5 Keys To Having Meaningful, Life-Giving Conversations With Non-Christians

by Rose Meeder  

At some point, if you are sincere about your Christian faith, you are going to have a conversation with someone about it.  Or are you?

Let me back up a minute, if “being a Christian” is something you take seriously, you are probably going to THINK about having a conversation with someone about it.  AND – you may wonder HOW to have that conversation.

Listen, I have been a Christian my whole life and have also been a thoughtful student of the human art of conversation for years and I find this thing – “sharing my faith” – incredibly hard to do. 

But I WANT to – I really want to.  I actually believe that meeting Jesus on this side of heaven will make life richer and more joyful and more peaceful than anything else available to us.  There is a tenacity and fierceness to God’s love through Jesus that holds people firmer in the face of life’s struggles than anyone can imagine. 

I want everyone to know this. 

Everyone.

Well, the key is figuring out how to start, how to continue the conversation and eventually, how to let it go.

Join me here:

Relationships are complicated.  Communication between two individuals is often fraught with misunderstanding.  The timing isn’t always right and sometimes you are just not in the mood.

But despite all that, I want to let you in on a few key principles that you absolutely need to know before you take this type of conversation on. 

Here they are:

1. Move past your own assumptions. 

Often, we have already pre-decided what someone thinks about God. 

You may know that a person doesn’t attend church regularly so you assume that they think spiritual things are irrelevant.  Really?  Why continue to assume that, if there is no evidence to support it?  You haven’t asked the person yet. Yes, there is a risk in asking, but make sure your preconceived hunch is not cheating you out of a conversation you are both interested in having. 

Statistically, we know that more people are interested in faith conversations than not.  If you play the odds, the person you are sitting across from is more-likely wishing you would bring it up.

2. Express a genuine interest. 

Don’t begin with your baptism story. 

First, ask him how he is doing, ask how she is really doing.  And then, listen.  Your first several conversations may never include a single idea of your own.  Ask about life and ideas and plans and achievements and concerns and anxieties.  Be intentionally respectful.

You should hear yourself saying “What do you think about that?”  “How did you come to feel this way?”  “What’s it like for you when that happens?”  Validate.  Empathize.  Be motivated by a genuine desire to engage.  When their story breaks your heart, because real life has a way of doing that, tell them you don’t know what to say but politely offer, that when you have been similarly at the very end of yourself, you have prayed about it.  Because that is being honest – the last time you had no idea how to fix your broken heart, you prayed – and by offering to do for someone else what you would do for yourself, you are caring for them.

If you don’t care about this person, you don’t get to nudge the conversation into the faith-arena.  You don’t get to invite them to church.  You don’t get to share your spiritual opinions. 

So if you find yourself engaged in a conversation with someone, and get distracted or caught up with some selfish thoughts, stop thinking you will share your faith with them.  You shouldn’t.  First comes the caring and then comes the sharing.  Your first conversation earns you the right to the next conversation.  Keep this top of mind.

3. Know your truth. 

I think about Billy Graham.  He stands out in the crowd of humanity as one of the most influential leaders of all time.  He knew his truth.  His passion for teaching millions came from a deeply personal conviction centred around the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the spiritual reconciliation this offered to the world. 

Billy Graham had studied the scriptures to the point that he could not keep this life-saving message of unconditional and super-natural love and acceptance to himself.  Out of this conviction, Billy Graham shared his faith. 

Reach daily into scripture and apply the words of Jesus and words of the Apostle Paul to your life.  You will nurture and ground your soul.  God will use you.

4. Share your stuff. 

Everybody has stuff.  Your life is not all together.  Life is sometimes hard for everybody.  Be appropriately but profoundly honest. 

Talk about how your job leaves you dissatisfied, how you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, how you are seeing a marriage counselor, how you worry about your kids and your weight and your money. 

If you share your thoughts on God in the absolutely false context that your life is perfect, your shared words will fly-fly-away on the next winsome breeze of nothingness because what you have to say about God doesn’t really matter anyway.  You obviously don’t need Him.  You have got life figured out on your own.  That will be a shame, when all the while you want to communicate that God’s redeeming love bolsters you and grounds you. 

The truth is that you believe that Jesus died for all the bad, unexplainable anguish and garbage going on in the world and going on in your life.  Tell your friend that.  They will listen. 

5. Let go. 

You are going to invest in people by sharing your spiritual world-view and undeniably, the truth of what you share has the power to transform. 

When people lean into God-conversations, the possibilities for life-change is incredible.  You will be offering a peek inside of a heart and mind sold out for God and that is wonderful.  This extension of yourself will be a gift that could truly transform your friend’s experience of living.  Or maybe it won’t.  Maybe someone will grow to like you but at the same time, will turn you down every time you invite them to church.  Maybe it will feel odd when you offer to pray for someone’s loss and you will only receive a grateful smile but a guarded expression.  This person who now trusts you and cares about you too, will possibly always let you talk about your Christianity but never be influenced to take on those views for themselves.  And you know what?  That’s ok.  The potential conviction of knowing their need for a Saviour might happen in their heart but it just as likely, might not.  That’s not your responsibility.  That’s not your job.  It is a noble and even righteous goal to bring people to Christ but don’t make a single person your conversion-project. 

Let. that. go.  And while you do, continue to vulnerably invest and also deepen your own faith.  Never stop being “for” your friend and focus on moving past the judgments and assumptions that will threaten your friendship.  God has got this. 

Relax and enjoy knowing that. Proclaim well.

_________

Today’s post is a guest post by Rose Meeder. Not only is Rose a close friend, Rose is a physician, a wife and mother to four, and the host of Intersection, a podcast where she has important, meaningful conversations with people about where real life and faith intersect.

Last year, I interviewed Rose in depth

Rose is one of the best I know at having genuine, meaningful conversation in an age when the art of conversation is dying.  

13 Comments

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  6. Dallas Heikkinen on May 9, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Thanks.
    last night at our council meeting in a discussion on evangelism, our council president said I don’t have the right words to use when talking about Jesus with outsiders. I will share this, at the time I didn’t have the right words to say be yourself God will do the rest.

  7. Joylet on May 9, 2018 at 12:27 am

    I am renewed by the encouragement to first let the scripture deal with me.I needed that reminder.

  8. Ch. J. Moore on May 4, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Thank you for sharing! These principles are so true and important to remember. What you are describing is what I learned as “relationship evangelism.” It’s all about building up the caring relationship with the hope of gaining permission to share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ. Letting that other person dictate when the discussion goes spiritual is important. We drop the seed, they decide if they want to receive it.

    You talked about starting the conversation by listening and asking probing questions. One of the most important things I learned in seminary was how to be an active listener. They taught us the 80/20 rule: listen 80% of the time and talk no more than 20% of the time.

    Thank you for pointing out that all we can do is plant the seed. It’s up to God to make other things happen. When your conversation partner decides that they do not want to attend church, or pray, or really even talk about God–that’s okay. Accepting that decision on their part builds the trust in the relationship. When a crisis hits them, they will be more likely to turn to you and that is often the opportune moment that they will be more open.

  9. Worth a Look! Weekend Edition | 3:10 on May 4, 2018 at 8:07 am

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  10. Greg on May 2, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for this. I am currently helping a church get back on its feet, the congregation has been diminished to a fragment of what it once was. So many times leaders think they can advertise or come up with some venue that will attract new members and it very well may but it is the relationship that keeps people together. Look at people as fellow brothers and sisters despite our differences makes all the difference.

  11. Pastor John on May 2, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you sincerely… very helpful, thoughtful, and bore witness to the right approach.

  12. Dan on May 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Great thoughts thanks for the reminders that it’s not all about us / me

  13. Mel Bladek on May 2, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Beautiful and refreshing. Thank you!

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