We are discussing the seven life-patterns of a fruitful insider (one who is effective at sowing Kingdom life into the people around him or her). We have already mentioned the first three: taking little initiatives, praying, and serving.
The fourth pattern is worth taking some time with: Conversing the Faith.
Many of us have been trained in certain “skills” for evangelism that are forced and that simply don’t work. Petersen calls this “hijacking a conversation.”
We have all had the experience of having a conversation hijacked. There we are, in what we think is a casual, informal discussion, when all of a sudden the other person slips into a subject he or she has rehearsed—which is obviously headed in a predetermined direction. A yellow light goes on in our head, and we wonder what the other person is selling. As Danny DeVito’s character in The Big Kahuna put it, “When you hijack a conversation, it is no longer a conversation. It is a sales pitch. It is a sales pitch, whether you are talking about the product or about Jesus Christ.
Petersen suggests that we need to make a distinction between what is appropriate for apostle and evangelists who proclaim the gospel, and what is appropriate for insiders who are to converse their faith. This latter has to do with being “wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Paul is saying, “converse your faith in such a manner that people will ask for more!
Petersen goes on to give some more suggestions on what this means:
1. Be honest and open about yourself. Let people know how you feel about things. 2. Take a sincere interest in the other person. Ask questions, and then listen to what the other says. Listening is the first rule of good conversation. Establish a trust as a common ground to walk together on. 3. As the trust grows, sharing one’s experiences in trying to walk with God begins to have a natural place in the conversation. Slip people salty morsels… a little at a time as their interest grows.
The more we understand how the gospel affects us in our daily affairs and relationships, and the more we learn to converse about this in everyday language, the easier it becomes to let people in on what it means to know God. Because the gospel envelops all of life—how we conduct ourselves with our family, in our society, and our work—every subject, when fully explored, will trace back to Jesus Christ…
Boldness is not brashness. Boldness, for the insider, means having enough confidence in the gospel to use it as the frame of reference for living and interpreting everyday life.
As people’s interest develops, Petersen likes to invite them to explore the Bible with him.
There will come a time when it will be appropriate to suggest something of this nature. On several occasions I have approached a few nonChristian friends with the invitation, “My wife and I are thinking about getting a few friends together to read the Bible. We find this helps us keep our lives on track, and we’re not doing this with anyone right now. We’re not ready to get started, but when we are we’ll let you know.”
People need time to digest an invitation like that, as the idea of doing such a thing has probably never crossed their minds. We need to give them time to think about it. As we pray about their responses, the Holy Spirit will help them decide.