Archive for July, 2011

BART: Safe area

Connecting with people and telling them the good news of Jesus Christ is difficult.  The problem we face is that the world, the flesh, and the Devil have successfully put people on alert to “religion” and they are on guard against “pushy” religious folks.  However, we know that people are interested in spiritual conversations and that they seek to be right with God. How do we get past their shields in order to communicate the good news?  How do we share the Gospel without sounding crazy, religious, pushy, or like a salesman?  How do we effectively reach people with the Gospel?

The following is a quick summary.  I’ll blog more details in the near future.

1.  Create the Environment. In order for people to hear the Gospel they need to feel welcomed and comfortable.  We don’t want to seem like we are “selling” them or being pushy.  We want to convey that they are real and important people to us and that they are safe and free to be who they are.  This is created both in the safe area in which you speak (like a fast food restaurant) and in your body language. If you truly love people like Jesus loves people your body language will show it.  Regardless of the energy you spend hiding it, a judgmental or hypocritical attitude shows in body language.

2. Create the Opportunity.  We must figure how to connect with people without being a “creeper.”  Having some attention getting device helps.  Your clever and “not lame” t-shirt, a copy of a current best seller, a really cool car, or a sign “ask me about _____”. Also, a few interesting conversation starters would work fine. Complimenting something about them is always a great way to start a conversation as well as a comment about something you are both experiencing.

3. Get Approachable.   You need to be and look friendly, but not crazy and eerie.  Ask your friends how you look sitting there in McDonald’s.  A friendly face is very approachable.  A smile is invaluable, but insanity and psychotic is not.  Find a good balance.  Be prepared to talk about topics that are relevant to non-believers.  Make sure you are living in the same reality as they are living.  Be real.

4.  Eliminate conversation killers.   People carry with them a stereotype of what they expect Christians to be like.  Let’s not act the negative way they expect.  Do not verbally condemn anyone.  Keep all your negative opinions to yourself.  Don’t tell the a bunch of rules about following Jesus, don’t tell them what they “ought” to do, don’t lecture, don’t drop cliches, don’t correct their opinion, don’t speak poorly about anyone.  These behaviors do not help you share the truth of Jesus Christ nor do they help you get closer to the person.  Also, plan to listen a lot more than you speak and keep your comments to under 40 seconds at a time.

5. Connect their story with Jesus’ story.   This is a challenge.  You’ll need to listen to the people speak while constantly praying and an thinking of where this person’s life intersects with Jesus.  If you are having a healthy back and forth conversation you’ll be able to quote someone or tell a story about Jesus during the conversation.  Your comments must fit the context.  God is always at work and if He has worked out this encounter He’ll move the person in the conversation to a connecting spot.  You have to be ready.  Then you simply make the connection in your conversation.

If the person is listening and feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit he’ll connect with your “Jesus comment” at which point they will ask a question or two about Jesus or church or salvation.  Now, you can share your story or answer their question with a simple Gospel presentation.

walking man too

Yesterday a young man came up to Ice Cream and Answers.  I was engaged in a conversation with a fellow about his new job and our dodge ball program.  Amanda (one of our summer missionaries) was handing out ice cream and the young fellow spoke with her.  Here is Amanda’s account of the story.  The guy actually came right up and said, “I think I need to pray and ask Jesus to be my Savior.” How often does that happen?! I was so excited. 

In talking to him, I found out that he had prayed at a  Billy Graham conference before, but started to fall away from God when some of his friends and family died. I questioned him about the Gospel and stuff (to see what he knew). I asked him what he thought of Jesus and he said that he believed He had come down to earth and died on the cross. And then I recapped WHY Jesus had to die (to be sure he understood).
Then I explained how once you’ve truly accepted Christ, you can never lose your salvation. But I said that it was GREAT that he wanted to recommit his life to the Lord (a term he had actually used himself earlier in the conversation). And I gave him some steps on how to get back in an active relationship with God. In the end, I ended up praying for the guy aloud. Right there in the mall. 
The fellow then left as abruptly as he arrived.

>We have a very good day of ministry yesterday at the Mall.  The really good part was the interesting way in which God was working on those of us serving.  First, in my early morning study time/planning time God impressed on me to 1) give the summer missionaries a new focus and 2) analyze the work from the month of June.  When I arrived at Sojourn the summer missionaries were having a little private prayer time, individually in the room.  I was meeting with our music minister and told them to meet me in the food court when they were finished.  As I was heading to the food court God impressed upon me to ask them what He had told them.
When they arrived at our table at the food court I asked, “What did God tell you in your prayer time?”  They each had a different focus but they common trend was they were frustrated and losing the vision since it seemed they were not having any success or seeing any progress.  (Keep in mind this is a difficult ministry that in no way resembles their previous experience).  Amazing!  This totally fit with the two ideas God gave me that morning which I promptly shared with them.  First, since they are females and most of the mall employees are female, it would work well to have them focus and connect with the mall employees.  There were to divide the stores, then begin ministering to the people in the stores.  (Previously we were working Ice Cream and Answers and connecting with people through it, a good ministry for me but not easy for others).  They seemed to encouraged by the idea that they would have their own “territory” and specific people assigned to them.  This would give them 14 stores and approximately 40 people each.  Second, we would analyze our note book or connections through June and get a good picture of what God has been doing.

Then God gave me another challenge; have them pray and walk around the mall and He would tell them which stores were “theirs.”  So we made a list of all the stores, gave three of the four a copy (number four was working another project) and sent the girls out.  Now, this is a difficult task, they would have to discern the will of God without imposing their own desires (some like to shop and have favorite stores).  I don’t know what the statistics should be on this.  Theoretically they would all have different stores with no duplicates, this would assume that they all heard the will of God perfectly.  Two of the girls had six stores in common and one girl had three stores in common with the other two.  All three girls had three stores in common.  I didn’t think that was too bad for hearing the will of God on this project.  We were pretty excited about the results.  Interestingly, the girl who did not go out, who was getting the “left overs,” got six stores in which she had already developed relationships with the people.  This was a good sign that the girls had listened to the will of God.  We were quite excited.

We then analyzed out notes from the month.  This is always a good idea to get a clear indicator of your actual progress rather than your perception of the progress.  I did not record my regular contacts with people, this was their contacts and a few of my new contacts.  In all, we ministered to 40 different people (some multiple times) and had 15 substantial spiritual conversations with them.  That is not bad.

Bottom Line was that God really excited the summer missionaries, fired up our vision and gave us a great new purpose.  Today we begin our personal store to store ministry.  Amazing!