An evangelical conversation is no different from any other conversation – to have a great conversation it requires people to listen. What I have learned over the years is that a good listener is a speakers best friend. People like to talk, so let them. The more you listen the more you will learn. What you learn about a person allows you to get to know them better, and if we make that our objective the rest will happen naturally, especially if the Word lives in you.
What I have learned is that by taking the role of an interviewer, or one that keeps a person speaking about himself or his life, is the best way to be a conversationalist. Especially if you get your turn to be interviewed. But, wait your turn and let the other person speak. Nothing will end a conversation faster than someone who interrupts, which is one of my worst traits. So, trust me, just listen and be patient. You may get excited, or impatient, and want to add something, and in doing so, the other person may lose his or her train of thought.
Be patient, and make a decision to be the listener and interviewer. Ask a question, listen, and respond with another question. Ignore the time. Let the world stand still for a moment and give the other person your attention. When you do this, every relationship will improve. Just listen, and be patient for your turn to be interviewed. Expect to get your turn, and if you don’t that is OK. Use the time instead to take what you learned and see if there is a connection you can make to the Good News.
One of the most important aspects of any conversation is praying that the Holy Spirit guides the discussion. You should pray before going to a party, lunch, dinner, meetings, anything and everything. You want the Holy Spirit with you, because you will find the connecting points to drive the conversation into a discussion about the Good News.
The conversation should be just that, a conversation, not a debate. Never give anyone the satisfaction of being drawn into a debate where you have to defend your Faith. In my opinion it should be the other person defending their view points. Always respond with a question. If you need to, ignore persons questions or challenges being thrown out you and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you. What I have found is that I end up having the right questions to ask the person. I have no issue ignoring what challenges they present and ask my questions. This is exactly how Jesus handled the Sadducees and Pharisees. Take the Mark 12:13-17.
13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
Jesus never relinquishes control. He does not allow Himself to be bullied. Have confidence in the Gospel, and realize you are not beholden to the person attempt to trap you.
It is not very often that I get challenged by someone not receptive to the Gospel. If anything I get the arrogant look where the person simply cannot believe I just admitted to being a Christian. If you can deal with that, you will be OK.
To improve your conversations, just Google “better conversation skills” and start reading up on the different approaches to keeping a conversation going. There are a lot of simple questions you can ask someone. Center the questions about his or her family – ask how many kids they have, their ages, names of the kids, what he does for a living, where they live, and where they work. One question I ask is, because I just like to know, “What is the day in the life of [add name here]?” People sometimes don’t get to talk about their day, because it is so busy they don’t have time.
Make the conversation about the person you are talking to, and you will become that persons best friend. When you can, link that conversation to the Gospel.
If you allow yourself to be used as a listener, people will open up. I frequently am told by people that they tell me things they have never told anyone before. It is an honor and it also a responsibility. The information they tell me is really between them and the Holy Spirit, I am just a conduit. I am bound to honoring that relationship, and I believe that betraying the confidence of the person I am speaking to is blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, because I allow myself to be used by the Holy Spirit for His will, not my own. If I betray the relationship with the Holy Spirit and treat someone’s personal information as a source of gossip, then I have lied to the Spirit, and in Acts 5:1-10 we see what happens when you betray the Holy Spirit.
I don’t want to end on such a serious note, but it is important to remember, that as disciples of Jesus, we are held to higher standards and expectations of behavior. There are so many people waiting for a great listener, and most of these people are looking for answers. You have the opportunity to provide them the Hope that they seek.