After Paul shared the gospel with the people of Athens the text noted various responses to his message.
“Some men joined him and believed.” Acts 17:34
“Others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’” 17:32
What and Why
Around the world there are students ready to receive Christ the first time they hear the gospel. We definitely want to meet those students. Many students who will come to Jesus will need more than one conversation and exposure to the gospel in order to place their faith in Jesus.
This raises a few questions:
> Are we prepared to guide a person not only through the first discussion, but to lead them to a second conversation?
> Is there a strategic way to increase the number of people we meet with more than once?
As an international movement we have been gathering information from many universities. We have noted that many students find it it is easier to get the first appointment with a student than it is to meet with them a second time. Far too often, even those who said that they would like to get together again don’t show up to the meeting.
A well-equipped movement builder is not just prepared for the first meeting. We want to be prepared to influence others beyond an initial contact.
Learning from the Word
It is no surprise to discover that the Bible identifies people who needed multiple meetings to accept Christ.
Read John 9:1-12
Click for the text
This text introduces us to a man who suffered from a significant disability. His initial interaction with Jesus seems to have been brief.
Describe the interaction he initially had with Jesus?
Connecting to the Truth
Like the man born blind, many people’s spiritual journey involves more than an initial conversation. They take steps of faith. If their movement toward Christ requires multiple steps it is problematic when students aren’t interested in meeting again.
Justifiable reasons for encountering this challenge:
Paul said that the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). Jesus said the darkness does not comprehend the light (John 1:5). Thus, hearing the gospel is not typically a comfortable, easy-going experience. The gospel disturbs the heart of a person living a self-directed life. The nature of our message can make people hesitant to meet with us.
Other factors that can contribute to the challenge:
It isn’t only the gospel that can be a stumbling block. At times, we may not communicate the love of Christ. We might be so focused on delivering our message that we come across too strong. Our behavior and tact create an impression. If the impression is positive, people are more likely to want to see us again. If our interaction with someone is perceived as being insensitive or arrogant, people will be inclined to not meet with us again.
Two behaviors increase our chances of getting a second appointment:
1. Ensure that you have a dialogue with someone rather than a monologue.
If you analyze your evangelistic conversation you probably find that at the beginning of your interaction you ask questions. As a result both you and the person you are speaking with experience an exchange of ideas. The sharing of ideas demonstrates respect and communicates care and creates a pleasant environment.
Sometimes, as we shift the conversation to the gospel, our dialogue migrates in the direction of monologue. (Dialogue – both are talking, each person actively participates. Monologue – one person speaks and the other only listens) We have a lot that we want to share. We have favorite illustrations. We are excited about the topic. All of these are good things. However, if the communication slides into monologue some will feel that they are being given a presentation.
Most people don’t naturally pursue such presentations. A monologue changes the atmosphere of the conversation and can remove the sense of pleasure that was established. If someone experienced a monologue, they will have to overcome their fear of “having presentation # two” when they meet with you.
We want to maintain dialogue as we present the gospel. Keeping in mind that our goal is helping someone come to know Jesus, we need to build a context that gives us a good chance of having more than one conversation.
2. Set up the second appointment emphasizing that you want to hear more from them.
The principle: People are more likely to meet with you a second time if they feel that they are important and have a contribution to make. Conversely, if they feel that they are being invited to meet with an expert, on a topic in which they have little to contribute, they will tend to avoid further interaction.
The “sometime strategy.”
The “sometime strategy” is designed to help us communicate that we value the person with whom we are speaking and believe they have something to contribute. The strategy starts with careful listening. When we connect with someone, we should be able to identify something that the other person said that was interesting. We should be able to find value in what they shared. The following are examples of things that might come up in conversation that we might find interesting:
♦ Yuri’s grandmother was a positive spiritual example in the family.
♦ Maria once had a “spiritual experience” when she met with a priest.
♦ Sergei was deeply offended by a spiritual hypocrite and he is now suspicious of anything religious.
♦ Magda once read a book about someone’s experience with God that raised a lot of questions.
Obviously there are thousands of interesting topics that can come up in a conversation. Having identified an “interesting topic,” you can communicate personal interest in the other person by using the “sometime strategy.” Here is how it can work:
“Yuri, you mentioned that your grandmother was a positive example for you and your family. Sometime I’d like to get together and hear more about that, and how she affected your family. Would that be ok?”
“Maria, I haven’t forgotten what you said about that meeting with a priest that had such a big impact on your thinking. It sure makes me curious to learn more. Sometime could we get together so that I can hear more about what happened?”
“Sergei, something you said makes me interested to learn more. You were really bothered by someone who was a hypocrite. That must have been a terrible experience. Sometime I would like to hear more about that. Do you think you could tell me what happened sometime?”
“Magda, I know we both need to go to class now. But I’m curious. You mentioned a book that had a big influence on you. Do you think that we could get together sometime so I could hear more about it?”
These examples illustrate a central idea. By inviting someone to share more of what they know or have experienced we are inviting them into a dialogue. We communicate that they have something to contribute to that dialogue. We emphasize that we have found something of value in what they have said. We also learn more about where the person is on their spiritual journey which enables us to connect with them. Phrasing our invitation with the term “sometime” helps us avoid putting pressure on the person. It is an inviting way to create a good environment.
How does it work? After you ask the “sometime” question, exchange contact information with the person. If they give you their contact information they do so knowing that “sometime” you will contact them in order to reconnect. After a day or two, contact them and express your interest in connecting. Here’s an example: “Magda, thanks for the time the other day. I enjoyed meeting you. We talked about getting together sometime so I can hear more about that book. I was wondering when we could do that.”
The “sometime strategy” emphasizes another person’s contribution to the dialogue. While we are interested in others, we sometimes fail to effectively communicate that interest. We inadvertently come across as people who want to do most of the talking. This strategy won’t guarantee that you meet everyone a second time. But most people find that it does increase the number of their second appointments. It extends our opportunity to continue sharing the gospel.
It is time for you to use the “sometime strategy.” Together with one of your friends or discipler, take the initiative to start a spiritual conversation with someone. Be attentive to the fact that you want the conversation to be a dialogue, not a monologue. Listen well to the person you meet. As you finish the conversation, try to build a bridge toward a second opportunity to connect. Let the person know that you are interested in getting together again, and one of your reasons is that you are interested in hearing more from them. Ask, “Sometime, can we get together in order to …”
Debrief the experience:
Ask your friend or discipler to evaluate what parts of the conversation were strong in dialogue and if there were any parts that felt like a monologue.
What were the strengths and weaknesses of the conversation?
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