Scattering Gospel Seeds: Moments & Conversations
By Cas Monaco and Gary Runn (Doctor of Ministry, Cru Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives)
In a recent article entitled “Cru Research Reveals Insights for Gospel Conversations” I noted that over half of the 400 respondents claimed no religious affiliation, and described Christianity as either offensive, inauthentic, unsafe, or simply irrelevant.
The research also revealed some very good news: of the 400 surveyed, 84% are ready and willing to engage in spiritual conversations. Conversely, many do not believe Christians are ready or willing to participate in a conversation with someone with a different point of view.
This research, coupled with our own experiences, underscored the challenge of initiating gospel conversations in light of the current milieu. As we pored over the research the following five behaviors began to emerge as viable starting points for gospel conversations. Together, these behaviors help to form a posture of genuine humility toward and interest in the other person.
Five necessary behaviors emerged as starting points for gospel conversations:
- Be present and listen—Follow the conversation and not your agenda
- Find common ground—Build a relational bridge
- Walk in their shoes—Understand their story
- Talk like a real person—Use words meant for real people and not the pews
- Create a better story than the one they’ve heard
Three Core Longings
While many of us want to share the gospel, we are hesitant—even afraid—to engage in gospel conversations. And yet, life’s challenges, the stress and tension in our culture today provide ongoing opportunities for meaningful dialogue. Furthermore, the grand narrative of Scripture reminds us, time and again, that God created human beings in his image—imago Dei—hard-wired for a relationship with him. He often uses the sufferings of life to uncover these deeper needs. Not surprisingly then, our research unveiled three core longings, longings woven into the fabric of imago Dei:
- Peace—the absence of anxiety
- Prosperity—the longing for stability
- Purpose—the deep desire for meaning
These three longings were apparent in Emma’s life, a college student Cas talked with on a recent flight. Emma had given up on God because he allowed her aunt to die, so she walked away from Christianity and began searching for meaning in New Age spiritualism. Cas opened up about her mom’s untimely death and some of the ways Jesus carried her through, answered prayer, and offered her and her mom eternal hope. The conversation was personal and rich.
Three Ways to Make the Most of Moments and Conversations
By cultivating an awareness of these core longings numerous pathways for gospel engagement will open up. The following offers three simple ways to intentionally bolster gospel conversations:
1. Cultivate Your Relational Network
We tend to think of our relational network consisting of about 8–10 people–-a few close neighbors and maybe some work colleagues, but according to sociologists, we interact with about 100–150 people regularly. Consider all of the people with whom you interact on a regular basis–-people in your yoga class, the woman at the dry cleaner, your mechanic, or the barista at your favorite coffee shop. In other words, who do you see regularly?
While these people will certainly fall along a relationship continuum, they are part of our lives for a reason. God has placed all of us in our own unique network. We simply need to ask God to open your eyes to see what he sees. Try it! Write down the first 25-50 names (or occupations) that come to mind. Begin praying for each person on your list. Consider this a first step toward meaningful gospel engagement.
2. Initiate the Power of SomeTime
A number of years ago, after extensive research surrounding the topic of gospel conversations, Cru’s campus ministry developed a small-group guide entitled: SomeTime. This approach encourages friends to ask, “I’d like to hear more about your spiritual journey sometime—would you be willing to share?” Most people eagerly accept this invitation, and as we follow the conversation, and build a relational bridge, and take the time to walk in their shoes they will more readily listen as we create a better story.
Think of someone in your relational network and tap into the power of SomeTime.
3. Demonstrate and Declare-God is Relevant
In addition, research revealed that people today question the relevance of Christianity and God. If they think about God at all, they wonder, “How does he make a difference in my life?” As believers in Jesus Christ, we actually have countless opportunities to declare and demonstrate the relevance of knowing Jesus. Undoubtedly this requires transparency on our part, a willingness to open up and talk about the reality of God’s presence and work in our daily experiences.
A simple way to prepare for these moments is to create a “three-statement” story. Notably, this is not a three-minute testimony about how you came to know Christ in the past, but a three-statement story describing ways in which God is relevant in your life right now.
- First, where do you experience anxiety, long for stability, or struggle to find meaning in your life?
- Second, how does Jesus meet, encourage, or give you peace?
- Third, explain how walking with Jesus gives you a sense of hope for the future.
Here is an example of Gary’s three-statement story:
- “We have had several anxious days trying to help my in-laws through the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey—they lost everything.”
- “But recently, as I was reading the Bible, God reminded me that he is in control of all things and is a God of peace.”
- “This actually gave me a great sense of comfort and hope that we can keep moving ahead in helping them recover and resettle.”
Our research essentially confirms the truth of Scripture. People all over the globe are in search of peace and safety, Jesus promises the kind of peace that surpasses comprehension. Anxiety and fear abound for all sorts of reasons, Jesus acknowledges the reality of tribulation and declares victory. People everywhere search for love and relationship, Jesus waits with open arms. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).
These uncertain times are no surprise to God. He continues to provide countless opportunities to tell the True Story of the Whole World with fresh vigor. His story gives meaning to all the little stories, including yours and mine and theirs.