How to have spiritual conversations
Neil Johnson from 20/20 chats with Sam Chan about how he has spiritual conversations.
Sam believes all Christians want to tell their friends about Jesus, but they find it hard to know where to start. The world has changed. When Billy Graham came to Sydney 50 years ago, the non-believer was a churched non-believer. But these days, most of our non-believer friends are unchurched.
‘It’s good to think of conversations as having layers,’ says Sam. ‘We talk about interest in the middle layer, and at the core layer we talk about worldviews. That small talk where we discuss the weather, the weekend and sports are where we start talking about what’s good and beautiful.’
Our views on ethics or politics are worldview conversations. Spiritual conversations, where we talk about what’s real, are things like is there life after death, or is there a God? We have to realise that active conversation is letting the other person do 99% of the talking. We need to see that person in the image of God.
‘There is something called the power of the second question,’ says Sam. ‘I’m a medical doctor. And as medical doctors, we love to make jokes about our psychiatry colleagues. We say you only need to learn two questions to be a psychiatrist. One is how are you going and the second is how are you really going?’
Give Others Permission to Speak
Sam believes we make it harder than it really is to have a spiritual conversation. We think we need to talk about God and Jesus. But all we need to do is give others permission to talk about what they believe in. General questions like, ‘what religion did your parents raise you with’ is not going to start an argument.
‘No matter how they answer, we can say tell me more,’ says Sam. ‘We can ask how do you pray, or what dreams do you have for your children. If they say, I’m an atheist, we could again ask questions. How long have you been an atheist? Show genuine curiosity and let them know it’s safe to be vulnerable.’
Most Christians have not been equipped to have these conversations. That’s why it feels awkward, both as a Christian and a non-Christian. These are the most deep and real things to us. During the pandemic, Google stats showed that people searching for words like Jesus, the Bible and prayer went up 60%.
“We have to treat people the way we want to be treated,’ says Sam. ‘If they don’t want to talk, it’s fine. Jesus is in control. Jesus is bigger than what’s going on in front of us. We can’t control how someone is responding, but we can still treat them with love, gentleness and respect.’
At City Bible Forum, they have a saying that ‘a no answer is not a never answer’. They have heard many stories where someone has asked a friend, would you like to read the Bible with me? And that person has said no. But a few months, or even years later, that person suddenly decides they do want to read the Bible.
‘Take a gentle baby step,’ says Sam. ‘Evangelism is like exercise. We all know we should be doing it, but we find it hard. But we can do little things to help. Maybe instead of telling someone about Jesus, we can just begin with a question. Little changes in our lifestyle will get us started.’
During the month of September, City Bible Forum is encouraging Christians to have a spiritual conversation with a non-Christian friend or a colleague about Jesus. Will you take up the challenge?
The audio and text of this resource was originally published at https://vision.org.au/articles/diving-deeper/
Special thanks to Neil Johnson and Melinda McCredie and the team at 20/20 for allowing us to republish this radio conversation.
Photo by Sam Lion: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cheerful-asian-women-enjoying-coffee-and-chatting-in-outdoors-cafe-5709243/