By Tim Dunn
Has this happened to you? You are in conversation with a friend, a coworker, or even someone you just met and you have felt a little tug on your heart. You want to have a more meaningful conversation involving spiritual matters. Yet what do you say? How do you say it? Is it possible to bring up God in the conversation without shutting the communication down?
Commissioned to Move
I believe this is one of many spaces where God is at work, yearning for us to speak and open up a deeper conversation with a person placed in our lives. As followers of Christ we are commissioned with a charge to share his good news, but very often we shy away. It’s vital that we look at what it means to reach outward, and in this space we often experience some of our most significant spiritual growth.
Josh McDowell said, “Christ followers everywhere are struggling to figure out how to have a spiritual conversation—and this lack of confidence and competence has silenced many Christians.” If that is true, what do we do about it? I think it’s easy, simple, rudimentary if you will, and you may laugh and stop reading—but it starts with you making the first move.
Simple, huh? Easy? Uh, probably not. I get it. Palms sweaty, heart palpitations, thoughts of self-doubt, personal credibility issues creeping into your mind. Trust me—even as a guy who has been a pastor for more than 20 years, it can be hard!
Jesus Made Moves
Jesus showed us over and over again the example of making the first move.
In order to speak into Zacchaeus’s life, Jesus initiated a conversation. (I’m sure you will be singing the song now.) “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today’” (Luke 19:5). Jesus made the first move. Would Zacchaeus have reached out to Jesus first? Probably not in that environment where everyone pretty much hated him.
In John 4 Jesus began a conversation with a woman who was less than accepted in her own community. When Jesus met the woman of Samaria, he initiated the conversation with her. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’” (v.7). I wouldn’t necessarily try this exact statement in certain social settings to someone, but you get the picture.
The example that I love the most comes from the book of Matthew. This passage has actually helped our church shape our strategy for spiritual growth and what it means to be disciples who make disciples. We believe that as a disciple we are to follow God, be changed by him, and lead others to do the same. That comes directly out of an initial conversation when Jesus called the first of his disciples: “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18, 19).
In each of these stories we see examples of people desiring, searching, and yearning for more. With Zacchaeus he was climbing a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus. At the well we see a broken, desperate woman needing hope. We see it in the first disciples—men looking for more to live for. They were all willing to literally drop everything to have a chance for something meaningful in their lives.
My point is this: I believe that in our conversations with folks who are not yet believers, they too are desiring, searching, and yearning for more. Are you willing to follow Jesus’ lead and make the first move?
Tim Dunn is the Lead Minister at LifeSpring Christian Church, which is nestled in the heart of North College Hill in Cincinnati, Ohio.