Talking To Strangers: The Decent

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. As we prepare to decent into your destination, please close your tray table, put your seatback up, as the stewardesses come by to pick up any remaining trash you have. We will be landing shortly.”

Now that you have some tools to get the conversation started and moving, it is now time to switch the topic of conversation to a more spiritual one. The purpose of this series is to get people motivated enough to talk to strangers so that we can now begin to share the gospel with them. Because like I’ve always said, your largest sphere of influence will always be people you don’t know. Whether the waitress at the diner, a tow truck driver, person close to you at the coffee shop or someone you met at a gathering — all are strangers to you.

This is the most difficult part of the conversation. It takes great courage and trust in the Lord to transition from the natural to the spiritual. It also takes some patience because once you open up the topic, you can pretty much tell where the other person stands when it comes to the things of God.

Climbing The Ladder

The way I usually get into a spiritual conversation is by a tactic I call, “climbing the ladder”. As you are in the conversation it is typical to have questions asked and answered. For each question that is asked you are moving up the proverbial ladder one rung at a time. When you find that one rung in which you can transition to the spiritual, just highlight what was asked, and then use it to make the transition. That question is the top of the ladder. Here is a sample scenario:

You: “This is some band. They’re really good, huh?”
Stranger: “Yeah, I’ve followed them for a while. They used to play where I’m from.”
You: “Where’s that?”
Stranger: “New Brunswick, NJ.”
You: “Wow, that’s a long way? What brought you all the way out here?”
Stranger: “School. I’m a Biology Major with a minor in Chemistry at ISU.”
You: “Wow, that’s gotta be tough. It’s so amazing how the human body works. How it repairs itself, how the heart is a pump that never needs to be primed, cleaned or lubricated. Its so fascinating.”
Stranger: “Evolution is fascinating.” [The rung you hold on to]

As your heart starts pumping harder and the nerves start to kick in, you know for a fact that is that one you should grab ahold of. Time is of the essence, and you must grab ahold. Here are some possible transition questions to follow:

  • “I’m just curious…how did you come to that conclusion?”
  • “Evolution? How so…”
  • “What do you mean by ‘evolution’?”
  • “How do you know that?”
  • “Can you tell me more about that — evolution?”
  • “Have you always felt this way? If not, what changed your mind?”

By climbing the ladder you are not asking loaded questions to the person you are talking to, but allowing them to naturally step into the conversation on their own. It’s a lot like an animal stepping into a snare. They get their foot stuck and now hard to get out of; they are the ones that brought the topic up, not you.

Is This an Interrogation? What’s with all the questions?

So you may be wondering if we are interrogating people with all our questions. It may seem so, but remember, this is a conversation. Both parties may be asking questions, and answering others, which in turn might bring up other questions a person has.

There are several reasons why questions are helpful:

Questions help us understand what they believe.

Since we are talking to strangers, we won’t know what the other person believes without asking. We need to have a conversation and ask some things so that we know how to answer, as well as understanding where the person is coming from. Just because a person says he is a certain religion or sect, doesn’t mean they really believe it 100%. I was a Roman Catholic for 30 years and I didn’t know everything about my faith.

Questions help us to understand why they believe it.

Questions also give us clarity. I can’t assume that what is in my head and what I hear is really what the other person is telling me. I may assume that I understand what the other person is saying, but in all reality I could be way off base.

There are many reasons why people believe the way they do about a particular subject. Though sometimes it just “pops” in their brain and it is an idea they had, but for most people they either read it somewhere, saw it on television, or even was introduced to it by a friend or family member.

Questions help us to expose flaws in their belief system.

Before I was saved I really believed that the Bible was made up by aliens so that we humans wouldn’t kill each other and die off. I believed that Jesus was an alien in human form (like the 1978 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and that His transfiguration was really radiation from space. I thought God was the king alien because and that Moses face shone because of space radiation from God. Not to mention that angels were obviously aliens too. I believed that since only 144,000 would be raptured, and that people would go “up”, therefore it meant that the mother ship would suck them up. It had to be a ship because limited people meant limited space.

Why did I believe this? I don’t know. All I did was read parts of the bible and that’s what made sense to me. The truth is that I couldn’t understand what I was reading because didn’t have the Holy Spirit, or Him to come alongside and teach me. I didn’t know how to read it, and completely missed the context of the verses I was reading.

Questions help us stay in the drivers seat.

It’s not that we want to manipulate the conversation because, frankly, that would make it a monologue. But we do want the best use of our time together, and I have some points that I really want to address. The other person also has some things they want to tell us as well. I know I cannot spend all day with this person, so I need to get through the chit-chat and down to business. I have a direction and a goal to get to: the gospel.

The problem though is when the other person you are talking to wants to side-track into things that are not really important, and therefore you get stuck in this endless loop and no one is better for it. Questions like:

  • How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  • If God hates alcohol, then why did He allow Jesus to make wine at some wedding?
  • Is there a rock big enough that God can’t move?

Much of the time the other person has some pent up frustration and they want to take it out on you. But that doesn’t solve anything or answer the real questions they want, or should be asking. When solid questions are not answered, both parties leave worse than when they started.

Gospel Tracts

When time is of the essence, gospel tracts can be used to break the ice into a spiritual conversation relatively quick. In this fast-paced world we live in, people are coming and going, and if they do, they are on their phone checking email or Facebook. Gospel tracts don’t mess around. They get to the point and have the person thinking something spiritual in seconds.

Some of my favorite ice-breakers are: the Lincoln Million Dollar Bill and the Franklin Million Dollar Bill by Tract Planet. What I like about all the tracts from Tract Planet, more than Living Waters, is that each one has a QR code on the back that takes the person to a YouTube video that shares the entire gospel. So in the event that the person takes it home and forgets the details of the conversation, they can be quickly and gently reminded on their own time. This way at the end of the conversation you can point out the code and the website so they can reference it later.

Approaching people on the street with the million dollar bill is very easy. I just take it in my hand, look them in the eye and say, “Did you get one of these? It’s a million-dollar bill with the million-dollar question on the back. ‘If you were to die to day and stand before God, why should He allow you into heaven’?” It propels you right into a spiritual conversation in the speed of thought. You can also ask other intro questions:

  • “Are you good enough to go to heaven?”
  • “Are you ready to meet your creator?” [Funny story is that someone called the cops on me once thinking I meant NOW, and I was going to help them out. That was a 20 minute yuk-yuk with the police].
  • “If you were to die today and stand before God, would you be ready?”

There are many ways you can phrase this introduction question that would be not only intriguing, but alarming.

The cool thing about gospel tracts also is that they can be a great closer as well. It leaves the person with a gift, and something tangible they can quickly reference. For an exhaustive list of reasons and ways to use gospel tracts CLICK HERE — another website I co-author with my friend Paul.

As we are approaching our destination, we can see we are getting closer to the ground. Things are starting to become clearer and more detailed. If we were landing in Florida or the Caribbean, we might be able to see iguanas on the tarmac. I can hear the landing gear doors open and the flaps are being extended. The runway is just about approaching. We will be landing soon. Next stop…sharing the gospel.

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