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. 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 Prepared To Start General Conversations (GC) 

In order to reach people we must be willing to take on the challenge of striking up a conversation whether it is with our closest friend or a complete stranger. Occasionally we get stuck with what to say, we are not sure where to take the conversation next and all in all it can leave you feeling quite flat. A great tool to aid you in starting and building conversations with others is what is referred to as ‘the conversation stack’ (1) .

The Conversation Stack 

The conversation stack works from the bottom up. Pictures are used to prompt us as to what questions to ask of people when we are in conversation. Imagine the pictures as cue cards as to what to say next. You use the answers you get to springboard from. This keeps the conversation flowing. The conversation stack will get you started with very general discussion and can lead you to very spiritual discussions. First you would ask the questions, ‘ what is your name? ’, secondly ‘ where do you live ’, next would be, ‘ do you have family? ’ as so on. For this part of the study, concentrate on the parts of the stack that help with general conversations.

Be Proactive To Start Spiritual Conversations (SC) 

Being ready and willing to start a spiritual conversation can be a little daunting for even the keenest of evangelists. A spiritual conversation is simply a discussion with someone that involves spiritual matters. It may include destiny, purpose, life-after-death, having faith, God and others. A working example of this in conversation would include: “I think God created people with a special plan and purpose for life. What do you think your special purpose is? What unique abilities do you have?

On the Backfoot 

When moving a conversation in a spiritual direction, the manner in which this is done is crucial. You can be very direct and forceful with what you have to say (on the frontfoot) or you can be calm, relaxed and quite casual about it (on the backfoot). Imagine yourself leaning back; giving you a relaxed demeanour, this is the backfoot position. The later approach is the one that proves to be more effective. Your physical posture can help you in being more relaxed and prevent you from moving into a forceful mode. Here’s an example of a spiritual conversation about God having a purpose for people’s lives.

  • Backfoot : “I’ve been thinking lately, surely there must be more to life. Like do you think we just go through life, get married, have kids, watch them grow up and die or is there more to it? You probably don’t believe this but I think that God has a special plan for every person, like real meaning to being alive. What do you think?
  • Frontfoot : Your life is a complete waste, you need to get to know God so you can work out the plans he has for you.

Colossians 4:6 and 1 Peter 3:15 remind us that the emphasis is not so much on our content but on our manner. Both Apostles in these instances are concerned with how we dialogue with people. Colossians 4:6 encourages us to let our conversation be always full of grace and seasoned with salt. 1 Peter 3:15 encourages us to be ready to talk about our faith but to do this with gentleness and respect. Both of these scriptures can be fulfilled if we take a backfoot approach with people. Spiritual conversations can be enjoyed by both parties when undertaken in a relaxed and non-forceful way.

Sample Discussion Questions 

  1. How do you see the conversation stack could aid you personally? In the past, have you ever experienced a general conversation coming to a stop and not knowing what to say next? Explain. 
  2. Break into pairs and designate one person the believer and one the unchurched. Hold a two minute conversation with the believer using the conversation stack to begin the conversation and to continue it on. Swap over after two minutes, each having experienced using the conversation stack as a tool. 
  3. On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate yourself at starting spiritual conversations? One being not so good and ten being fantastic. Explain. What do you find hard or easy about spiritual conversations? 
  4. Describe a time where you were having a spiritual conversation on the frontfoot and then describe one you had on the backfoot. How effective was each? 
  5. Finish with prayer for friends, family members or work associates who are not Christians. 

1. The Conversation Stack is a concept used by Youth Ministries in Australia.
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