Guidelines for Starting Spiritual Conversations

Whether on the streets, with casual acquaintances, or with close friendships and family

Key Thoughts to Keep in Mind When Seeking to Engage People in Spiritual Conversations

  1. Your #1 goal is to help lead people one step closer to God, no matter where they find themselves on that continuum line - Many evangelists are seeking conversion exclusively when engaging the lost. The truth is people usually may need more time to process, more touches with the Gospel, more honest counting of the cost of following Jesus Christ, before they are ready. Some are ready on the spot, often because others have have done the work of planting seed prior to this encounter. Statistics show that people in America generally need 5-10 touches with the Gospel before they feel ready (and way more for people of certain faiths - Muslims and Hindus). So do share the Good News and give people an opportunity to place their full trust in Christ's leadership but don't pressure people into a decision, if they are not ready. Instead honor where the person is at. If I make it my goal to move a person one step closer to God, I can always have an impact. For someone that impact is conversion, for others it is being left with a sense that God loves them. For another is the sense that Christians aren't so bad. For still others, is the thought that there's a church that is inviting them to come, with new friends to attend with. May people always experience God's love for them in every encounter you have. May they be left with a good aftertaste in their mouth of God's deep love for them: "Taste and see that the Lord is good."
  2. Find common ground - Find common ground with the people you minister to. This helps them feel more comfortable, known, and connected, all which helps them to be more open to receive from you (and through you, from God). To name a few examples, it could be the language you speak and culture you come from, interests, passions, etc. These are great connection points that open up a chance for spiritual conversations.
  3. Be fully present/be fully engaged (you are working with people, not projects) - People are all made in the image of Christ. You are dealing with a person and not a project to convert. Be fully present, real, and loving. Conversations are to be directed by the exchange of the conversation, not by some scripted evangelistic lines or expectations.
  4. Introduce yourself and your partners
  5. The Holy Spirit is your advocate - The Holy Spirit is operating in you. You have access to Him at all times, even when you are engaging people in conversation. Ask Him to give you insight into that person. This means both the questions you may ask based either on what you know/wonder about the person, or from a spontaneous thought the Holy Spirit may have brought to mind. As you grow in hearing His voice, make sure to have a paradigm for Him being your advocate in leading and engaging others in spiritual conversations. Make sure to include the Holy Spirit.
  6. Engage interested people in spiritual conversation as long as they allow - The person you are ministering to gets to dictate how long and how often you engage with them in spiritual conversations. If they are fully receptive and open to spiritual conversation, stay as long as they let you. If they are clearly showing signs of being done, wrap it up and honor their choice. There are exceptions to this: Some people want to discuss and even argue but have no interest or willingness to change or to submit their life to Jesus Christ. You have to recognize when this is happening, and wrap up the conversation. On the streets, you are there to bless, pray, and share the Gospel with the interested, not to engage in politics or religious discourse. That being said, when I go out on the streets to do outreach, I may stay with one person a whole hour or 2 minutes. There is no agenda or goals, other than to share with anyone who is interested.
  7. Initial rejection to prayer can change as you connect more - When you offer prayer, don't take the initial "No" as the final word. Often, especially in the context of street outreach, people are just not sure what to make of you. You offer prayer and so they refuse because natural walls go up for them. "Who is this person? What does he/she want?" So I make it a point to engage in more casual conversation. I make sure they know what my name is (and my partner's), and why I am even offering prayer in the first place. "I believe in Jesus and over time I have seen Him heal people of various physical and emotional problems. I want others to experience His tangible love, as well." I could even share a quick story of an actual healing I experienced myself, saw in others, or heard about. The funny thing is that once people get to know me more and feel like there's no other agenda (like collecting money) but to bless people, they will often change their mind about receiving prayer. I just make sure I ask again a second time!
  8. Love is always supreme and the greatest gift you can give - The greatest gift you can leave with someone you minister to is God's love - an tangible encounter, a first-hand experience, with the love of God. It is a gift that stays with the person forever. When you offer this focus, they are marked by love and this leaves them forever longing for more of it. When you minister in love you always win, no matter what happens to the person. You may pray for healing and it may lead to no tangible healing in that moment, but the fact that you loved that person and ministered to their heart will always be remembered.
  9. When in a team of people praying for that person, keep prayers short and let your other team members pray over the person as well - To do so it is best to not say, "In the name of Jesus" after your prayer, if you are wanting your partner(s) to also pray. This a sign to the person you are praying for that the prayer is finished. So save that final prayer statement for the person who will pray last. Remind team members that you want them to pray as well and that when you pause, they should immediately step into praying. Any longer pauses makes the receiver think you are done. The truth is most people are not used to getting prayer on the streets, and much less from two or more people. Therefore, they have a tendency to think one prayer is all they will receive.
  10. If you do sense a person is there only to argue and is not really seeking to know more about God, you are free not to engage. BUT there is a fine line. It could be initial walls from someone like "the Samaritan woman" or it could be for someone that is set in their ways and has no desire to follow or obey God. You do have to feel out the conversation to get clarity on where they are at. You will not argue people into the kingdom. It has to be a work of God in their hearts.
  11. Leave the people you minister to with one "next step" - As you try to move people one step closer to God, leave them with one thing you would recommend, based on where they are. For one person it might be an invitation to your church, to another it might be downloading a Bible app for Bible reading, and to another it might be an invitation to come to PIHOP (Pasadena International House of Prayer). What you never want to do is to overwhelm the person you minister to with a list of many things to do. The brain can only remember a few things, and the less is better. One recommendation is perfect, as long this "next step" is something they are interested in doing and/or have agreed to do. Sometimes the person will generate their next step based on what resonated with them from what God was doing in your encounter. When this happens, use that one.

What to Bring and Get When You Do Outreach

  1. Bring a pen/pencil and a 3x5 card or blank paper - Use these to jot down your Gospel presentation (3 Circles) so that they can keep it when done.
  2. Get contact info for those who show interest in some kind of follow up - If a person is interested in learning more about Jesus, doing Bible study, attending a church, or any other type of follow up, get their contact info. Ask, "What is the best way to contact you, text, a call, or email" Then follow up with a text or email immediately to make sure they have your contact info and full name. Remind them of what you are hoping to provide for them and give them potential times for getting together. It's helpful to do this when it's fresh in their minds who you are and what they said they desire from you. One extra helpful recommendation is for you to take a selfie with them, with their permission of course, and then to include the selfie in the text. It'll help them remember what you look like, leading to a more memorable connection.
  3. Bring business cards of your church or other Christian organizations you want to recommend to the people you connect with.

Follow Up to Spiritual Conversations

  1. Continue to engage in spiritual conversation with your contacts as they allow and participate, especially through text - If they respond and keep on engaging, continue to do so as long as it allows. I will send them a Bible verse or a prayer I said for them, days after. It is a good sign when they respond back. If often shows they feel safe and connected with you. This is when I start inviting the person to church or to a small group or a one-on-one Bible study, or just to meet and talk.
  2. Get them together with other believers to worship and/or study God's Word
  3. Help connect the interested people you meet, with other believers that might be a good friendship/encouragement fit for them - At church or just with other believers who love to seeing people come to Christ and grow in their faith, you have connections that you might be able to use to help continue the spiritual input and discipleship into that life.
  4. Have a discipleship plan in place - This will help you be confident in what follow up you can recommend and participate in, if it gets to this point. For example, when you find that someone is interested in Bible study, use the Discovery Bible Study which you can do anywhere, restaurant or home, when you meet with them.

When Do I Transition the Conversation to Spiritual Conversations? (for Different Contexts)

  • When I am reaching out to people on the streets, most whom I may never see again, I am more direct, moving quickly to spiritual conversations, while watching what unfolds (seeing and stepping into my testimony and a Gospel share, if allowed to).
  • With casual friends, such as co-workers or neighbors, that I may see semi-regularly, I will be intentional to form a genuine relationship with them over time, while at the same time making it known that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. They must know the reason why I function the way I function. These people will be watching you to see your faith in operation, over time. If questions come up about your faith, or if they have seen you operating differently than others in a way that is attractive to them, they will know to come to you with those questions. With this group, I move more carefully into spiritual conversations, following the lead of previous casual conversations I've had and of the honesty level in relating. I test out the waters of their interest in engaging with me in spiritual matters. I just tread outreach carefully here not to be too pushy with my faith or confrontational, because I must keep in mind that this group of people, is not so much around me by choice but by circumstances. Yet at the same time, certain ones will choose to engage me or hang out with me more. This is more of an open door to deeper conversation. Though I test their interest in spiritual talk, the person dictates how deep they want to go there. I honor that.
  • With family and close friends, since I already have a long history with them, I can share Jesus as soon as I want to and as soon as the opportunity for a most honest talk comes, but I have to be willing to give them the space and time for them to see the out-workings of my faith, over time. They are looking for genuineness and not a temporary fad. They are looking to see how you change over time and how those changes affect others - first in the initial impact but even more importantly, in the long-term impact. They are looking for the difference Christ makes in a person, and if it is worth it to follow Jesus.
  • In the streets, and with casual friends, close friends, and family, I am always looking out for "God moments", opportunities that appear as perfect set ups for spiritual conversations. These are started by the person I am engaging, and not by me. One example might be, "I have been watching you for a while and have noticed you don't tend to gossip like the rest of us. What's different about you?" OR "Why are you so happy? Why are you always smiling?"
  • Finally, I also look out for crises that are beyond what the person can take or bear. When people go through times of uncertainly and loss of control they tend to become more open to receive prayer and the type of ministry where God's healing, peace, hope, and love can flow.

Things You Can Do During or After Spiritual Conversations

  • Enjoy the person (see them through the loving eyes of Jesus)
  • Hear them out through the gift of listening
  • Love on them (with God's love)
  • Pray for physical healing
  • Pray for other needs (settling of the emotions, clear mind, financial/provision, peace, Gods love, joy of the Lord, etc)
  • Share a personal testimony
  • Share the Gospel and give them a change to respond
  • Deliver a prophetic word or word of knowledge (stay focused on strengthening, encouraging, and comfort) - make sure to do it in a humble and simple way: "I feel God's love for you...", "I see God releasing his peace all over you..."
  • Invite to a church service, a small group Bible Study gathering, a house of prayer (PIHOP), or a one on one discipling relationship