It struck me the other day after I finished up a meeting at Caribou Coffee when a man, sitting at another table, came up to me simply to ask about my notebook computer. He obviously came over for a reason more than just my computer. “What was his interest?” I thought. After a few more questions, I realized that I asked just the right question. I asked him about his interest in a computer and what he was wanting to primarily do with it. I found out he was interested in vintage photography with antique cameras and old-style film developed by himself. He loved black and white photography. “You just can’t get the same kind of quality from digital photography as you can with the old style film,” he interpolated. He was wanting a portable computer that he could use with a special program for his art. I asked him more about what he liked to shoot. One more question like that and he began to talk all about portrait photography made to look like over 100 years ago. I was quite fascinated by the passion, knowledge, and expertise he seemed to have in this whole area. I’ve had some interest in photography myself. I simply listened, smiled, and said, “Mm,” “Ooh,” and “Interesting” for the next almost hour. After that, he gave me his card and felt like he had made a friend.
This whole exchange just forced me to contemplate what just happened. I’ve heard the saying many times: “You can call me anything but just don’t call me late for supper.” Well that day I was late for supper. The man felt a bit obliged after observing my interest and listening for a while to ask a few questions of me. It led into a short spiritual conversation. It gave me enough clues as to how I could ask him more about life and God in a later conversation. Listening simply built trust and friendship. I wasn’t able to share the whole gospel message that day, but I am prayerful and believe that we’ll be talking again.
Many times we think that evangelism means you have to give the whole gospel the first time you meet someone. Sometimes God gives us a blessing like this. The person’s heart has been prepared by other people, God’s Spirit, and their current situation so they are in the right place to hear the good news at the time of your meeting. However, I think most of the time, sharing the gospel comes in the context of listening, building trust, and developing a relationship.
I have often found using a good question can be one of the most useful tools in evangelism. Have a genuine interest in the person you are talking to, and find out what they are most passionate about. That same day I observed a man reading a newspaper when I came into the coffee shop. I asked a few questions about his favorite team. A big smile came across his face and he began to tell me his thoughts how the players and his team could keep in the game this year. This wasn’t our first interaction. Guess what? We’ve talked about the Lord, our world, life, and purpose before. It came from going just a little out of the way and asking a question.
We often ask for “opportunities” in prayer. They are all around us. Not a lot of people are listening, but if we take the time to stop, ask a question, and listen, we will have more opportunities than we will know what to do with. May God help each of us to open our eyes to the world around us.
Pastor Mark Anderson, Pastor of Outreach & Evangelism