The key to conversation


As a young Christian, I had a burning desire to make the gospel known to those who had never heard it. What held me back was an equally strong feeling of inadequacy. I was ill-equipped to converse with friends, neighbours, and strangers, about the gospel and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or let the Lord down.

Perhaps you are in a similar situation and, if so, I want to encourage you. Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God … that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work‘, 2 Tim. 3. 17 NKJV. Is any work better than evangelism? Scripture has been given to equip us to evangelize wisely and winsomely. In this short series of articles, we will consider a biblical approach to personal evangelism revealed by God in the Garden of Eden, practised by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, and utilized by the early Christians in the book of Acts.

When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they became sinners. Thankfully, God did not just abandon them. They ‘heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ and hid from Him in fear. ‘Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”’ and Adam answered, acknowledging his nakedness. God spoke again, “Who told you that you were naked?” and followed it up with another question, ‘“Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”’ Gen. 3. 8-11 NKJV.

In the first evangelistic conversation that ever took place, we have the key to conversational evangelism. How did God draw the guilty and fearful Adam and Eve into conversation? He asked question after question. This was also the practice of the Lord Jesus and became the practice of His followers.

The key to conversation: questions

Years ago, when I handed someone a gospel tract, I told them what it was I was giving them and, when they said nothing, I walked away. However, when I began to ask questions, I discovered that people answered. As I gave out a gospel tract I would say, ‘Would you be interested in this kind of thing?’ Suddenly I found out that people had opinions and could be drawn into conversation on spiritual subjects.

To evangelize well we must discover where a person is in their thinking and lead them from that point to an understanding of the gospel. Our conversation needs to make a connection (with the sinner) and have a direction (to the Saviour). But how can we discover where a person is in their thinking? We can ask them!

Two types of questions are of particular value in opening and directing conversation. They are modelled by the Lord God in the Garden of Eden. The first question He asked was, ‘Where are you?’ The second was, ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ The first question concerned Adam’s location, the second concerned the logic behind, or reason for, Adam thinking as he did.

Location questions are some forms of ‘What do you think?’ They help us to discover where a person is in their spiritual understanding. So, if I ask, ‘Do you believe in God?’ or, ‘What do you think of the Bible?’ or, ‘Do you think you’ll be in heaven?’ I am asking about spiritual location.

Logic questions follow and are some forms of ‘Why do you think that?’ These are used to gain insight into why a person thinks as they do. If I ask, ‘How did you come to that conclusion?’ or, ‘What makes you think that?’ I am asking about the logic behind a person’s thinking.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a girl named Chloe. As she took a gospel tract from me, I asked, ‘Would you be interested in that kind of thing?’ She said, ‘Not especially’. I asked, ‘Well, do you believe in God?’ She said, ‘Yes, you have to believe in something’. I asked why she thought that, and she answered, ‘When bad things happen you need to be able to turn to someone who has control’. I had learned that this girl was not an atheist, that she regarded God as someone to turn to in trouble, but that she had no immediate knowledge of her need of salvation. This formed the basis of the conversation that followed. I had used location and logic questions to make a connection to the sinner.

You can see from this simple illustration how questions work to inoffensively open and direct conversation. Asking questions (while listening carefully) demonstrates an interest in the person to whom you are speaking. It enables them to express their beliefs and buys you the opportunity to share the gospel with them.