circle of acquaintances and friends, where you work and in the neighborhood where you live, there are a number of people who do not follow Jesus.
Whether they realize it or not, people are searching for an answer to their everyday problems. How do we invite them to choose Jesus?
First, we need to know when to invite them. We know it’s the right time because we’ve listened, heard the door open, and used the readiness question. If people open up to us, we need to keep the focus on a basic relationship with God. Don’t get off on doctrinal issues. Until an individual has accepted Christ and committed to following Him, arguing about doctrine and getting into in-depth Bible study is distracting. They may get the idea that they can work their way into heaven.
It doesn’t matter how much education you have in the Scripture, you’re not going to work your way into heaven. You’ll get there because of your relationship with Christ. Keep the focus there. Share small pieces. Don’t feed too much, too quickly. Frame your witness in terms of the needs of the other person. They’ve shared with you some deep inner needs. Shape your sharing of the gospel in terms of their needs, but don’t be afraid to ask for a definite decision about what you share.
It might sound like this: a person shares with you some deep inner concern, and you ask the readiness question. “Do you have any spiritual resources to help you deal with this?” They open the door. Perhaps they say, “No, I don’t,” or “Not really,” or better yet, “I wish I did.” You then say something like, “Have you ever thought about having an intentional relationship with God?” If they are open, describe how faith in Christ would make a difference in terms of this deep, inner need they’ve shared with you. Don’t tell them that He will take it away, or make it all better, or miraculously change their circumstance. Tell them that He will be there with them through it, and that they can learn to be aware of His presence and will feel safer no matter what happens.
Here’s a more specific example. Let’s say you’re talking with a friend who’s been fired from the job he’s had for 20 years. He feels angry and depressed. He talks about the unfairness and how much he’s been used. You ask him if he has any spiritual resources to help with this. He says that he really doesn’t. He hasn’t been to church for years and doesn’t know where to turn. You might respond by asking, “Have you ever thought about making a serious commitment of your life to God? If you did that, God would give you a sense of purpose in life, which is larger than any job or organization. God would also give you a clear frame of reference for the type of work you should look for next.” Having said that, wait for his response. You’ve given him a little piece of the gospel in the framework he has suggested.
Here’s another example. Let’s say there’s a woman who works in an organization that you visit regularly. One day you come in and find her with her head down at her desk, crying. When you greet her, she says that after being married for 15 years, this morning she found a note from her husband saying that he’s tired of the marriage and is moving out. She’s devastated. She begins to tell you about that, and at an appropriate moment you ask if she has any spiritual resources. She says she doesn’t. She grew up in a home where they never talked about religion, and she doesn’t know what to believe in. Ask, “Have you ever thought about making a commitment to learn more about faith? If you were to do that, you would have a relationship with God that would give you the dignity and strength to deal with whatever difficult thing happens to you.” Then leave it at that.
Use a flexible framework to share Christ. Use the context they have created by describing a particular need that’s in their heart. Suggest that faith in Christ provides answers, resources, and strength to help us with our needs. Use the same frame that Christ used. Try metaphors the way He used them in order for others to understand. If you’re dealing with an un-churched person, stay away from church language. They probably will not understand. If they grew up in a church, they may understand.
Once you’ve made this kind of introduction to Christ, just listen. The person will tell you if they want to know more. They may ask a question and keep the conversation on the topic. If they don’t want to know more, they’ll change the subject. If they change the subject, don’t say any more. You’ve planted a seed. It may be a long time before it sprouts. Some seeds never sprout—but you’ve planted it. Keep watering it with compassion and kindness—but not with more words about religion.
A certain percentage of people will want to know more. They will ask such questions as, “How do you have that kind of relationship with God?” “How do you find God in your life?” “How do you come to really know what God and life are all about?” “How can you know that it is really true?” The questions will tell you that they are open. You need to be prepared at that point to share a simple, basic Bible study that introduces them to the notion that the most important thing in Christian faith is the personal, living relationship with Christ. If they don’t accept that simple thing, they’re not ready for any other Bible topics.*