I love the story in John 4 of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. It is a great example of personal evangelism. Why have we made evangelism so difficult? Why have we reduced it to a mere program? From John 4 we see where evangelism begins. It starts with our starting conversations with others. That is the first thing Jesus does. He initiates a conversation.
So how do we do that? How do we start conversations with people? Let me give you a few simple yet practical helps. It's not rocket science. Actually, it is pretty easy. And it's not just for the extroverted. Anyone can do it no matter what your temperament or personality. Here are some helps:
SMILE AND SAY HELLO! Don't underestimate the power of a smile and a greeting. You want to start conversations with people? Then make a commitment right now that you will never pass or encounter anyone without your being the first one to smile and say "hello!"
CALL THEM BY NAME! Every week we have encounters with people who are wearing something very intriguing...a name-tag! Cashiers wear them. Waitresses wear them. Store clerks wear them! And many other people who you do business with wear them as well. Question - why do all these folks wear name-tags? They are not wearing them for their own benefit. They are wearing them so that you will know their name. So use it! When you do business with someone who is wearing a name-tag, call them by name.
NOTICE THE OBVIOUS! When you have an encounter with someone, look for the obvious. Are they wearing a pin of a child athlete? No doubt that is a family member that they are proud of. Ask them about them. Are they wearing a unique piece of jewelry? Ask them about it. Are they wearing the shirt of a professional sports team or a certain college? Ask them about it. Notice the obvious and ask them about it. Just make sure it's really obvious. Don't ask when they are "due" if you are not 100% certain they're really pregnant.
LOOK FOR A COMMON INTEREST! That's what Jesus did in John 4. He used the common interest of water. Tulips work too. Laura and I were out to dinner with a couple from our life group. The conversation of tulips came up as we ate. A gentleman sitting next to us all by himself asked us a question about planting tulips. We talked about tulips for a quite a bit. From there we learned his name, his occupation, the fact that he was divorced, where he lived and more. We ended up exchanging business cards and I was also able to give him an Invite Card to our upcoming Easter service. And how did it start? It all began with the common interest of tulips.
PUT FRIENDLINESS OVER FUNCTION! Let's think of that cashier at the grocery store for a minute. She probably checks out 100 people on her shift. And every conversation is one of simple repeated function:
Cashier: Hi! Did you find everything you needed?
Cashier: Do you have any coupons?
Cashier: That will be $95.00
Customer hands the cashier money or swipes card.
Cashier: Here is your change. Have a good day.
For the average cashier, that conversation is repeated dozens and dozens of time every day. It is a matter of function. Don't settle for mere function. Put friendliness over function by using some of the tools we have just discussed. You will stick out to that cashier. She will remember you. And that is very important because the first step of effective evangelism is starting a conversation. Go ahead! You can do it!