Thursday, October 2, 2008

Witnessing - You Don't Have to Have Super Powers - Part 2

Have you ever found yourself involved in a conversation where one person dominates the discussion? A recent phone call comes to mind. I was talking with a very dear, well-meaning man who droned on and on about his wife and several other subjects from 20 years ago. As I attempted to listen, I found my mind drifting toward other subjects like how belly lint gets into your belly button or why they call it a button in the first place.

Sadly, there are people who try to share the gospel in that same manner – they drone on and on totally dominating the conversation. The listener barely can get a word in edgewise. It is no wonder we Christians sometimes get accused of ramming our beliefs down the throat of a lost person.

I used to think that I needed to control the witnessing conversation. Experience has taught me a different lesson.

Earlier this year, I was in Wichita, Kansas with a team of people doing street evangelism. We were working a huge festival called Riverfest giving out tracts and sharing one-to-one. This was my first time to participate in this outreach which had been held for several years.

In Wichita, there was a group of youth who hung out by the river called Juggalos. Juggalos are followers of a rap music group called the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) Juggalos are a countercultural movement very similar to Goths.

For several years, the local outreach leader, Loren, had attempted to reach out to this group with little success. In fact, several of the Juggalos had previously threatened to throw some of our team members into the river and one had threatened to kill Loren.

On Friday morning of our outreach, the Lord led me to join the juggalo group to talk. Looking back on it now, it was probably not one of the smartest things that I ever did especially since I was by myself.

Instead of giving them tracts and immediately witnessing to them, I started to ask questions about their spiritual beliefs. “What do Juggalos believe?” I asked.

I continued to follow each question with another question until I had a dialogue going. I took their answers and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit responded with the Biblical perspective. It was amazing how open they really were to talking about their beliefs.

When the conversation came to a close, one of the guys said, “I like you better than any Christian that I have ever met. You didn’t come down here and judge us based on our appearance. Even though I don’t agree with you, I like you.” That was a huge step forward.

Throughout the rest of the weekend, we continued to build relationships with them and share as God gave opportunity. In fact, the guy who previously threatened Loren poured his heart out to me and another team member for over an hour.

Phillip understood the importance of having a dialogue. In Acts 8:26-39, Phillip began his conversation with the eunuch by asking a question.

“Do you understand what you are reading?” This is known in evangelism circles as a diagnostic question.

As a witness, I want to see where the person that I am dialoging with is at in their spiritual journey. If you don’t ask this type of question, you will not know where to begin in your witnessing conversation.

I use a number of different diagnostic questions while I am witnessing based on the context and situation. For example, I might ask a gang member, “What is going to happen to you when you step out of this life.” I might ask another person, “To you, who is Jesus Christ.” My favorite diagnostic question is, “If you were to die tonight, would you be 50%, 75% or 100% sure you would go to heaven.”

These types of questions are the starting point for my dialogue. One thing that I make sure of is that I listen to the answers given. (I’m not thinking about belly lint at that time.) Listening is your most important witnessing skill.

Make sure your witnessing conversation is a dialogue and not a monologue. Your credibility numbers will skyrocket with your listener if you foster a conversation instead of blasting them with a canned presentation.

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