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The only gospel conversations worth having…

by on September 26, 2012

The only gospel conversations worth having are the ones initiated by the other person.

 

That’s the quote that started all this. Thanks to those who’ve commented so far.

I don’t think we can accept the quote as it stands. However, I was hoping some people might explore it a bit, especially whether there’s a grain of truth in it. Might not this assertion stretch our thinking, even if we don’t end up agreeing with it?

I was even hoping someone might go to the bible for input!

Is there anything in the NT that might back up this point of view about evangelism?

Well, for a start there’s the gospel messages in Acts. I’ve just had a quick skim of the accounts where we get details of how the occasion started.
Results:

Gospel messages that were responding to inquiries: 11 +
Gospel messages initiated by the speaker: zero

The relevant passages are: Acts 2,3,4,5,7,8,10,13, 16, 17:19, 22:1 plus all the apologia speeches of Paul from ch.22 onwards.

In other words, in Acts the apostles are presented as passive in this preaching business. They only ever preach in response to some sort of demand…

Why have we never been told this in our churches?

(of course this raises the question of how there came to be all that demand…)

Just a bit of data I thought might be helpful in this discussion. Bible data is so often worth considering!  🙂

Love to hear more comments…

From → General

2 Comments
  1. Tom Habib permalink

    There are a few things about the proposition that I like:

    1. It is helpful to think about the value of building a relationship before sharing the gospel
    2. It encourages us to listen FIRST, before we talk
    3. It’s trying to grapple with the biblical data
    4. It encourages us to live Christian lives that would lead people to be interested enough to ask questions about the gospel

    Here is my problem with what is being said about the biblical data:

    What initiated gospel conversations? From my reading it is because of…

    Acts 2 – The miracle of tongues at Pentacost
    Acts 3 – The miracle of the crippled beggar healed
    Acts 4 – Persecution due to proclaiming the gospel
    Acts 5 – miracle of healing
    Acts 7 – persecution from preaching the gospel
    Acts 8 – Understanding the scriptures that he was reading
    Acts 10 – Vision from the Lord
    Acts 13 – Wanted to hear the word of God
    Acts 16 – Paul’s preaching. Lydia doesn’t seem to initiate – it seems like it is Paul who goes to the prayer meeting and preaches
    Acts 17 – Paul’s Preaching. In Thessalonica, Paul heads straight for the synagogue and starts preaching. In Berea he heads to the synagogue and starts preaching, in Athens he goes to the Synagogue and then the market place. The verse you cite (Acts 17:19) is not initiation by the crowd but a response to Paul’s preaching
    Acts 19 – Paul’s Preaching. In Ephesus Paul again initiates in the synagogue – when no one wants to listen he then sets up shop for two years in the lecture hall of Tyrannus proclaiming the gospel. The preaching was accompanied by miracles.
    Acts 22:1 – Defense of the preaching of the gospel

    In my reading, it seems that the Apostles take opportunities to initiate gospel conversations – rather than being passive. Whether it is that they are impressive because of miracles, misunderstood, asked for something else, or persecuted and imprisoned for proclaiming the gospel – they use the opportunity to initiate gospel conversations. At other times they simply get up and start speaking! It is their preaching that often causes people to start asking questions. A few more examples of that: Acts 5:21, 8:4-6, 8:25, 13:5. There are others.

    I think there are many things which can cause someone to be interested in the gospel. For the apostles, God testified with their message with signs (Hebrew 2:4). 1 Peter 3:1 and Titus 2:10 suggests our purity and trustworthiness may earn us a hearing, or even win people over themselves! But it seems that the biggest reaction we get is actually from proclamation! We say to someone, “Jesus is Lord” – they say, “No he isn’t” and you have a conversation!

    At the end of the day, don’t we see initiation with God and the prophets in dealing with Israel, Jesus in his seeking and saving the lost sheep of Israel and the Apostles in proclaiming the message of the risen Lord to the world?

    • Tom, thanks for taking the time to think this over in detail.

      There are obviously significant areas of agreement between us, re the value of sharing the gospel in the context of a friendship, and the importance of attractive lives that point people to Jesus. Oh, also about who that Jesus guy is!

      You’ve taken a look at Acts to see how the apostles conducted themselves, and summarised your view:

      it seems that the Apostles take opportunities to initiate gospel conversations – rather than being passive. Whether it is that they are impressive because of miracles, misunderstood, asked for something else, or persecuted and imprisoned for proclaiming the gospel – they use the opportunity to initiate gospel conversations. At other times they simply get up and start speaking!

      I’ll try to interact briefly with this summary.

      Word definitions: I think I haven’t made it clear what I mean by initiate in these posts. I’m meaning ‘bring up the subject’.
      And by passive I mean they didn’t initiate the activity of speaking to outsiders, but simply responded to inquiries. I’m not suggesting the apostles were passive personalities, or didn’t initiate anything! Just talking about the ‘speaking the gospel to strangers’ part of their ministry. When they speak it is because non-believers have asked them for an explanation in some way. They are always responding to someone who was already interested. That’s what I mean by ‘passive.’

      In your comment you seem to be using these 2 words in a different sense from me, so it seems like we are disagreeing more than we actually are, I believe.

      In none of the passages I referred to do the apostles approach people and start speaking first, or ‘try to bring the conversation around’, the way we are taught to do.

      Hope what I am saying is clearer now.

      More later, on ‘At other times they simply get up and start speaking!’, which I think is a misreading of the passages you’ve mentioned.

      Press on helping people to know Jesus, Tom!

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