Skepticism, Conflict & Intolerance: How to Share Jesus in Divisive Times : John Hopper
In a time of intense skepticism of religion, conflicts between faiths, and polarization of different worldviews, how can we effectively and respectfully share the good news of Jesus with others? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by John Hopper. John serves as the Executive Director of REACH, an evangelism training program of Search Ministries. Prior to joining Search, John served for 16 years as the pastor of BridgePoint Bible Church in Houston. His latest book is entitled Giving Jesus Away. Together, John and Jason explore some of the misconceptions we need to dismiss and some of the principles we need to embrace if we are to effectively share the love and hope of Jesus with others. John also provides some incredibly practical ways that you can help the people in your local church embrace a lifestyle of sharing Jesus.
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- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
www.reachothers.org – Explore the website for additional information about REACH—an immersive 22-week mentoring program focused on relational evangelism. This program is crafted to empower Christians in effectively sharing the message of Jesus in their daily interactions.
Giving Jesus Away: Finding Joy in Sharing the Gospel – Full of biblically-sound principles and real-life examples, Giving Jesus Away explains how any Christian—including you!—can build caring friendships with non-believers, clearly share the Good News of Jesus, and enjoy a front row seat to what God is doing in the lives of others.
Connect with John – LinkedIn
Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or just want to talk? Complimentary Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- We are called to adopt the heart of God in our efforts to share the hope of Jesus with others.
- To truly care for others, we must strive to understand and embrace their struggles, stories, and past experiences.
- Evangelism should be understood as relational rather than transactional. It is not a moment-in-time event but a process and journey that requires patience and understanding.
- Grace is essential as individuals grapple with changing their worldview and understanding the truths of the Scriptures.
- Trust opens doors for meaningful conversations about faith and helps us bridge the gap between belief systems.
- As ministry leaders, creating space for intentional engagement is essential. Sharing personal experiences builds trust and allows us to encourage our congregations to do the same.
- Cultural tensions shouldn’t lead to an ‘elder brother mentality’ within the church. To truly share the heart of the Father, we must empathize, understand, and resist the temptation to make enemies of people who are different from us.
- Results in evangelism are God’s domain. Understanding that we play a part in a larger process, where seeds have been sown before us, helps us appreciate the impact we may have over time.
- Starting with shared beliefs and common ground helps build bridges toward deeper conversations.
- Evangelism isn’t just about facts; it’s a journey to change one’s entire worldview.
- Every person matters, and our starting point should be to share the same compassionate heart for people that Jesus demonstrated.
Questions for Reflection
- As a ministry leader, how can I ensure that my evangelism efforts are rooted in adopting the heart of Jesus, especially in the midst of cultural tensions?
- Are there any individuals or groups of people that I struggle seeing God’s image within? Why might I struggle with this? How can I overcome my feelings and embrace the heart of God for them?
- Reflecting on the ‘elder brother mentality’ discussed, why is this perspective dangerous? How can I actively work to avoid creating divisions within my church and the broader community?
- In what ways is evangelism a journey rather than a moment-in-time event? How does this perspective impact the way I view sharing Jesus with others?
- Why is it important to consider the unique struggles and worldviews individuals bring into conversations? Am I typically viewing these with grace or judgment? What changes do I need to make in this area?
- In what ways can I more intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into my evangelism process? What might this look like?
- Am I intentionally carving out time to engage with people who have differing worldviews? If not, what can I do to make this happen? If so, how am I going about this? What am I learning through these encounters? Are they developing into relationships?
- Am I viewing other people as “projects” or as fellow humans on a journey? Why is this distinction important? What can I do to better capture God’s heart for all people, regardless of their beliefs or behaviors?
- Considering the idea that results in evangelism are ultimately in God’s hands, how can I maintain patience and perseverance in my efforts, trusting the larger process at play?
- Has there been a time when I have seen the end result of others’ hard work in sowing the seeds of faith? When have I taken time to sow seeds and am unsure of the rest of the journey? Do I struggle with not being able to see the results? Why or why not?
- Reflecting on the concept of ‘asking questions about a person,’ how can I develop a habit of asking meaningful, individualistic questions that open doors to deeper conversations?
- In my role as a pastor, how can I guide my congregation to navigate cultural tensions with grace, actively seeking understanding and common ground in our conversations?
- How can I balance the internal needs of my church with intentional engagement in the world, setting an example for my congregation? What steps can I take to make this a reality?
In a time of intense skepticism of religion, conflicts between faiths, and polarization of different worldviews, how can we effectively and respectfully share the good news of Jesus with others?
In this episode, I’m joined by John Hopper. John serves as the Executive Director of REACH, an evangelism training program of Search Ministries. Prior to joining Search, John served for 16 years as the pastor of BridgePoint Bible Church in Houston. His latest book is entitled Giving Jesus Away. Together, John and I explore some of the misconceptions we need to dismiss and some of the principles we need to embrace if we are to effectively share the love and hope of Jesus with others. John also provides some incredibly practical ways that you can help the people in your local church embrace a lifestyle of sharing Jesus. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage. BackStage. I am your host, Jason Daye. Each and every week, I have the opportunity, the honor really, to sit down with a trusted ministry leader. And we dive into a conversation, all in an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy, sustainable rhythm for both your life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And not only do we have a conversation for you every single week, but our team puts together entire toolkit for you. It’s available to PastorServe.org/network. In this toolkit, you’ll find a number of resources, including a Ministry Leaders Growth Guide. And in there, you’ll find questions that you can dig more deeply into the topic that we discussed today. And you can use that for yourself. But also, we encourage you to use that with your ministry leaders at your local church. And again, just an opportunity for you guys to dig into this conversation more deeply. And so you can find that at PastorServe.org/network. Our team at Pastor Serve loves walking alongside ministry leaders, and we are offering a complimentary coaching session. You can find more details about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. So, we encourage you to check that out as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We absolutely love getting to know our audience better. And we will be praying for you and for your ministry. Whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take a moment to subscribe or to follow. Hit the notification bell to be sure that you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And we have a great conversation for you today. So, at this time, I’d like to welcome John Harper to FrontStage BackStage. John, welcome to the show.
Great, it’s good to be with you today, Jason.
Yeah, thank you for making the time. Now, John, you have committed to your life and your ministry to really engaging people in conversations and inviting them to wrestle with the reality of Jesus. And that that is what you do. You’ve recently released a new book called Giving Jesus Away, that really talks through this idea and, again, reminds us of a lot of good things that maybe we know in the back of our minds, but it’s good to be reminded. And then some fresh things about what does it look like to engage people in respectful conversations in the world in which we live today. And that’s a big question. Because a lot of us, John, are wrestling with the landscape we find ourselves in today, right? We live in a time, and especially it’s even been heightened even more over the last month or so as we’re recording this. We think of the conflict in Israel. And we see the protests, we see the anti-semitism, we see the the anti-Muslim rhetoric as well. A lot of conflict. And so there are different world religions that are involved, but then we also have humanism and secularism, and atheism. And a lot of those that sit back and say, look at this, all religion is bad, obviously. There’s not good things coming out. So we have these conversations going on. We have different worldviews that are conflicting. And in the midst of all of this, we’re invited to share the good news of Jesus, but with all this skepticism and all the tension and all the conflict sometimes that feels very, very challenging. So, John, in an environment like we live today, how can we, as pastors and ministry leaders ourselves, just in our own walks, engage in conversations whenever there seems to be so much tension and so much skepticism? Yeah.
That’s a great question, Jason. And, really, even if you take away some of that tension that you just described, evangelism is often difficult for people. So, I mean, if we should go back in time, say 30-40 years, where maybe some of the tensions weren’t there, at least as pronounced as they are today. And if you were to ask Christians, how comfortable do you feel sharing your faith? They would have said, I’m not very comfortable, right? Before all this, right? There’s sort of more of this cultural tension that we might feel more exasperated today. So I don’t think we sort of necessarily started with something that people felt was very easy to begin with. And now it seems to be even more difficult, right? So I think that the starting point, Jason, with any evangelism efforts at all, is seeking to really adopt the heart of Jesus. So if we don’t start there, I’m not so sure we’re going to really get anywhere. And one of the things that I do in the book is I talk about Jesus’s stacking of parables, in particular, in Luke chapter 15, where he talks about the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son. And we see there, what Jesus is doing there is he’s letting us know the heart of God. That every person matters, right? One sheep’s gone, we should be concerned about that. One coin, one son, that kind of thing. In fact, the end of those three parables, Jesus then goes to the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, right? And that older brother doesn’t share the heart of the Father, right? I mean, it’s almost really that that’s Jesus’s main point is okay, I’m going to show you the heart of the Father. But now I’m going to show you that your heart isn’t where the Father’s heart is. Your heart is like the elder brothers. And so I think, really, the place for us to begin is to make sure that we have that heart, right? Because particularly in this environment where we’re seeing angry people or people that are seeking to handicap Christianity or cut it out at its knees or whatever, we can get that sort of elder brother mentality, where we just don’t like those people. We don’t want them in. You know, they’re our enemies. We’re just battling against them. And so, at that point, we’re not sharing the heart of the Father. So I think the beginning point is to make sure that our heart is in the same place as God’s heart is for people.
Yeah, I think that’s huge. And, John, as you’re talking, really right there at the end, I think a lot of the rhetoric that we’re seeing within the church is missing that heart of the Father. And we have oftentimes made enemies of so many people, whether the people of other faiths or other belief systems or the worldviews, but then even within the church, right? We’re making enemies of other people within the church, right? So, John, how do we make that shift? I mean, it’s awesome. It’s good. I agree 100% that we need to have the heart of the Father. But we aren’t seeing that practiced. I mean, there are times that we know this isn’t being practiced within the church. So if we’re thinking of our own heart as a pastor or ministry leader, you know, we start there, but then also, how do we lead our people, our congregation, our local church? What does that practically look like to get to that point?
Right. Yeah. Well, I mean, from a practical standpoint, oftentimes when we’re thinking of people, and we may have someone in mind someone that works next to us in our office, or a neighbor, or it could be somebody on TV, who knows what the case might be, right? We immediately begin to look for those places of difference. So where, well they believe this and I believe that, right? So we recreate an us and them kind of divide. They’re on the other side of the table. We’re on this side of the table. And so if we’re going to sort of have that heart for people that I think Jesus has for people, we need, I think, to begin to look for those places of understanding and even sort of a common belief. So now, of course, there are going to be differences and plenty of differences. But if people are, for example, standing up for an issue because they think that justice is served if such an agenda is followed through, we certainly can affirm someone’s desire for justice, right? So it’s sort of a constant looking for how can I sort of get on the same side of the table as this person. And often we don’t do that. We get into a defensive posture right away with people and so we need to kind of go into our conversations with a desire to understand people. To ask a lot of questions. So if someone were to say a remark that is clearly against a Christian position, whether it be a social issue, or a political issue, is just to say, Hey, I heard you talking about that, I’d love to hear more about how you came to your position, or what’s behind that, and why that issue so important to you. And just come to that place of understanding, because oftentimes there’s a story behind that. Even a personal story, personal story of hurt, a personal story of abandonment, a personal story of being mistreated by somebody. And if we begin to understand those stories, then oftentimes we can have a much better dialogue with people.
Yeah, I love that, John. One of the things that I love and shows up in your book, Giving Jesus Away, is your emphasis on respect. Which in the world in which we live today is a lost word in many ways, right? And we of all people, I think those who follow Jesus, we should be respectful in how we engage with other people. And yet again, we see a lot of disrespect. And I think, oftentimes, and I’ve engaged in conversation, I’ve heard this where people, when they pull back 30,000 foot view, yes. God loves everyone. Jesus died for all. God does not want to see anyone perish, but all be rescued through Christ. And so people can, yes, assent to that. That’s the big theological “Yeah”. But then you bring it back down and people who would say they believe that also turn around and say, Well, just for example, Muslims are evil and they’re trying to destroy, or whatever the conversation is. It could be any other religion or any other worldview. Anyone who, like you said, those differences that we point out. How does this foundation of respect, how can we embrace that and ingrain that within ourselves in a time, in a world ,where respect really isn’t given a whole lot of consideration, right?
Well, I think, again, from a perspective standpoint, we have to realize that everyone is made in the image of God, right? And there’s a certain value that people have because of that. So even if their behavior is not always what we think is up to par. They may be disrespectful to us, but because they are made in the image of God, then I think they deserve respect from our standpoint, right? So we’re to sort of model that kind of respect. I think having that perspective is really helpful. I think the other thing too, is that oftentimes, when there’s tension the only way that tension is sort of brought down is by offering something that the other person isn’t offering yet. So they might be disrespectful and if we want to bring the tone of the argument or discussion down we have to be the first to be respectful, right? If someone has been unkind, we have to be the first to be kind, right? So we have to take the first step in that way. And when we do, oftentimes, conversations can change. I remember sitting at a table, I was at Rice University in Houston, and I was at a table with a number of students there. And when one of the students kind of got a sense of what I do, that I was involved with ministry at all, he just lit into me. I mean, just like, What are you doing here? And I mean, he just went off and so my response to him was like, wow, I can see this is really important issue to you. Help me to understand. So where are you coming from? And how did you come to those conclusions and when you look at me what really bothers you? You know, just really kind of tried to dig in. Kept my voice at a very sort of pleasant level. And in about five minutes, the tone was completely different in the conversation there. And I saw that soon, several more times around campus, had conversations with him. And I sort of realized as I spent more time and I saw him interact with other people, that he was kind of that way with everybody. And it appeared that I was the only one that was really willing to have a nice conversation with him. And so I think that’s really sort of a big task of ours, if we’re going to get to a place where we can have a conversation, we have to be willing to offer that which is not offered to us first.
Yeah, that’s great. Kind of along those same lines or kind of coming out of that thought process. Oftentimes, it seems we feel an urgency to somehow win over the person we’re talking to, right? Whatever it is, whatever that conversation is, and we’re trying to put our point out and demonstrate that, obviously, we’re right, you know? So it’s almost like we’re trying to convince someone in one conversation that their entire worldview is off track and there’s another greater way, which we know is Christ, right? Yeah. But that kind of urgency sometimes that we have, the pressure we put on the conversation, it’s not a very inviting, not very Invitational engagement. Talk to us a little bit about this idea of patience, this idea of understanding our role in this versus the Holy Spirit’s role, those types of things. What are some reminders that can help us in these conversations?
Well, first of all, I think it’s really important for us to view evangelism as a process as opposed to a sort of a moment in time event. And I think, in some ways, that can be our view of evangelism. Okay, I’m gonna take this person to lunch or I’m gonna sit them down, and I’m gonna sort of go through from A to Z of the gospel. And that’s it, I’ve done my task. I’ve done my evangelism. And most of the time, that doesn’t go all that well. Sometimes it can. But many times it doesn’t. And then we can say, Well, that didn’t really work, or I must not have the gift of evangelism, or something like that. But the problem really was that we were trying to sort of dump the whole load at one time. And we were expecting a response immediately. When, almost in every case, the process by which someone comes to Christ is one that requires many touches and many conversations, even for those of us who sort of grew up in the church. Okay, so I became a Christian and at a young age, but how many times have I heard the gospel, right? Even if I was four years old, and five years old, and six years old, in Sunday school classes and my parents. You know, the number of times that I would have heard it before, I sort of grasped it for myself, right? So, it’s a process for everyone. And we have to respect that process. And, of course, if someone’s coming to the table with a lot of ideas, which are antithetical to the Gospel, so with misinformation, that’s going to take longer, right? If they’re embedded in a position already, they’re not a blank slate. They oftentimes they have to begin to see that well, maybe my position actually doesn’t have as good of answers as I thought my position had. So we have to sort of do that tending in the field first or that removing some of the rocks that are in the field before we can even plant anything at all. So there’s a lot of work that has to be done there rather than just sort of going straight to the the end game. So one of the things that I’ll do in different times in conversations, particularly if I’ve been spending a good deal of time with someone, is I’ll draw out on a napkin at a restaurant, that sort of classic little bridge illustration where God’s on one side and we’re on the other, sin separates us and put a cross in between. But that’s assuming that people are like right on the edge like, how do I get on the other side? How do I get over there? And a lot of people aren’t on the edge. They’re like, they’re way back, right? So particularly the secular atheist camp, they’re not even interested in that question of how I get with God. And so there’s a lot of work that has to be done beforehand.
Yeah, that’s very, very helpful, John. As we are thinking about these conversations that we’re engaging in, oftentimes that we have expectations that people, whether we voice these expectations or not, we have expectations, oftentimes, that people will figure it out. And they’ll get themselves all cleaned up, and embrace everything, and the questions that they’ve been wrestling with for their lifetime are all going to be answered and there’s not going to be all these rough edges or anything. And we have that expectation, we would never say that’s our expectation, but we live with them in such a way. Think about our local churches, people coming through the doors who are beginning to wrestle with Jesus and even committing their lives to Jesus, but they have a lot of baggage, right? A lot of baggage that they’re still processing through and working through. Sometimes that’s hard for a local church to give people that space. And that makes it challenging for the people who are trying to come in and embrace Christ, and live in Christian community with others, and grow. So talk to us a bit about that conversion versus disciple-making process. And what our perspective is, how we need to think about that, how we need to view those things, and how we can help our local church maybe develop a culture that embraces the idea that this is a journey.
Yeah, so it’s sort of a journey on both sides of the cross, right? It’s a journey to the cross and it’s a journey on the other side of the cross. And we certainly wouldn’t necessarily expect someone the moment that they get a glimpse of who Jesus is as their Savior to suddenly be doctrinally Orthodox and everything. So we can’t really have that expectation up front. One of the things that I try to explain to people is that we’re really not just asking people to add a few facts to their fact base. Like, Jesus lived, okay, Jesus died, rose from the dead. That sounds a little bit weird, but yeah, okay, I’ll go with that sort of thing. And so Okay, so I believe those facts, right? What we’re really asking people to do is to change their whole worldview, right? How they view the world, how they view themselves, how they view God, how they view what God would ask of us, right? I mean that’s a big thing. So, we should expect that that would take time to occur, right? So I do think there has to be grace on the part of a church who’s sort of bringing in people, right? Who are sort of new to the faith there. So I’m actually a part of the church community at this point where that’s the case, where there’s a number of people that are coming in from secular backgrounds, or maybe they dabbled a little bit in church, and they come to get a glimpse of Jesus, but then they start making comments, you’re like, oh, wow, there’s still a lot of work that has to be done here. So I think one of the things that we have to do on the other side of someone recognizing who Jesus is, is we have to continue to help give people a confidence in the scriptures, right? I mean, ultimately, if we’re going to see people get a right view of God and right view of themselves, that’s going to come from the scriptures, right? And people may have first sort of believed enough in the Scriptures to see okay, so Jesus died for my sins, but they’ll bump into a lot of other things where, like, I’m not so sure about that. And that takes some time sometimes. I mean, it might take some helping for them to see, some things that authenticate the scriptures like, hey, this can be trusted. It might be in some cases, sort of a testing and seeing, right? Taste and see that the Lord is good. Well, let’s walk in His way and let’s see how the Lord comes through for them to sort of build that confidence to say all of it is God’s word. And that’s just going to take time. So even for us, right, who we might declare all of Scripture is God-breathed and you know, it’s there for a us. But we’re not living that way all the time. I’m not living that way all the time. I want to, but I don’t. So there are things that I clearly will push back on at times. I got to know about this, God. Right? So we have to anticipate that new believers are going to struggle in that way as well.
Yeah, that’s helpful, John. And I like that encouragement to make that space for them to wrestle and wrestle in a safe place. You know, they’re my brothers and sisters, I think that’s kind of the key there, right? John, as you’re looking at the current state of the church, current state of the world. What advice, what recommendations would you make to a local church, Pastor, ministry leader, as they’re thinking, Okay, we want to be a beacon of hope in our community. There’s a lot of like, we’ve said, skepticism, there’s a lot of tension and conflict, all of these things. But we have a heart to do that. John, what are some some practical thoughts that you would recommend or that you do through your ministry and your work, this is what you do on a regular basis, that you would recommend to a pastor or ministry leader who says, we want to help our church and our people become that beacon in our community?
Yeah, I think if you’re a church leader, one of the things that you’re going to have to do if you’re going to encourage your own bodies, you’re going to need to get out in the world a bit yourself, right? So you have to carve out that time. So it’s hard to do, I understand. I was pastoring a local church for 16 years, right? And so all the needs of the church are sort of always pressing in on you. But if you’re thinking of your church as being missional, right, like, we want to be missional. And most churches think that way, they want to be missional. But you yourself are doing sort of all the work internally and never doing anything missionally yourself in terms of relationships, you don’t have stories to tell. And you really need stories to tell to be able to encourage your body. Whether it’s a story with your neighbor, or whether it’s a story with somebody at a coffee shop you frequent, whatever the case might be. So I really think as a ministry leader, you have to say, I’m gonna carve out whatever percentage of my time where I’m gonna go and be intentional about reaching out to other people. So I think once you begin to do that I think that you’ll be able to do more than just point to a verse in the Bible to say, hey, you should go out and share Jesus with people. You’re going to have experiences yourself to be able to share with other people. And how can we really tell people who are busy too? They’re busy with their work, busy with their families, that they need to carve out time to share Jesus with people. But as ministry leaders, we’re not carving out any time for ourselves. So I think that’s kind of a starting place. We have to be intentional, too. So then you’ve decided, Okay, I’m going to be intentional is you have to recognize that most people believe the things they believe, because they’ve heard it from someone they trusted. So, if your good friend says, Hey, you should try that restaurant out down the street, it’s a great restaurant, there’s a good chance you’re going to try it out, right? So much more than if you just hear it on an ad or if you just randomly heard it from someone, you might try it out from those other sources. But if your good friend tells you it, there’s probably a really good chance you’re going to try it out, right? So you think most of the things that we say we know, we didn’t actually prove them to be true. So like, you learned it from your science teacher, but you didn’t really do the experiment. You just took their word for it. Because there was something about them that was trustworthy, right? There’s things about history that you believe to be true, even though you didn’t go to any source documents, right? So because someone taught it to you that you believe was trustworthy. So once we decided to be intentional with people, we have to make ourselves trustworthy to them. Because if we’re going to have those conversations about the gospel, why should they believe us? Why should our Muslim neighbor believe us more than their Imam? I don’t know why they would, right? And so we have to somehow become sort of even more trustworthy. So now we have truth on our side. So that’s helpful for sure. But that truth oftentimes won’t be heard if someone doesn’t have a sense of our trustworthiness. That just can be through kindness, it can be through listening well, it can be through understanding, it can be through being there during hard times, those kinds of things. We can build that trustworthiness so that we can have a voice in people’s lives.
Yeah, that’s really helpful. John, one of the things that you really, I think is incredibly helpful in the book, is you talked about really investing time in the other person and not getting as caught up in what we want to share with them, as we are in hearing their story and inviting them, and building that relationship. And, again, this goes back to what we’ve been talking about. You know, respect and taking the time, and the patience side of it all. And when we think of how patient God has been with us, we understand that we should have patience with others. When we think of these questions that we engage in and inviting people to share their story, what are some of the ways that we can do that practically, again, in relationship with others? We don’t want it to be like, Hey, okay, I’ve got a list of six questions I need to ask because I need to establish this report. Like, you know, how do we make this part of who we are versus some strategy or as projects, right?
Yeah, absolutely. So, well, let me make this comment. First, is that my approach to evangelism has definitely changed over the years. So I used to go in with the mindset of, here’s what I want to say to the person. And now I go in with what questions should I ask? And I do that mostly because if I ask good questions, they’re often doors that sort of naturally open. I’m not crashing the party, I’m joining the party, right? The questions are going to be different for every person. So what might be the most appropriate questions to ask them? And one of the things I do in my book is, in the appendix, I put 90 questions there just for possibilities. My wife a couple of weeks ago, she was about to meet with this gal, and she was on her way. And she had my book in the car, and she’s like, I’m just going to thumb through a couple of these questions and see if there’s any that I think might be good to ask her to kind of get the conversation started. But they’re individualistic, right? I mean, they’re not canned, like, I wouldn’t ask the same six questions of every person. You sort of look at them and say, I think this one would be appropriate. And then I think what’s most important is once we start asking questions about the person’s past, or the present or their future and maybe even some of the things that they believe is to really listen for those places where there’s struggle, or a heart ache, or hurt, or tension a lot of times. Because that is often a great doorway in to meaningful conversation. And people will, they’ll just say little things along the way, you have to be listening well, that point to those things. And we’ve got to ask that next question. So, you asked somebody about their kids. Oh, yeah, we got three kids. And they talk about a couple of them and they get to the third. Well, you know, our son, he has learning disabilities or whatever, and then they sort of go on in the conversation. Well, learning disabilities, that can be a hard thing, right? So if you kind of revisit that, and you go, wow, so your son had learning disabilities. Is that, I mean, sometimes that can be really hard, just like on parenting and marriage and those sorts of things. And you’re showing interest that way, right? And it’s amazing how much people when they realize, oh, you actually listened to me and you cared enough to ask that follow up question, that they start to really open up about things. And then there can be the opportunity to say something like, I know when people go through difficult things like that, that for some people God is really important to them in that I mean, is that true for you or is God not even in the picture sort of thing. And now suddenly I’m talking about God in the conversation but in a natural way, not in a sort of a forced way that even applies to a particular issue in their life. So I think that’s it’s asking questions about a person and listening for those places where they might have struggles and moving deeper from there.
Yeah, and that invites us, again, back to the idea of we’ve got to have God’s heart for others. I mean, that we’ve got to really care about them and who they are and what they’re experiencing, and the life they’re living. Even more than just what we’re trying to accomplish out of this conversation, right? Because there’s also that invitation of the Holy Spirit in the midst of those conversations. And that discernment that you talked about, and that noticing, that’s having that bathed in prayer, I think, is super key for those conversations. But, man, it’s a challenging world, as you said, evangelism is, it’s been challenging regardless of what’s going on the world around us. But I think even more so we’re experiencing some greater challenges, but then they’re great stories of people coming to faith and God’s continuing to work and be on the move, and it’s nothing that we need to be discouraged about. And so John, can you talk to us a little bit about that mindset, that sometimes we can see so much of the, oh, this is too hard, too difficult, too challenging, there’s too much of a mess. How do we shift that mindset from, everything’s tanking, which a lot of people have that kind of perspective. Everything’s tanking. But kind of inject it with some hope?
Yeah. Well, I do think it’s important that we remember that the results are up to God, right? They’re not up to us. So and sometimes even, we’re not going to see the results that well, right? But that doesn’t mean that we’re not having impact. And I think we need to remember that. I love in John chapter 4, Jesus met with the woman at the well and then his disciples kind of come right at the end of that conversation. And Jesus says, Well, you know, the harvest, it’s ripe, it’s ready to go. But then he goes on, and he says, he kind of explained why it’s ripe, why that particular field was ripe. He says, you’re about to reap what you haven’t sown because others have done the hard work. Ah. So it’s not just that sort of the end game, right? There were others who did the hard work. And if you look back at the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman, she actually knew quite a bit. She knew about prophets, she knew about a coming messiah, she knew about worship, right? So like, she had some understanding of things, right? Well, how did she come to that understanding of things? I mean, somebody told her, right? So somebody had done the hard work already. And even when she goes back to her town and she brings out the townspeople, how many of them responded. Like, they said, we don’t just believe that you’re the Messiah because she told us, but because we’ve seen for ourselves. But where did you even get the idea of Messiah, right? So somebody had already planted that within them. So again, all those people who had done the planting along the way, they didn’t really get to see the results. But Jesus and his disciples did. So we shouldn’t be discouraged if we’re not seeing the results at the present time. And I do think we have to take the long game. Because people sometimes are starting so far back with so much misinformation and so many sort of hurdles in the way that it’s not going to necessarily come quickly. I mean, once in a while you hear that story and that’s great. Praise the Lord. That’s neat. But many times it’s going to take a lot of time. I think in some ways that what we’re doing is a waiting game. Like we’re continuing to share truth. We’re continuing to be a friend until that point in time where someone is ready, right? And positioning ourselves there. And of course, people move away and we move away and so maybe we’re not going to be there at the end. But if we’re willing to wait and people are worth waiting for, right? Then oftentimes, we are going to get a glimpse, but it’s not going to be in three months. It might be three years, it might be 30 years.
Right, yeah. I love that. Just that steady faithfulness and patience and giving the spirit room to work, but just trying to be faithful in what we can do. I love that. That’s great, John. John, this has been an absolutely incredible conversation. Thank you so much, again, for making the time. If people want to find out more about your new book Giving Jesus Away, and also share with us other resources you’re involved in, the ministry that you’re engaged in, and the resources that you’re providing for the church.
Yeah, sure. Well, I’d encourage people to go to reachothers.org. So I work for a ministry called Search Ministries, and we train laypeople in how to share their faith. And our training arm is called Reach. And people can see there how they can themselves learn how to share Jesus better. It’s a kind of a longer term, mentor program, it’s 22 weeks. So you’re not just reading a book or going to a two day conference, you’re getting practice along the way. And you have mentors along the way that are sort of coaching you in how to share your faith. So that’s where I would point people.
Excellent, excellent. And for those of you who are watching or listening along, we will have links to not only John’s book, but also to his ministry and to those resources he’s mentioned. All that will be available in the toolkit for this episode. And again, you can find that PastorServe.org/network. So be sure to check that out where you’ll find all the links, all the resources that Ministry Leaders Growth Guide, and lots of other ways to help you and your team at your local church. So be sure to check that out. John, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on FrontStage BackStage, thank you again for making the time to hang out with us.
Great to be with you, Jason.
All right. God bless you, brother.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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