Good questions to spark evangelistic conversations?

(SeanO) #1

Hey guys, I was reading an article that suggested the following question as one that can start some good evangelistic discussions:

“What do you think Jesus is doing right now?”

And it got me curious - what are some of your guys’ favorite questions for sparking evangelistic discussions? Do you have any fun stories to go along with?

Looking forward to your responses.

(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Hi Sean, I love this topic! I think it would be fun to ask people, “What do you think Jesus is doing right now?” and see what they say.

One of the most effective approaches I have found is just to be curious about people.

For instance, on a recent flight I sat next to a woman who was quite conversational. I’ll do my best to remember and present the conversation, but it was an early morning flight a few weeks ago! Because of how engaging she was, we started talking about rather mundane topics, found that we enjoyed the rapport, and pretty soon we were talking about her artwork, her career, and stories from her life.

As we got into these stories, it came out that she was quite passionate about some moral issues, so I asked her to explain her positions in more detail. That led into a discussion about her strong commitment to Buddhism. So we discussed her Buddhist practices and the positive effect this had on her life.

After a while, she asked me, well, what do you believe? I carefully entered into that by sharing many of the areas I agreed with her. She continued to press me with questions, so I explained the gospel in everyday language. It didn’t sound like a religious presentation at that point - it was from my heart, connected to our conversation, and using words she was familiar with and understood. After sharing about Jesus in a clear, brief way, I said, this is what I seek to keep at the center of my thinking and life. She was quite interested in this and so we discussed it more, veering back into what she believed, and so on.

The most interesting part of the conversation was at the end of the flight as we landed. I shared with her how much I had enjoyed getting to know her and our conversation. She reciprocated. I said, as much as we agreed, the main issue that we didn’t seem to find resolution on is whether or not it is true that Jesus live a perfect life, died for our sins, and rose again from the dead. That would be a question you could look into and really investigate.

Then she said, “Oh no, I fully agree with you about Jesus!” I couldn’t help but laugh! I said, well, respectfully, based on what you’ve told me about your Buddhism, I don’t think you would see Jesus as God, as someone you know personally, and call yourself a Christian? She said, “Oh, definitely. I just express that by being a Buddhist.” Unfortunately, we ran out of time around this point. But it was a lovely conversation and I would be delighted if I happened to see her again.

(Helen Tan) #3

Hi Sean

Very interesting…I tend to be a bit random in my conversation starter approach, depending on the circumstances. But here are some which I like to lead into an evangelical conversation:

What is the craziest, most outrageous thing you would like to achieve?

Do you think there’s justice in this world?

Why do you think that, as inhabitants of this world, many of us just can’t get along? Is there hope that this will be a better place for the generations to come?

Will technology save the human race or destroy it?

If you could create a holiday, who or what would it be in honor of? What traditions would it have? What would people eat?

If you could have a conversation with anyone in history or at present, who would you call?

(Helen Tan) #4

Hi Carson, that’s such an interesting encounter and it ended with a cliff-hanger…how can one be a Christian and express that by being a Buddhist? Perhaps she’s of the Baha’i faith which embraces every religion.

(Shaun Thomson) #5

I always find it very difficult to get into conversation. Especially within a professional setting. I often feel people generally think this type of discussion should not happen in the workplace. One recent conversation I had whilst at lunch (which did not last long) was simply about what we believe, after having asked the question. My colleague had given up his Catholic faith after having read “The God Delusion”. It was interesting to ask him why it had convinced him so strongly, but he was not able to really give a good answer for it. Unfortunately the conversation died off quite quickly. Although I think this is a little to do with my approach. I felt like a shaken up bottle of coke ready to explode with refutations to the God Delusion. It is hard to approach these conversations calmly when you become excited that you suddenly have a chance to discuss it.

(SeanO) #6

@shaunmthomson I certainly sympathize with the difficulty of sustaining these questions in a professional environment. Generally, I find that when people who care to discuss these matters realize I’m Christian the first time they will wait for an opportunity when we are alone and then ask me a few probing questions to see if they can make sense of what I believe.

After their curiosity is satisfied, I generally find that they are no longer interested in continuing - they just wanted to know where exactly I stood.

But occasionally I’ll run in to someone who keeps looping back around to religious topics and I try my best to keep them curious - give them just enough of an answer to make them think. But it is certainly difficult.

(SeanO) #7

@Helen_Tan I think in my environment the question about technology would be very fun. People would probably have strong opinions and be curious about why the question was asked. Good thoughts!

(SeanO) #8

@CarsonWeitnauer That is an encouraging story. Perhaps while she agreed with you verbally in order to be polite, internally you really had her thinking? May the Lord grow the seed that was planted into a harvest for His Kingdom!

(Helen Tan) #9

Hi Sean, I’ve seen some success by asking seemingly general and fun questions which will tell me more about them and how they view the world. I’ve tried the direct approach by asking what they think of Christianity and learned that it could bring up a defensive wall right at the beginning.

I recall that many years ago, a much less tactful me tried starting an evangelical conversation by asking my niece if she cared if her father was going to hell. That didn’t go down well at all. Her family did not speak to me for 6 months. That was a big lesson on how not to do it for me.

(Keldon Scott) #10

I like to ask, especially those I do not know – Does everyone have essential worth? I have had one person tell me: “of course not.” But, all the others have conceded to the fact from their perspective that all have worth. And, then I simply ask: Why?

(Joel Bratkovich) #11

I love the idea of questions when discussing Christ. As Ravi says, and Amy Orr-Ewing has reiterated, a question opens up a person to their own assumptions. I also think of witnessing in light of the way that Jesus ministered healing. He commonly laid hands on those coming for healing, but he also spit on the ground and made clay and applied it. This tells me of the inherent need that we each have to #1 recognize the value of every individual #2 to endeavor to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our interaction so as not to be mechanical, and #3 always to recognize that it is only the Lord who saves. While we are called to witness, that can take on many forms and in doing so we recognize that we may be part of the planting process, or maybe the watering process so just enjoy the journey on the path of relationship with Him and the stewardship that He has called each of us to. I love Carson’s story because our first goal in sharing is to find a way to bridge that longest distance between the head and heart so that God can bring the increase.

(SeanO) #12

@Helen_Tan Yes, I can see how that may not have gone well. Thank God for ministries like RZIM that help equip us to ‘help the thinker believe’ and reach out to people where they are at through asking engaging questions based on relationships and a willingness to listen before speaking.

(Carson Weitnauer) #13

Hi Helen, conceptually, I can see that she might have been Baha’i. However, nothing else that seemed related to Baha’i was part of our conversation. I think she was very deeply invested in a particular idea of tolerance and diversity, so she felt the need to express agreement with my point of view in order to be inclusive.

Also, Helen and Shaun, thank you for sharing the story of how it didn’t go well! I think we all have these stories. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and acknowledge that we’re all works in progress.

I remember a summer missions trip where I tried to convince other participants to go to the beach and talk about Jesus. No one wanted to go with me, so I set off on my own. I walked up to people, asked if they would be interested in discussing Jesus with me, and got 100% “no” answers. I’m not opposed to anyone doing this in a more successful manner (!), but it seemed to be a rather ineffective approach.

(SeanO) #14

@CarsonWeitnauer Yes, I used to do a lot of street evangelism. Occasionally I would I have great 30 min - 1 hour conversations about who God is and the other person would ask a lot of good and interesting questions. But generally people were not interested.

I still remember my seminary professors story of a little man in Australia who would come of out of his house and warn random passers by that “Judgment is coming! Judgment is coming! Seek Jesus!” and then run back into the house. Apparently people were saved - or at least one - the man who shared the story.

So sometimes when our hearts are aligned with God and our methods are a bit off God can still use them for the good - which is very encouraging since evangelism is so difficult sometimes :slight_smile:

Good Questions
(Helen Tan) #15

I was wondering if anyone has had any experience using this approach to bring in the subject of spirituality. Gary Habermas talks about Near Death Experiences (NDE). Here are 2 videos (a short one and a longer one) of him talking about it:

Habermas has been studying NDE since 1972 and found that they can be useful as evidence of an afterlife. In making his case, he rejected tens of thousands of accounts that involve tunnels and lights, etc, because there could be valid explanations for them. His focus is solely on medical evidence. In doing so, he shares cases such as a lady in her 30s who accurately described things and events which occurred while she was clinically dead and could not have known.

There’s also the work of Michael Sabom, a Christian cardiologist, who in his book “Life and Death”, points to not just NDE but Post Death Experiences. In his Atlanta Study, Sabom documented simultaneous events unseen by medical personnel but reported with astonishing clarity and conviction by nearly 50 individuals who returned from death.

Habermas makes the point that if there’s life after death, it allows us to understand a model for the Resurrection. This is not about extended life after death, or heaven or hell, but minimalistic life after death – minutes or hours after cessation of heart or brain waves.

While this approach does not take us directly to the Christian faith, it could be an intriguing starter to ignite an evangelistic conversation, and according to Habermas, showing life after hours of death will be a tough one for the naturalist.

What do you think?

(SeanO) #16

@Helen_Tan NDEs are certainly a topic that can spark certain peoples’ interest because they may have stories from their own family that they would enjoy sharing - folk tales, so to speak. In my family, my great grandfather is said to have described with some detail events hours before they happened when he was nearing death. I do not know exactly what to make of these stories, but I know people in my family enjoy sharing them :slight_smile:

I am glad Habermas took the time to distinguish between what could simply be dreamlike states produced by the brain and out of body experiences where the patient described things they could not have known.

Personally, I would not use NDEs as evidence of life after death when talking with naturalists because I think that approach - to them - would seem superstitious.

However - I think NDEs could be good conversation starters - it would definitely work with some people I know in my family. So knowing your audience may be very important.

Helen, how do you envision this conversation going? What question would you ask initially and where would you hope to go from there?

(Jennifer Judson) #17

@CarsonWeitnauer You never know who was listening in on your airplane conversation. Who knows how many seeds were planted.

Years ago we had a new youth pastor start at our church. His first Sunday he did the sermon. He talked about his flight to Tulsa. He was in a conversation with the gentleman seated next to him when he was asked what he did for a living. Our youth pastor answered, “I work for my Father.” So the guy asked, “what does your Father do?” To which he replied, “pretty much everything: land, livestock, natural resources, healthcare,…”. “Wow, he must have some company!” “Yes, he’s in complete control of the whole world.” After the guy was looking a little puzzled, he chuckled and replied, “I’m a preacher and I work for my heavenly Father.”

That got the conversation started off in a light-hearted manner, which was his aim. So a more directed conversation was not intrusive or offensive to the guy. I’ve always remembered that story. It was sincere and winsome, nothing heavy handed about it. I’m sure it helped that our youth pastor had the personality to carry it off.

(Jimmy Sellers) #18

This is a light-hearted approach to injecting the possibility of God in to an everyday conversation and it has the effect of the velvet hammer.
In a world without weekends a day of rest was something that only Jews practiced. It set them apart from all their pagan neighbors. Jews took Sabbath observance seriously to the point of death rather that defend themselves even against military attack.

37 ….Let us die all in our innocency: heaven and earth will testify for us, that ye put us to death wrongfully. 38 So they rose up against them in battle on the sabbath, and they slew them, with their wives and children and their cattle, to the number of a thousand people. (1 Mac 2:37–38)

For the Jew this was an example of piety but to the Greek it was considered cowardice and lazy.

For God is the brave man’s hope, and not the coward’s excuse. The Jews indeed once sat on their tails,—it being forsooth their Sabbath day,—and suffered their enemies to rear their scaling-ladders and make themselves masters of their walls, and so lay still until they were caught like so many trout in the drag-net of their own superstition. Plutarch. (1874). Plutarch’s Morals. (Goodwin, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 178). Medford, MA: Little, Brown, and Company.

And from a contemporary historical nod to the significant of a 7-day week you can point out that the Russia and the French revolutions tried to stamp out the 7-day week to kill the Sabbath observance, they failed.

In 1929 the (Communist) government decreed a five-day week in the place of the seven-day week, in order to break completely the observance of Sunday. Each person is now to have one day off in five, but since the day varies according to each person’s work, different members of a family often have their periodical rest on different days…
The Bolsheviks had clearly learned from the failure of the ten-day week that formed part of the French Revolutionary calendar. This collapsed largely because the Sabbath of Reason came around much less often than the Sabbath of Christianity. But even the Bolsheviks’ five- (and later six-) day week experiment eventually proved too unpopular to sustain, because it made life too miserable.
The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens

So, I thought, everyone asks “How was your weekend?” And I thought what a great opportunity to ask, “Do you know why we have 7 day weeks and why you have a weekend?” At that point you could explain God gave us the weekend and that it was exclusively a Jewish practice and by observing the Sabbath they acknowledged God as the Creator God of the universe and the God who promised rest a rest we have in Jesus the Messiah. I am sure that you have many different paths to broach. :grinning:

(SeanO) #19

Wow, @Jimmy_Sellers, that is a lot to unpack.

I was not aware that Plutarch recorded a time when a group of Jews did not fight on the Sabbath. That is a very sad story. They had been taught the letter rather than the heart of the law - at least on that point - with terrible, terrible consequences. Praise God that Jesus redeemed the Sabbath by healing a man on it and restoring grace and truth to a tradition.

I also had never thought about rest during the week being exclusively rooted in the Judeo Christian worldview. Very neat :slight_smile:

(David Roeder) #20

Here are a couple of X-ray Questions developed by David Powlison, with CCEF, a Biblical Counseling Organization. What do you think?
What do you desperately hope will last in your life? What do you feel must always be there? What can’t you live without?
What do you really want out of life? What payoff are you seeking from the things you do? What is the return you are working for?