“When did you come to Christ?”
It’s the common question in Christian culture that tends to fluster me. This time, a new friend asks.
“Well…” usually, at this point, I ask how much time they have to hear the story. This time, I didn’t, and dove in with my usual, lengthy answer. “So, before I was born…”
Partway through came the most common follow-up question, “But when exactly was it? What was the date?”
“I . . . don’t know.”
It was a fact I noticed during my sophomore year of college: I was near to the Lord and I knew Christ gave Himself for my sins, but I had no idea the date I had received Him.
This is not uncommon.
Every Christian has made the decision to follow Christ at some point in life. That may have been made in a moment or after a series of interactions with the gospel. For some, the exact moment of accepting Christ is not distinctly remembered.
A recent trend has been for people to make the decision to follow Christ after many conversations and forming a relationship with a believer, according to Shawn Cramer, leader of Cru’s Denver metro team.
Shawn and his staff team gave their students “tracks to run on” to explain the message of Christ with people they already have relationships with. The premise is derived from Doug Pollock’s book God Space, which teaches people how to bring God into “everyday conversations.” This allows freedom and for both people to move nearer to God and truth through spiritual conversations.
Christian students on Shawn’s campuses carry around an index card with the names of a few people they know and a scale, which ranges from negative 10 to 0.
The scale represents a spectrum of where people are in their knowledge of and relationship with God; negative 10 represents those who are hostile to the gospel or God while negative 1 represents those seeking to be reconciled to God.
Each category has different needs relative to understanding God’s love, whether that need is a Christian they can trust or one who will challenge them with questions about their belief.
The root of the activity is to share the love of Christ by creating God space, space where spiritual matters can be discussed freely.
Here are some principles to employ to create God space in your own life:
The first step Shawn’s students took in creating the scale they carry with them is noticing specific people whom they care about in their lives.
In God Space, Pollock says “We need ‘Jesus glasses,’ the kind that allow us to see the world around us the way Jesus does. When we start to notice others with our Jesus glasses on ... His compassion melts away the coldness in our hearts. Our callousness toward others is replaced with genuine concern.”
- Listen and wonder
Gauge where each person falls on the scale. Negative 10 to negative 7 could be considered hostile toward the gospel, negative 6 to negative 4 are spiritually curious and negative 3 or less are viewed as near to entering a relationship with Christ.
But in order to understand where each person falls, one must be willing to listen and wonder. Pollock suggests asking questions about things that are meaningful to an individual, their backgrounds in spirituality and the church and then summarizing their responses using a phrase such as “So what I hear you saying . . .” in order to better listen. Here are 99 “wondering questions.”
Pollock says his routine in evangelism comes down to “notice, pray, repeat.” While noticing others and getting to know their journey with God, be in constant prayer for them.
- Have an answer for the hope within you
“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15Know specific moments when God has lead you into truth and shown you His grace, and be steadfast in Bible study. While we should never underestimate the power of listening, Shawn says, “Sometimes it can sound like we’re listening someone into the Kingdom of God. We’re not passive. We want to have gospel conversations, not just gospel presentations.”
- Celebrate small victories
Shawn says this approach to explaining our faith allows us to celebrate different steps along the way in someone’s spiritual journey, rather than simply a decision to receive Christ.
“What if we celebrated every first down?” Shawn says. “What if we celebrated when someone went from ‘there is no God’ to ‘maybe there is a God?’ Or from hating Christianity to ‘it’s okay.’ That’s huge!”
Shawn and Pollock agree the core of the method is to take the initiative to love the people in our lives and engage them in conversations about what the Bible says is written on our hearts (Eccl. 3:11).
“Relax, be yourself and let the Holy Spirit have His way in your relational connections,” Pollock says. “If you’re willing to persevere in this holy endeavor, your words and actions will eventually flow out of the changes God has brought in you.”