When to talk to someone about God?–When they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things

If you force someone into a spiritual conversation it can have a negative impact on their openness to God or to future discussions with you. So how can you know when to talk to someone about God?

 

In this blog series we will be highlighting a number of signs that let you know that now is the time to have a God-conversation with a person in your life.

 

Today’s answer to the question, “When should I talk to someone about God?” is…

 

…when they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things.

 

Think about how Jesus approached this question of when to have spiritual conversations with people. When you observe Jesus’ life in the gospels, you recognise that he was always trying to identify the seekers among the crowds of people he interacted with. As soon as Jesus recognised that someone was searching for answers, or that they were thinking about God, or that they were aware that something was still missing in their lives, he immediately focused on that person and tried to help them see that a right relationship with God was what they needed.

 

In John chapter 3, when Nicodemus showed up at Jesus’ door at night, saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him,” Jesus knew he was searching, so he headed straight for a truth that he knew would begin a life-changing discussion with Nicodemus. He said to him, “You must be born again.”

 

In John chapter 4, when he encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus began probing to see if she was searching. He began talking about living water that can satisfy your inner thirst in a way that physical water never can. The further that conversation went, the more obvious it became that this woman was searching. Jesus immediately began talking with her about her sinful pursuit of love in the wrong way. He also described God’s nature and how we approach him. All the way through the conversation, the woman was totally involved in the back and forth. It wasn’t a lecture; it was a great conversation that led to her bringing her whole village out to meet Jesus.

 

We could keep going and talk about Zacchaeus, the woman with the haemorrhage who touched him in the crowd, the scribe who had questions about eternal life, blind Bartimaus, the man let down through the roof, the Syrophoenician woman, etc, etc.

 

In the midst of his talks to the big crowds, while he was healing person after person and casting demons out of all who were oppressed, as he interacted with people along the way—in every circumstance and encounter, Jesus was on the lookout for seekers. And so often, the thing that showed him a person was searching for answers was that they were asking questions.

 

When a person asks you or someone around you a question about God, even if they ask it nonchalantly, you should always focus your attention on that person and begin responding to them as though they are searching for God. Talk to them about what God means to you. Ask them a question that will let them express themselves at whatever level they are comfortable with.

 

When someone mentions what your faith means to you, share with them on the personal level about your relationship with God. Don’t just talk about theological truths about God. Tell them what he means to you personally.

 

When someone brings up church, talk about the difference between religious Christianity and a personal relationship with Jesus, who is alive.

 

The first and most obvious sign that it’s time to talk with someone about God is when they ask a question that opens the door.

 

Why don’t you stop right now, and pray that God will bring someone who is searching across your path today? Ask him to show you they are searching by having them ask a question!

 

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“In its simplest form, what is the Gospel?” This question was asked of me by a church leader. Although, this is a question I also love to ask Christians everywhere I go. Why? Because the message of the Gospel is the only message that has the power to transform lives, restore families, unite communities and heal nations.

 

This message is profoundly simple yet profoundly powerful. Without this message of love and hope no person on earth can be saved from an eternity of torment and judgement. This message of the gospel must be understood in order for a person to be forgiven of their sin and restored relationally to God.

 

The gospel of Jesus is the one message that has remained unchanged since it was first proclaimed in Jerusalem by the Apostle Peter, just after the death and resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago, resulting in three thousand souls turning to Christ. It’s the unchanging message of the gospel that convicted Martin Luther, a catholic priest, when the church had gone astray to lead a movement that refocused believers on the essential tenets of the Christian faith. It’s the same unchanging message of the gospel preached by Billy Graham in the 1900’s that saw millions of people from many nations surrender their lives to Jesus. It’s this one unchanging message of the gospel that Christians are called to share with the people all around them today.

 

There is no salvation without this message, no hope without this message.

 

What is this message? What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

The Apostle Paul puts it simply in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

 

“I delivered to you as of first importance” Paul says. In a way he is saying; there is nothing more important in the Christian faith than this so pay attention. This is the essential truth you must not get wrong. This is the gospel boiled down into two great truths. Did you see them?

 

Christ died for our sins, and he was raised on the third day. That’s it!

The evidence that Jesus died is that he was buried. The evidence that he rose again is that he was seen by many (Cephas, the twelve, more than 500 brothers, James, the apostles, Paul himself). But this is our one unchanging message. This is the gospel. Two truths:

 

“Christ died in our place, for our sins, and he was raised again, he is alive today and we can know him personally.”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, when you learn these two great truths, you will never have to wonder what to say when it comes to sharing the gospel with people in your life. Every conversation you have with people will be different, but every conversation can revolve around these two great truths when you know them.

 

So today, I give you two simple challenges:

 

First, ask God for an opportunity to share these two great truths with a person in your life that needs Jesus. When God gives you that opportunity, keep it simple and share boldly.

 

Second, ask a Christian friend the question – What is the gospel? Listen to their response and share with them these two truths straight from the pages of the bible. Then encourage them with these two simple challenges.

 

Are you ready to grow in your relationship with God each day? Start off your day with Time With God daily devotion. It will take you into God’s word in a way that connects you relationally with the Lord. Sign up now at https://afci.com.au/time-with-god/ to receive Time with God directly in your email!

 

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first four SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”
  4. “We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.”

 

The fifth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle

 

When you think about the evangelistic activity of your church, where do you see evangelism taking place? You would probably say at Christmas and Easter time; you may have a fair or carols or maybe a special evangelistic service. You may even have a special Mother’s Day or Father’s Day service. Or maybe you have an evangelistic event on Valentine’s Day or Anzac Day, and you probably have different ministries you would say are evangelistic. These are the times when people typically think, “It’s evangelism time.”

 

Now, just take a moment to think about the budget you put into these things. Think about how much effort and resource is tied up in these events every year at your church. Then consider how many people you have seen repent and turn in faith to Jesus at those events. Feel free to pause here and write down some of your thoughts.

 

 

When you think about the response you have seen, let me ask you, have you seen numbers of people responding to Jesus to match the effort and resource expended? Most church leaders I talk to say, “No”.

 

Let me challenge you with this question: What if you put that budget and those resources into developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle among your people? I can hear some leaders saying, we can’t stop doing these things, but think about it. Has your approach to evangelism caused the believers in your church to develop a personal witnessing lifestyle? Does your church have a witnessing culture or is your approach to evangelism simply keeping your people busy organizing events, while few people respond to Jesus?

 

We know cultural change takes more than just a weekend seminar. It takes consistency over time to change a culture. That is a primary reason EvangelismSHIFT is a two-year journey we take churches on.

Many leaders are committed to evangelism and putting on evangelistic events. As leaders we preach the gospel and the word of God faithfully, but if we are honest, we struggle to personally live as effective witnesses in our own daily lives. Bible colleges are so valuable to the church, but they typically don’t teach leaders how to live effectively as witnesses for Jesus.

 

We ourselves must learn how to live as witnesses if we are ever going to be able to pass this lifestyle onto our people so that they live as effective witnesses in their daily lives. Cultural change begins with leaders. So where should we start?

 

Wouldn’t you agree that we typically look around and see a church that seems to be growing and we think, what are they doing that we can adopt. But when it comes to strategy, the best place for us to start is imitating our Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul understood this. He even said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

 

Each of the four gospels were written by the gospel authors to make a theological point about Jesus.When it comes to each of the gospels, all the events in Jesus’ life are put in order to emphasis the point they are trying to make.

 

But when you look at all the major events in Jesus’ life, there are statements around them that act like time markers. As a result, you can take the major events of Jesus’ life and lay them out chronologically. This exercise allows you to ask the question, did Jesus have a clear strategy for developing those people who didn’t know him into people who would become multiplying disciplemakers?

 

The answer to that question jumps out of the chronology. There are clear phases that Jesus went through strategically to develop multiplying disciplemakers. When you study Jesus’ process, you discover what Jesus’ objectives were and how you can achieve those same objectives in our time and culture today.

 

As leaders, we must understand Jesus’ approach to ministry in order to SHIFT the way we approach ministry. Why? So that when someone comes to know Jesus personally, they don’t just do what typically happens, come into the big collection of Christians who sit in church for decades, being taught the word and growing spiritually, but never getting involved in the Great Commission. Rather, they come into a culture where they are actively taking their next step in developing an effective witnessing lifestyle and becoming a disciplemaker who contributes to spread Jesus’ spiritual movement across the world.

 

We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle. This is the fifth SHIFT that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

Our EvangelismSHIFT vision is to see a movement of churches across the world whose people have a culture of living as witnesses in their everyday encounters, calling others to respond to Christ.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we want to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first three SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”

 

The fourth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.

 

What! Don’t focus on the lost? This sounds ridiculous; don’t we evangelise to reach lost people?

 

Well yes, but our focus as leaders should be on activating believers as effective witnesses. We don’t forget about lost people but our focus is on activating the believer. Why? Because this is the approach we see in Jesus and the Apostle Paul. If we had time, we could also explore this focus in the New Testament Church.

 

Let’s take a look at Jesus. In his personal life he was all about reaching lost people. He came to seek and to save the lost and he modelled this to his disciples. Just think of him reaching out to Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. There is also his life changing time spent with Zacchaeus and many others. In his personal life Jesus reached out to the lost!

 

But when it came to his ministry strategy, what do we observe about Jesus? We see Jesus activating believers as effective witnesses.

 

Think about it. Jesus calls his disciples and says to them, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. In effect, he is saying to his trainee ministry team, I will train you how to reach the lost. But not only that, I will also train you in a way that you will then be able to train your own disciples, and in turn they will be able to reach the lost and train their own disciples.

 

Isn’t it interesting that we see Jesus send out his 12 disciples to reach the lost, then we see him sending out 72 others and then at the beginning of the book of Acts 120 are gathered. I find it interesting that 72 and 120 are multiples of 12.

 

While Jesus ministered to the masses his focus was on a few—equipping them, training them, activating them as effective witnesses.

 

And this is the same mindset we see in the Apostle Paul. As an imitator of Christ, Paul was committed to reaching the lost. He tells us that he became all things to all people that by some means he might save some.

 

In his personal life Paul was committed to reaching the lost but when it came to his interaction with believers, Paul was constantly challenging them in their witness.

 

Think about Paul’s teaching on prayer as it has to do with evangelism. Prayer was a priority for Paul, and he talks a lot about prayer. What does Paul say to us about prayer and evangelism?

Did you realise that Paul never instructs believers to pray for the lost? Not once. Now, there is no doubt that Paul did pray for the lost because in Romans chapter 10, talking about his fellow Jews, he says “my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved”. Paul prayed for the lost, but he never instructed us to pray for the lost. I’m sure he wanted us to, but that was not his focus. Paul’s focus was activating believers and his teaching on prayer connected to evangelism reflect that focus.

 

Paul says to pray that God would give you open doors to be his witness and when God gives you an open door he says make the most of every opportunity you are given. Paul tells us to pray for boldness to speak and, as you speak, pray that the Holy Spirit will empower what you are saying.

 

Paul’s focus when he taught about prayer was always about praying for the believer and their witness. Activating believers for evangelism was the focus for Paul, just as it was Jesus’ focus.

As leaders, we need to SHIFT our focus to activating believers. Activating believers is where we should be focusing our money and resources for evangelism, our staffing for evangelism, our teaching, our training, our evangelistic efforts.

 

If God has positioned you as a leader in your church for the equipping of the saints for works of ministry, let me ask you this. What is the greatest ministry Jesus Christ wants the people in your church to have? Isn’t it Jesus’ ministry, to seek and save those who are lost. After all, why has he left us here? All other purposes in the lives of believers will be fulfilled so much more completely in heaven. He has left us here to be his witnesses!

 

Your purpose as a leader is to equip your people as witnesses. All of Jesus’ ministry was geared around equipping his disciples to become fishers of men, then multiplying them to equip others to become fishers of men. Even our events, small groups and gatherings that are designed for the lost should also serve to equip believers in their witness to the lost.

 

We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses. This is the fourth shift that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared you the first two shifts we must make

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”

 

The third shift that must take place is this:

 

3. We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.

 

If you have spent time leading people to faith in Jesus Christ on the personal level you know the reality is that no one comes to Christ all at once. Everyone goes on a journey towards faith in Jesus Christ.

 

As we travel around speaking to all types of Christian churches, we often survey the church with a few questions. We ask people to “Put up your hand if you came to Christ at the age of 16 or older.” These are the people who can remember their journey to faith.

 

We ask people to think of the point in their life when they began to move towards Christ. For some, they met a Christian and saw something different in their life and wanted to find out more. Others faced a crisis in their life and began to ask the hard questions. Still others may have heard something on Christian radio or television, or they attended an event and heard the gospel for the first time and began to wonder about God. Some may have read something. What about you? What started your journey towards Jesus?

 

Something starts people moving towards God and they have this sense that there has got to be more in life. At some point, all of us who are believers went on a journey that saw us place our trust in Jesus Christ.

 

In every church we survey, we have people tell us how long the journey was from when they first started moving towards God to when they trusted in Jesus. For some it was just a couple of months; for others, decades. Now and again we hear someone say “it happened all at once,” but this is rare.

 

Think about your own life. How long was your journey to faith? From the thousands of people we have surveyed, the most common length of people’s journey to faith in Jesus is about 2 years.

 

When you think about that stat, what does it tell you about Evangelism? It tells me that everybody goes on a journey. Some people’s journey is quicker than others’, but everyone journeys to faith in Jesus. That reality means that we must rethink how we do Evangelism!

 

Wouldn’t you agree that, traditionally, we have seen Evangelism as helping people take the last step in their journey to faith in Christ? This is one of the key reasons many of us avoid evangelism all together. We see our work colleagues, neighbours and family members and know they are so far away from Jesus. We wonder how we could ever share the gospel and help them take the last step to faith. Where on earth would we start?

 

There was a time when a ‘last-step’ approach was legitimate. There was a generation who went to church because it was the socially acceptable thing to do. We had ‘revival meetings’ to help people already in the church turn to Christ for salvation.

 

The generation that followed were people who still held a Christian worldview but didn’t see the need to go to church. Some still sent their kids to Sunday school because they valued the good moral teachings. You could still knock on the door of these generations, present the gospel and it would connect with things they accepted as true and they would turn to Jesus.

 

Today, however, we live in a culture where we have a rapidly growing number of adults who have never been to church, read a bible or heard of Jesus other than as a swear word. When we share the gospel and speak of Jesus, in their minds we may as well be speaking about Peter Pan. They have no mental framework to cause them to believe what we are saying. They are starting a long way further back in the journey to Christ from previous generations. The further our society gets away from God the more we must expand our approach to evangelism to include journeying with them.

 

Now, there is a necessary caution when adjusting our view of evangelism like this. When we understand the idea that people journey towards faith in Jesus, we can get so focused on their journey that we never get to the last step and share the gospel! We must understand that evangelism is never complete until a person understands the gospel and has had an opportunity to respond to Jesus.

 

As a leader, when you equip your people to take this relational journey towards Christ with the people they know, they come alive. It’s so freeing for your people to understand that evangelism isn’t just helping someone take the last step to faith but journeying with people, helping those people take the next step in their walk towards faith in Jesus.

 

When your people understand this reality they begin to relax in conversation and enjoy journeying with people to faith. When people journey, they begin to look for opportunities for their friends to hear the gospel. Because they have been journeying with their friends, when the time comes to share the gospel, it no longer seems like a huge issue because sharing the gospel occurs naturally in the context of that relationship.

 

We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism. This is another one of the shifts that we help churches take through EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .