At this stage in the evangelism process, we have already: introduced ourselves, built a rapport, engaged them, expressed our faith to them, and served them. The majority of these first five steps are intended to separate us from the ordinary encounters our neighbors make daily. However, if we are not careful, we can get all the way through step five and know very little about OUR NEIGHBOR’S thoughts, beliefs, or faith. The overarching goal of evangelism is to meet the lost where they are and help bring them to where they need to be. A problem can arise, however, when we do not take the time to know where they are in the first place. When we do not take the time to seek out what it is they believe, a tremendous disadvantage and obstacle begins to form. Many times, when we do not have an understanding of our neighbor’s spiritual background… we can waste time addressing things they already have a grasp on or even agree with us on.
Step six in the evangelism process eliminates this problem. Once an authentic rapport, friendship, and relationship has been formed through the previous steps, it is only natural to begin to have an ongoing DISCUSSION about what THEY believe. Unless we have a comprehension of where they are coming from, we are incapable of bringing them to where they need to be. Surely after accomplishing the first five steps, the door has been opened for us to begin to discover their faith. It may seem daunting, but this is merely the next step in the process towards bringing them to where they need to be, in Christ. Our efficiency in the five previous steps can be gauged or evaluated by how open our neighbor is during the discussion stage. If our neighbor is closed off and not willing to go into detail about what they believe, it may be the case that we have not built the rapport or relationship that we thought we had. When this happens, we must rededicate ourselves to the previous five steps.
There are some things we need to understand before we start discussing with our neighbors about their faith. The first being, before even going to step six, we must already have built the sturdy foundation of rapport, engagement, expression, and service. If we do not, we will probably have an awkward encounter we did not want to have. It will not be awkward if we truly dedicate ourselves to the first five steps; it will merely become the next NATURAL milestone. So many of us have experienced uncomfortable conversations with the lost because we never took the time to lay this foundation. For someone to open up about his or her spirituality, it requires us to have EARNED that right!
The second concept we must be cognizant of before a spiritual discussion with our neighbor is… if we are successfully learning about their belief system, we need to be honored that they feel comfortable around us enough to share such feelings. With this knowledge, we need to be respectful of where they are coming from. Even if you hear things vastly in opposition to God’s Word, this is NOT the time to correct them! LISTENING is the greatest tool in accomplishing this step! This trust that has been built between you and your neighbor is something to take seriously, and unless you handle this correctly… you can lose the hope of ever bringing them to where they need to be. This is not the point to speak against their beliefs. This is not the point to tell them they are wrong. This is not even the point that you tell them the truth. This is when it is best to LISTEN! Showing them how much you care about where they are coming from will only help you later when you are showing them the truth. During this step, only address your beliefs if asked.
The third and final concept to be mindful of before starting a spiritual discussion with your neighbor is… this has all been leading towards something. We must be aware of the end goal of bringing them to Christ. It is one thing to “listen” to their thoughts and beliefs… it is a whole other thing to actually remember what they say and use it in your preparation. To be applicable and relatable in the steps to come, we must have an assuredness of exactly where they are coming from. Once we realize that every single step in this evangelism process has been leading to something (Bible Study), it will help keep our spirits up and allow us to press on! More than that, it will enable us to happily invest our time, energy, and passion into our neighbor’s path towards Christ.
Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” We can completely slam the door shut by interposing, interrupting, or correcting our neighbor while they are taking the all-important step of expressing spirituality to us. Doing these things will make our neighbor think, “Well, why did they ask what I believe if they really didn’t want to know?” This can bring the evangelism process to a screeching halt… all because we were too FOOLISH to seek the understanding of where they were coming from. Instead, we expressed our own heart to the detriment of understanding our neighbor’s.
Honestly, it all comes down to treating others the way we want to be treated. None of us like to be interrupted. None of us like to be corrected by someone when we are simply expressing our thoughts and feelings. Especially when you put yourself into the shoes of someone who does not have the knowledge of God’s Word you do. When it comes to whatever they decide to express to you about their faith, it is most likely that they have NO IDEA what is actually right and what God’s Word actually says. They are probably just expressing the thoughts and beliefs they have had their entire lives that were given to them by their parents and family. For us to quash their whole family’s belief system before ever giving them a chance to be heard is just like what the writer of Proverbs 18:2 said… FOOLISH. The step of discussion really sets us on the path of bringing them to where they need to be. The only problem is, will we actually allow them to discuss where it is they are?
– Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism