Sam Chan’s wonderful book Evangelism in a Skeptical World fleshes out a practical pathway to create “gospel conversations.”
Simply put, conversations have three layers to them: interests, values, and worldviews. The goal is to earn your way through your friend’s layers by building trust over time and constantly showing genuine curiosity.
Layer #1 – Interests
Questions to ask in this layer are generally considered surface level, such as, “What did you do this weekend?” – “What’s your least favorite subject?” – “Have a favorite NFL team?”
This is the normal, “get to know you” stuff. It’s necessary. But it’s an odd transition from this to “So do you know Jesus?”
Layer #2 – Values
Questions in this layer are more involved but still safe, such as, “Why did you do that over the weekend?” – “Why do you want to major in that in college?” – “Why do you take exercising so seriously?”
Notice how to transition to Layer #2, all it takes is a follow-up “Why” question to whatever was talked about in Layer #1. For instance, it’s a Monday morning, so you ask your friend, “What did you do this weekend?”
They respond, “Gosh, I worked out like four times!”
Then, by simply asking, “Why do you take exercising so seriously?” you might get any number of responses that will reveal things that person values: Lookin’ good for the ladies. Trying to outrun death. Loves life more when healthy.
It could be anything.
Layer #3 – Worldviews
This is where you want to get with non-believers, though it often takes time. Questions in this layer are core to the individual: “Do you pray?” – “What faith were you raised in?” – “What are your views on the soul/afterlife/God?” – “Do you consider yourself spiritual?” – “Have you ever been to church before? What was it like? Why did you stop going?”
Getting here isn’t as hard as you’d think. Watch this:
“Hey, what was your major in college?” you ask.
“Child Psychology,” they respond.
“Wow, that’s super cool. Why did you go that route?”
“I just love working with kids, getting them to better places.”
“That’s admirable, big time,” you say. “I could’ve used someone like you growing up. Did you have a psychologist growing up, someone who really helped you?”
“Actually, yeah,” they answer, after a brief hesitation. “She changed everything for me.”
You:“Tell me more about how you needed a psychologist growing up…”
Boom, just like that you’re into Layer #3!
Hearing their story
Of course, any conversation will bounce around from Layer #1 to #3 to #2 to #3 to #1, etc. That’s okay. The goal is accessing Layer #3, because that’s where you really get to learn about who they really are. This is exciting!
And, importantly, this is where you get to ask to hear their story. If you can get to their story then you will get to the gospel. Reread that sentence: “If you can get to their story then you will get to the gospel.”
Next, I’ll post about how to hear someone’s story in a way that leads to the gospel . . . every time. Stay tuned!
Copyright © 2020 by Justin Talbert at https://getgroundedministries.com/2020/03/12/how-to-transition-into-gospel-conversations-with-nonbelievers/. Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.