This is a lesson about what not to do.
During my working career, I worked in human resources for an independent recruitment agency. I was recruiting for a Chief Financial Officer position in a one of the city’s top-rated companies. I had secured enough interest from a potential candidate to secure a lunch date to talk more about the job opening. I brought one of my firm’s partners with me to the lunch.
As soon as we sat down to lunch, I started telling the candidate about the job and company. We hadn’t even ordered yet. After I had finished extolling the merits of the job, the candidate began to tell me about his preferences for a new job and reasons why he would consider a job change. I realized that in my haste to talk about the excellent qualities of the job and the company, I had not considered how the job would personally benefit the candidate. Even though it might have been a good career move for the candidate, I had made a misstep in the approach.
On the way back to the office, the partner offered feedback. He suggested that I introduce a topic of common interest, apart from business, to let the other person know we were interested in developing a relationship, not just a way to make a buck. He told me to let the other person speak first. He advised that I get to know what the candidate wanted so that I would know how to better propose a change because most people don’t like change. If I could do that effectively, the candidate will respond more positively to what I am offering. It was an important life lesson.
Evangelism works in the same way. Unfortunately there are too many over-zealous Christians who speak first and listen later. The stakes are high (nothing worse than eternal damnation) and I appreciate the urgency to share your personal testimony with others and that they too, can know Jesus. The trouble is I don’t think many people respond favourably to a megaphone and a sandwich board that says, “Repent, you evil sinners!” It’s not until you say, “Show me yours” within the context of relationship and listen to what they say that you earn the privilege to tell them about your God.
Paul, the apostle was a master at evangelism this way. In Acts 17, we read about Paul preaching in Athens. Paul did not tell them their gods were small ‘g’ gods and were worthless and powerless. He did not berate them for having an ‘unknown god’. Instead, he looked for commonality – the people of Athens had an interest in spiritual matters and Paul used it as a bridge to bring his word of the Gospel and salvation. And the Bible says some believed.
Do you think “Show me yours, I’ll show you mine” is a proper and valid way to evangelize? How do you share and communicate the Gospel?