Most of us are not natural salesmen and thus not the greatest conversationalists. The very thought of just coming up to someone and starting a conversation about Jesus is one of the most daunting obstacles to being witnesses for Christ. So how do we do it?
Let me start off my answer to that with a disclaimer. In no way do I propose that what I’ve about to submit is the only way to start a conversation about the Savior. I don’t even necessarily claim that it’s the best way; I’m certainly open to suggestions on how to “break the ice” and move from an insipid dialogue about the weather and football to more eternal issues. Jesus didn’t use this method with every person he met. But it has this going for it: It's a way to do it, and the Master used it at least once.
Jesus was sitting at the well, it was the heat of the day, and he saw a woman heading towards him. I suspect it was more than mere physical thirst that prompted his opening question: He was there to lead her to faith in himself.
She responded with the well-known fact that Jews and Samaritans have nothing to do with each other, and then comes the statement I’m actually referring to.
“If you knew who it was who was talking to you, you’d ask him and he’d give you living water.” This perked up her ears. They were at a well, and he apparently didn’t even have a bucket, much less access to some other well. And what did he mean by “living” water? And what’s this “gift of God” he’s talking about?
When she points out what was obvious to her eyes and asked him about the “living water,” he tells her something about this water which he offers: In stark contrast with ordinary water, it quenches thirst forever. Once you drink it, you'll never thirst again. Ever.
Now, Christians have drawn deep theological insight from Jesus’ statement about the water he offers. But let’s not lose the main focus here: Our Lord’s main purpose here is to lead this young woman into a saving knowledge of himself, not provide fodder for theologians. Everything he’s saying is towards that purpose. As is typical of characters in John’s Gospel, she misunderstands a statement about spiritual reality and interprets it physically. But we’ve covered enough for me to make my point.
Here’s the method as exemplified here. You start a conversation by referring to something right in front of you or something they’re familiar with or in which they’re interested. Then you use that as a segue into an opener to the Message.
Let me give a personal example. Every year I used to go on Beach Reach down in South Padre. We offered free van rides anywhere on the island, a free pancake breakfast, and free suntan oil on the beach. Also a sand sculptor came out and made massive sand sculptures of something biblical (like Christ on the cross, or the Ten Commandments) and surrounded them with little signs in the sand with provocative verses, such as Romans 3:23 or 6:23 or John 3:16.
I came up to people on the beach who were standing next to the sculptures, introduced myself, and asked them questions like “So did you know about our free van rides?” “Yeah, I was on one last night. It’s great what you guys are doing.” “And did you hear about our free pancake breakfast?” “Yeah, we’re going to that tomorrow.” “And did you know about the free gift we’re offering?” “What?! A free gift?!” “Absolutely! Let me tell you about it. . .”
Someone once asked Spurgeon how he came up with sermon ideas. He answered thus: He picked a verse or passage out of the Bible, and went over the country, through the woods, and over rivers to bring it back to Jesus Christ.
That’s what we do here. You pick something out in front of you, something that interests the person in front of you, and you—with the Spirit’s leading—lead it back to the Good News.
Again, if you’re already using something that works for you, more power to you. If not, then you have at least one ice-breaker.
Lord Jesus, how often do I talk about everything except the Person who means the most to me? Please forgive me, and help me bring you into more conversations, to the point where your presence is felt every time I open my mouth.