FIRST-PERSON: Spring flowers & a fragrant witness

Tags: evangelism

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Leaning through the doorway of the florist shop, I soon smelled the spring flowers. And when I stepped into the room, the rush of blooms surrendering their pungent fragrance enveloped me.

Immediately, my mind raced to Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is attractive, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."

The experience was so pleasant I indeed wanted to "dwell." I normally shop by rushing into a store, snatching what needs to be purchased, and racing to the shortest checkout line. My wife Sharon says I can do an entire mall in less than 15 minutes. That sounds about right.

But on this day, I was motivated to bless Sharon with a fresh bouquet the florist would arrange in the back room. So I waited a little while. However, I was able to engage the store clerk in conversation that moved from the peripheral to the more substantial.

After all, it is the lifestyle pattern of Christ-followers to engage people in normal conversation with the goal of moving the conversation toward our faith in Christ. Sometimes, you get all the way there and lead someone to faith. Sometimes, the experience is the aroma of a pleasant conversation that encourages a stranger to know more from you or another believer.

This would be a good time to suggest several tips for engaging people you don't know in conversation:

1. Take the initiative.

As we are learning from Uber research, some people do not want to engage in conversation. However, the vast majority are willing to do so if they consider the topic of the conversation to be pleasant and safe. So have at it. Talk with your neighbor, the Walmart person, the shop owner, the teacher, the fellow airline passenger, whoever the Lord brings into your path of life.

2. Learn the art of the question.

Jesus was absolutely the master of asking questions for the purpose of entering into someone's world. If you ask someone about their world, the vast majority of the time you get a response because people like to talk about themselves. The exception to that is the person with a deep emotional wound, but at least you tried. Jot down some questions that help you learn about people you have contact with. Practice with your spouse, friend or work associate.

3. It is OK to ask for help.

You are not an expert about everything. Sometimes, asking for help gives the stranger an opportunity to recognize you are a fellow traveler just like they are. On the basis of a mutual goal, the conversation can begin to materialize.

4. Capitalize on common experiences.

If the conversation is to go anywhere, you must find common ground, common experience, common knowledge about someone or something you both know. Then you use "baby steps" to move from the peripheral to the most important -- the Gospel message.

5. Talk often to new people.

Everyone you meet is not ready to move toward a spiritual conversation. However, the more you talk to people with a purpose in mind of sharing with them the greatest transformational news in the universe -- the Gospel -- you eventually get to lead someone all the way to faith. We don't do the saving. Jesus does. Our mission is to share the Gospel and sow the seeds of truth into the context of life. The more we share good conversation, the more we have opportunities to see God at work.

Go ahead and talk with somebody today. Someone you don't know.

Refuse to let the enemy talk you out of it. Take the initiative. It could be that the Lord has placed a divine appointment before you. Have such a conversation with a person that when you both walk away, the person can recall the precious fragrance of our Lord Jesus' character and grace exhibited through your interest and kindness.

John Yeats is executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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