Evangelism Brainstorming

Posted by on Sep 28, 2012

There’s nothing worse than “Evangelistic Lockjaw,” that horrible experience when a witnessing opportunity presents itself and you freeze. You know what I mean. Someone asks you to tell them, “in a nutshell” what you believe, and you blab on and on – far beyond any nutshell’s capacity – and really end up saying nothing worth remembering. Or someone says something that could be a perfect opportunity to share some of the gospel message and you remain silent.

One potential solution to “Evangelistic Lockjaw” is “Evangelism Brainstorming.”

So many times we think, “If I could just figure out the perfect response, it would have been a great evangelism experience.”

The problem comes with looking for just one possible thing to say. It can paralyze us if we can’t find the perfect thing to say. What I have found to be more helpful is to brainstorm a dozen possible responses. By searching for twelve, I usually end up with one. By searching for one, I end up with zero.

So I encourage people to engage in “Evangelism Brainstorming” – not just after a blown opportunity but lots of times. It can almost be an internal game. Come up with imaginary scenarios and force yourself to come up with a dozen ways you might respond. Even if the real life situations don’t sound exactly like your imaginary dialogue, the process of brainstorming will get you thinking in the right directions.

So, what do you say when a coworker tells you she heard this “really wonderful, spiritual teacher on Oprah who talked all about ‘making the impossible happen through ‘The Secret?’”

If I were to brainstorm about this, I might come up with these kinds of responses:

–       “Wow. Sounds interesting. Tell me more.”

–       “What did you like about her ideas?”

–       “Have you tried it yet? How’d that go?”

–       “Is Oprah where you get most of your spiritual advice? How does that fit with your religious background? Did you grow up with different spiritual beliefs?”

–       “Why does she call it a secret?”

–       “How does this compare to the Christian or Jewish tradition of prayer?”

I hope you get the idea. These brainstormed ideas try to keep the conversation going but moving in a productive direction. Often, we’re tempted to just shut down the discussion with a complete negation of what people say.

–       “Yeah. I’ve heard of The Secret. I think it’s crazy. It’s just self-centered wishful thinking. The Bible condemns it.”

Sometimes the brainstorming process helps open up various angles for seeing a situation differently. If someone were to say to me, “I just don’t know how you can still believe in God considering all the evil and suffering in the world,” I’m tempted to just address the question in a philosophical way.

–       “Well, here’s why I think it’s still reasonable to believe in God. In fact, I can give you seven major reasons, four minor ones, and three corollary positive benefits from believing in God even when there’s evil and suffering in the world.”

The brainstorming process might show me some other motivations people might have in asking the question or bringing up the topic.

Here are some alternative responses:

–       “Hmmm. This sounds like a painful topic for you. Has something triggered this recently?”

–       “Which specific evil thing do you have in mind?”

–       “Do you ask all your friends these kinds of questions or is there something about my beliefs that made you think of this?”

–       “Well, don’t think I don’t wrestle with my beliefs. Every time I hear of some tragedy it makes me wonder.”

–       “It’s very difficult to deal with all the stuff going on in the world, isn’t it?”

–       “Is this something you think about a lot?”

–       “I didn’t just come to my current beliefs overnight. Would you like to hear about how I got to where I am today?”

–       “How do you cope with all the bad news? Maybe we could help each other out.”

One of the benefits of the brainstorming process is it sets us up for serving our friends as a conversation partner rather than an answer machine. For a lot of people, they need the former far more than the latter.

9 Comments

  1. Hank Zimon
    September 28, 2012

    Randy …. loved this article! And I am one of those you intimated who would really benefit from your suggestion! Thanks for making us think!

    Reply
  2. Colin Mattoon
    September 29, 2012

    Randy, I’m a big fan of your books and writings. I’ve found them very helpful in evangelism. In my work as a Chaplain I found your works extremely helpful in having spiritual conversations. Now I’m starting to become more engaged In Biblical Counseling and am often trying to think about how you would respond and what questions you would ask a person. Your above questions on the problem of evil are helpful. Obviously a lot depends on the situation, context, and person but do you have any words of advice or questions you recommend in a counseling context? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Randy Newman
      September 29, 2012

      Colin,

      Thanks for your reply to my post. I do think the approach of asking questions fits perfectly into the counseling setting. But for me to offer any more specific ideas would be outside of my area of expertise. I took a few classes in counseling when I was in seminary but that was a long time ago and very basic. I like the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (www.ccef.org). I think their resources might be very helpful for you. I hope so.

      Reply
  3. Thinking ahead about conversations | Trinity Fellowship Church
    September 29, 2012

    […] his whole post here: This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Evangelism by smatzal. Bookmark the […]

    Reply
  4. Thomas Larsen
    September 30, 2012

    Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions is very helpful in this regard—it’s well worth a read.

    Reply
    • Randy Newman
      September 30, 2012

      Yes. I think Greg Koukl’s book Tactics along with many other resources he provides can be very helpful for a lot of Christians wanting help in knowing what to say and how to say it. Thanks for mentioning his book.

      Reply
  5. James
    September 30, 2012

    Thanks so much Randy for your thoughts. For me, a lot of my evangelism with my non-Christian family & friends has been more on the side of listening and being with them. But often times I do not think that as evangelism but as friendship. For some strange reason, my mindset is that evangelism is only when you mention Jesus and bring up a Bible verse. But I am trying to get out of that frame of thought. Should the Gospel be my ultimate goal in my interactions with nonbelievers? Why yes, of course. Just as much as it should be with Christian brothers and sisters.. but there is a way of caring for people without blasting them. Relationships… being intentional through the art of conversation, and the like. By no time you will find yourself sharing the Gospel with people without even realizing you did. That’s wicked cool. Now, I wonder how you can do this with strangers. How you can build relationships with people in your city with people you don’t know, without coming off a “little odd” if you know what I mean. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Randy Newman
      September 30, 2012

      I think it’s very important to keep a narrow definition for the term “evangelism.” It is the verbal proclamation of the unique message that Jesus died for sinners and rose again and people need to put their faith in him for salvation. That’s evangelism. Anything other than that, (listening, being a good friend, asking probing questions, etc.) are all good things. Much of that fits under the category of “loving your neighbor.” And some of those actions can be considered “pre-evangelism,” which, in our day and age is vital. But we must be sure to keep “evangelism” as distinct. It is the goal to which the other activities point and move.

      Reply
  6. Worth a Look 10.1.12 – Trevin Wax
    October 1, 2012

    […] Evangelism Brainstorming: There’s nothing worse than “Evangelistic Lockjaw,” that horrible experience when a witnessing opportunity presents itself and you freeze. You know what I mean. Someone asks you to tell them, “in a nutshell” what you believe, and you blab on and on – far beyond any nutshell’s capacity – and really end up saying nothing worth remembering. Or someone says something that could be a perfect opportunity to share some of the gospel message and you remain silent. […]

    Reply

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