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About this series
Not Beyond Reach
How to Share Jesus with the Young, the Deconstructed, and the Non-Religious
Are you – as a parent or grandparent – concerned about the spiritual health of your kids? Do you sense they’re drifting from the Christian faith they grew up with? Or have they perhaps already outright rejected it? In this series, guest teacher Aaron Pierce – from an international missions organization called Steiger – has some hope and direction for us. He’ll unpack a sequence of intentional conversations you can use to better understand and reconnect with your kids, and lead them to Jesus. Learn why today’s young people are prime to hear the saving message of the Gospel and how you can share it with them.More from this series
So far what we have covered is understanding the post-Christian shift. And the whole idea that we live in a post-Christian culture in which most people no longer either identify as a Christian or have positive views of the Church and they have bought into secular ideology, the religion of secular culture is secular humanism, which is essentially the religion of self, and that identity, purpose, and morality is self-constructed and unfortunately the consequences of that worldview is very devastating.
And so, we have a culture that is extremely lonely, anxious, sexually broken, and sadly are not walking into the church building because they have rejected that idea. They have a false idea about who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. And so, the whole paradigm shift is we can’t wait for them to come to us; we have got to go to them. And we have to adopt a missionary mindset.
What we want is to go into the world, to transform the world, to be part of the world but be distinct. And we talked about that doesn’t necessarily mean all about flaunting our moral superiority, even though we don’t compromise on that. It’s about people seeing our supernatural hope and love and joy and peace. And I have that because my hope is in Jesus. And the Spirit gives me that. And that is what people will then say, “Show me the reason that you have that hope.”
And then you’re building those friendships, you’re harnessing the incredible power of listening in order to develop the relationships and the trust in order to speak into people’s lives.
Today, we are going to get into the idea of how to start a spiritual conversation as the first step towards introducing people to Jesus. So, the question then is what is a spiritual conversation? What is the difference between a spiritual conversation and a gospel conversation? So, a gospel conversation is the biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption that is centered around the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s the gospel conversation. That’s the gospel message.
A spiritual conversation on the other hand, is presuppositional, which means that it addresses the underlying assumptions that the gospel is built on. And so, the key to effective communication is that we need to know our audience’s assumptions. So that when I communicate, I am either challenging or building on their assumptions.
So, let’s watch this video as an example and then we’ll dig into how that looks and how we apply that in our life. So, take a look.
Time is a strange thing. We measure it, we savor it, most of the time we waste it. Sometimes it goes by slowly, but more often than not, it flies by. I think in my own life every day I wake up, I drink the coffee, have meetings, chase my son, sleep, repeat. I’ll have the thought, Oh, it’s Monday. And suddenly, it’s Monday again. But then I think about all that has happened in the last year or the last ten years and it’s a lot. But then there are those things that make time stop. Like, when someone you love dies. Though we know death is a part of life, it’s always such a shock when it happens. Well, why? Why does death shock us? I think it’s because deep down we don’t believe that life should end. We feel like we should go on forever. Death feels like a defect, so we work furiously to fix it. But despite all of our creams and pills, surgeries and cures, we can’t seem to stop the decay. Maybe this deep longing isn’t about our bodies and this life. Maybe it’s about what comes next. Every tribe and every nation throughout history has conceived of a life beyond this world, beyond our bodies. A place where we will go on forever. Maybe this is a myth or wishful thinking. Or perhaps it points to something that binds us all together. Maybe we dream of a world beyond time because we were never meant to die.
Alright, so, that video right there, that’s not the gospel, right? That’s not the gospel. But what that does is it gets at some assumptions and it connects with people at a place where I can begin to have conversations that build the foundations for the gospel, right? Because a lot of people, they struggle with the idea of death, they struggle with the idea of what is next.
And so, this is something that allows you to engage in a conversation that opens the way for the gospel.
And often, Christians fail to realize that when they share the gospel, when we share the gospel, we are drawing on assumptions that secular people do not hold to be true.
And so, that’s why we’re not able to connect. So, for example, consider the classic model of the four spiritual laws, which is kind of a classic model of evangelism. That, number one, God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. Number two, all of us sin and all our sin has separated us from God. Number three, Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through Him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our life. And four, we must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
But the key here is that this makes a number of critical assumptions. But none of these assumptions are universally accepted in a post-Christian culture.
And so, the purpose of a spiritual conversation, therefore, is to set the foundations that we can build the message of the cross on. And that we can remove maybe some intellectual barriers and move from the secular to the spiritual.
And so, there’s really three types of conversations that you have when you engage someone.
It’s a friendship conversation,
It's a spiritual conversation,
And then a gospel conversation.
Of course, the purpose of a friendship conversation is to build that deep relational connection and the trust to speak, and the purpose of the gospel conversation is to introduce people to Jesus and the message of the cross.
You know, it used to be appropriate in the past to go from, like, friendship to gospel.
Today, we’ve got to contextualize it by going through spiritual conversations. Like, that’s the bridge that we have got to go through to go from a friendship to the gospel.
And so, sometimes people reject that because, you know, in the name of kind of God’s sovereignty and being unashamed I’m just going to preach the gospel. And however it lands, that’s on them. And I would challenge us that we should not pit our dependence on God and His sovereignty against our attempts to be understood. It’s not one or the other.
We absolutely need God’s power and we need Him to speak and we need Him to open people’s hearts, but we should also seek to be understood in a relevant way. And that, frankly, we are constantly doing that. Every time you open your mouth, you’re speaking in a way in which you’re trying to contextualize ideas, right? So, we do that all the time anyway.
We are trying to get people to build a bridge from friendship to the gospel and we are going through the lens of the spiritual conversation.
Now, this is a helpful framework, but this isn’t perfectly linear when you’re talking to someone. Right? Like, it tends to all kind of mix together. So, you don’t always have a perfectly clear distinction, but it’s a framework that helps you think. Right?
Because what happens is you’ll be developing a relationship with someone, you’re having spiritual conversations, and now all of a sudden you’re talking to them about Jesus and all of a sudden you realize, Whoa, there’s something like a thing that they believe that is standing in the way of them understanding the message of the cross. So, I’ve got to go back to a spiritual conversation. I need to challenge something that they believe about truth or morality, whatever. Something that stands in the way.
Other times, you’ll be engaging someone and all of a sudden maybe you hit on a nerve, like a personal pain or history that they have and it evokes a really emotional reaction. And you’ve got to go all the way back to friendship, right? And just pause and go way back to friendship and begin to build that trust so that you can speak into their life.
So, this isn’t a formula, but it’s a framework for understanding that when I’m engaging someone, I’m either developing a relationship, I’m building the assumptions that will lead to the cross, or I’m introducing someone to Jesus. And that, again, that kind of tends to go back and forth. So, how do we, then, start these spiritual conversations? I’m going to go through some key principles in doing that.
The first thing we have to understand is that we are not actually doing intellectual or apologetic work. This is actually first and foremost a spiritual issue. And that we require the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit for it to be effective. And the reason is because 2 Corinthians 4:4 says the God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
It’s a spiritual blindness issue.
And so, we are dealing with a culture and a generation that is spiritually deceived. And so, it doesn’t matter how many times I point over at that direction and ask you to look at it. If you are blind, you can’t see. Right? That’s why it’s not just about having the perfect persuasive argument or the formula, right? There’s a spiritual blindness that we have got to overcome.
And so, that’s why prayer and recognizing that we are actually dealing with a spiritual opposition first and foremost that we have to overcome. And so, as we engage in our conversations with people, we need to be asking the Holy Spirit for supernatural discernment to see what is going on and to be able to discern that beyond the natural.
Like, to be able to discern what the real issue is or what the lie is that they are believing and to be able to discern that in a way that is actually discernable beyond just human natural comprehension. We need the Holy Spirit for that. And that when He does that, when the Holy Spirit illuminates those things, you’re actually able to get to the heart of things. And whether those are lies or idols or felt needs that people have.
It reminds us how much we are dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit to open people’s eyes and open our eyes to what is going on in their reality. So, that’s the first principle here is we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second thing is we want to be really wise about our communication. And we want to avoid certain pitfalls. So, for example, humans, we think in categories. It’s the way that we think, right? And so, we categorize things, we organize things, and when we engage people we put people in boxes. It’s just how we do it. And part of that is because it’s easier, right? It’s quicker, it’s more efficient, we can take – we don’t have to, you know, like, our brains can just simplify things that way. And so, we tend to put things in boxes.
And so, as we are engaging with people in spiritual conversations, there are three boxes you want to avoid being put into.
Because what happens is it’s a barrier that when you get put in that box, it’s a barrier for you to speak truth.
The boxes are personal, religious, and political. And so, let me explain that a little bit.
In our secular culture, many people including Christians believe that faith is purely a private matter. Right? And that we, that it should not be discussed publicly, that it’s something that you don’t want to push on other people, and it’s something that is really between you and whatever god you might have. Right?
And so, that’s a lot of the belief. And so, as a result, many people are very hesitant to engage in discussions about spirituality, because they put it in the personal box.
And so, your goal in this case is to challenge that by taking the spiritual conversations out of the realm of the private and connecting it to everyday reality, everyday things, and the implications it has on everyday reality.
The fact that what you believe about these big spiritual things – we’ll talk about what they are – actually impacts your life. They actually impact daily things about the way you live your life. So, you want to take it out of the box of personal by connecting it to the daily things that we do.
The second thing is we want to take it out of the box of the religious, right? So, in a post-Christian culture, most people have had some engagement with the Church, either growing up in it or they have just been aware of it somehow, someway, right? Like, most people have had some connection to the Church. And so, unfortunately for many people, they have a misconception of what the Church is.
For some people, the Church has been equated with hypocrisy, with corruption and control. And so, a spiritual conversation, when you’re trying to deal with these big, major questions of life and these things, you want to do it in a way that doesn’t evoke the baggage of religion that will distort their view of Jesus.
And sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “I’m not talking about institution.” Again, we talked about one of the key assumptions of our culture today is that people have become suspicious of institutional religion. So, sometimes we just need to say, “I’m not talking about that.” Right?
Or when you’re engaging someone, you’re not approaching them as a member of a church. You’re just a person who follows Jesus. And you want to get it out of the box of religion. And sometimes that’s about the words we use. Sometimes we use very religious words that will immediately put you in a religious box. So the question is: How can we have spiritual conversations without using overly religious language? Which is something you need to practice and it’s something that you need to, you know, as you – what is interesting is you don’t learn this language through a textbook. You learn this language through immersion.
Like, I grew up in New Zealand for my teenage years and we, as a New Zealander, we speak English, but we have all sorts of slang that when I came to the U.S. was, just didn’t connect. And quickly I learned, like, yeah, I’m not going to use that word because people look at me like, “What are you talking about?” Right?
But the reason I learned that is because I was around a bunch of other people that didn’t talk like me and I learned to adapt my style so I could communicate effectively. That is how we learn the non-religious language of our culture, by being with people. And we learn it by immersion. My kids are learning Spanish because they go to an immersion school where they are surrounded by it. That’s the concept that we need.
We need to get, we learn to not speak with religious language that puts us in the religious box.
And then, so many people, sadly, interpret Jesus through the lens of a political box and a political party. And so, they interpret what you are saying when it’s in the political box through a political lens.
We want to get out of that, because it just brings in all sorts of messiness and confusion and false assumptions. So, we need to make sure that when we are talking, we are not talking about political ideology, we’re not even talking about secondary political things. We are talking about the core spiritual topics. And so, it’s really important to know how to avoid the political box. Because the issue here is that even if they agree with your political perspective, to get hung up on the political stuff is just unhelpful in pointing people to Jesus.