"I'm very much a naturally outgoing person, but trying to focus that into intentional evangelism is still something that often feels difficult for me (i.e. being friendly and extroverted doesn't equal being a Spirit-gifted evangelist!). My most fruitful tactic has been to use the rather typical discussion of work/career (once I share a bit about being a Salvo) as a jump off to simply ask point blank, "So what do you think about God or the Bible?" I usually follow up that initial question with, "Why do you believe that?" or "How did you come to that conclusion?"
More often than not, asking people their thoughts and opinions leads to them sharing rather openly. It also seems to position them in a more open posture to listening to me share my thoughts and beliefs. This helps develop a dialogue rather than me trying to give them some sort of sales pitch. Then I just hope and pray that I can be sensitive enough to share something of God's truth expressed in the written word and in the Living Word with the Spirit's power.
I don't lead people through the ABCs of salvation or encourage them to pray a sinner's prayer or anything. If they allow me to pray with them, I ask God to open their eyes and ears to the ways he is already at work in their lives and pray for whatever specifics they may share with me. God is good and has honored these efforts, though I still feel I have much to learn about this direct, personal method of evangelism.
I am glad for the work of the CSLD. God bless you all in your work and warfare!"
(Cadet - USA Central Territory)
"I read with interest your article on the kind of discussions we engage in, often settling for the weather as a safe topic but not going deeper. You are so correct.
(Officer, Australia Eastern Territory)
(Officer, Congo Territory)
Though not a question for people you have only just met, the best question I use (first used to me over 25 years ago by an officer in our city) is simply, "How are you and God?"
A GREAT thinking/discussion point, which certainly cuts through superficiality!
(Officer, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory)
“What seems significant to me when I start talking to somebody is to ask the following question: "How do you understand things about God?" My question should be an open one to offer to that person the opportunity to give an explicit answer. If the answer seemingly refers to somebody who doesn't know Christ, I can add another question which can be: "Have you once met Jesus-Christ in your life?" Then I can start to have a deep interview which can lead to bringing him to Christ.”
(Officer, Democratic Republic of Congo Territory)
I've discovered over the years that starting a conversation with something about the weather is sometimes a great place to start, and like you, can get stuck. I've discovered wearing the uniform has been an ice-breaker for people and often opens the doors to conversations I wouldn't have otherwise had. Over the past four years of my appointment, as I've saught to share the gospel at every opportunity that God comes my way I've discovered every conversation I've had has been completely different from beginning to end - and asking God's Holy Spirit for inspiration on how to start, and who to start with, has been a real key.
I've discovered that so long as I am prepared and willing to give a reason for the hope that is in me, and am not feeling ashamed of the gospel or too self- conscious, but am focusing completely on valuing the person I'm talking to, the conversations will always be successful even if all the chance I get to say is "Hi. How are things going?" (said in a friendly, bright and casual way). Depending on their reaction, I might lead into talking about the weather in a way that includes their personal situation to engage them a bit more in the conversation. For example if they're looking a bit cold, I might say "It gets pretty chilly out here at times doesn't it?", and wait for a response and take my next cue from that, or if they don't say anything it might be offering to help them with something or mention something about myself relating to the cold, and/or sliding into the conversation a little story about something relating to the cold that happened through my work (being with "The Salvation Army").
Often the other person will share a precious gem that can open up the conversation even more after a bit of silence, and often also as I tell them I'm about to leave, but before I go, I'd love to pray with them, if they'd like, and ask them if there's anything they'd like prayer for? Someone suggested to me once to use the word "with" instead of "for" when we offer to pray with someone, because this puts us on an equal footing with them and illustrates we're all brothers and sisters on this planet journeying through life together. I've found this helpful, so will ask them if I can pray "with" them.
(Officer, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory)
Lieut-Colonel Herve Cachelin's response -
I am really pleased that we have received in short succession three contributions to this relevant topic and hope that more will follow. I have written to each contributor in more detail, but in the hope that my reply may motivate yet more people to join the conversation:
I agree with you that talking about work/career is an obvious and a fairly safe topic which people are used to talk about. The jump straight into the question "So what do you think about God/the Bible?" is a novel approach - one I am yet to try! Clearly this approach is working for you, and I like your frankness in admitting that there is still much to learn in that respect.
To "Officer, Australia Eastern Territory":
The very personal reference to the poignant departure of your mother spoke to us. It is true that the confrontation with our mortality questions us with regards to the priorities we set. It is in the light of the question of where people will spend eternity that we must question our fear to appear foolish or fanatical. The early Salvationists certainly had resolved this question for themselves...
To "Officer, Congo Territory":
I totally agree with you that taking interest in a person's family is a very powerful way to initiate a conversation that can go deeper than the superficial, and I am glad that you mentioned it in your response.
I hope to see further contributions on this page in the near future. The topic is certainly worth exploring, don't you agree?