The informal exchange of ideas by spoken words is the dictionary meaning of the word conversation(1) . Some of us find talking with others very easy and some of us find it quite a challenge. In our endeavours to reach out to those who do not know Christ personally, we will without doubt have to engage in conversations. Our conversations will range from very general to quite spiritual in nature. Being confident and prepared for all types of conversations will help us in our endeavours to reach out.
The Bible says that, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). This whole concept of evangelism is God’s idea. The Son’s mission was and still is to reach those that are lost. Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."(John 20:21) Jesus is the one who is sending us out to have conversations with others. He is confident that we can do this. Be encouraged, take heart and believe that God will use your conversations with others to reveal Himself.Types of Conversations
We will find ourselves in many conversations with unchurched people. Some of the areas that we need to consider are: cultural relevancy in conversations ( CR ); our ability to start general conversations ( GC ); our willingness to start spiritual conversations ( SC ); confidence in sharing our personal story ( PS ) and our ability to share God’s story in conversations ( GS ).Be Culturally Relevant With Your Conversations (CR)
Not everything we say to people will be understood in the manner in which we intended. We may say one thing and the complete opposite is understood. If I mention to a teenager that the weekend was totally cool, he understands that I meant it was a great weekend. If I mention to a senior that the weekend was totally cool they understand that the weather over the weekend was not hot. The same comment made, however interpreted in different ways. Whom-ever we are having conversations with, we must make our speech relevant to the listener. Contextualisation means to put biblical truths into language that will be understood by the listener within the context of his/her own culture. It is the art of replacing or rephrasing biblical terms with more readily understood terms.
The Apostle Paul is a great model to us when it comes to being culturally relevant. Paul went to great lengths to reach the culture he was placed amongst at the time.Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings. 1 Cor9:19-23
A large part of being culturally relevant is watching the language we use to communicate in conversation. We often use religious or Christianese language that only other Christians understand. Christianese is its own language; it is an exclusive vernacular that Christians use. This language is often not understood by those who do not know Christ. Words like saved, fellowship and blood of the lamb are Christianese. These words are foreign to those outside the Christian community.
Proverbs 15:2 encourages us to make knowledge acceptable to others. In fact we are referred to as being wise if we can take our Christian knowledge and communicate in a manner that is understood and palatable to the hearer.Sample Discussion Questions
1. The Concise Oxford Dictionary Sixth Ed (Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976)
- How would you describe yourself when it comes to having conversations with unchurched people?
- Describe some instances where you have been effective in your conversations and then tell of some where your conversation has been not so effective. In hindsight, what would you do differently?
- Brainstorm as many ‘Christianese’ words or phrases that you can think of. Discuss how you could rephrase each of these words to be culturally relevant.
- Finish with prayer for friends, family members or work associates who are not Christians.