Taylor Turkington and Rebecca McLaughlin discuss ways to engage unbelievers in conversations about God. They address:
- Understanding our assumptions about evangelism (0:43)
- Framing gospel conversations (1:16)
- Turning conversations to spiritual things (2:13)
- Being honest about your own need for Jesus (2:40)
- Inviting others to worship services as part of evangelism (4:03)
- Talking about the Bible and the gospel (4:38)
- Challenges to talking about the gospel (6:05)
- Trusting the Lord to work through our conversations (7:16)
Read more from TGC on this topic:
This episode of TGC Q&A is sponsored by The Gospel Project—a chronological Bible study for all ages, explaining how Scripture points to Jesus, encouraging us to live on mission. Visit gospelproject.com/tgc to download a free eBook and try additional resources.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Taylor Turkington: Hey Rebecca, I am glad to have this conversation with you today.
Rebecca McLaughlin: Me too.
Taylor Turkington: We need to talk about how should you engage the unbelievers in your life and conversations about God.
Rebecca McLaughlin: This is the hardest and the most exciting thing about being a Christian in many ways, because we have a message and we have a movement, which is every moment of every day that there could be an opportunity to share the gospel with somebody. I think for me, it’s really easy to assume, on the one hand, that people aren’t going to be interested and to shy away, and on the other hand, to assume that rejection means I did it wrong. And I don’t think either of those stand up to the scriptures.
Taylor Turkington: I think you’re right. So often when people reject the truth of the gospel, we feel like we were rejected, which isn’t true. And another thing that I think I’ve noticed in my life is that, even as I come to speak about these things, I am way more nervous than the person I’m talking to, the person who’s yet to believe, like I am sweating and shaking because this is so important to me and the nonbelievers’ like what is wrong with my friend? Because we just need to get over the fact that people may want to talk about this.
Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah. I think people spend a lot of time having quite surface and quite boring conversations with each other and we have the opportunity to open up our hearts and to open up other people’s hearts. So asking a friend for their story and being willing to share ours in ways that are maybe vulnerable and expose our weaknesses rather than just talking about how put together we are is actually a real opportunity.
Taylor Turkington: Yeah, that sounds good. Even being able to talk about the things that are broken in our lives and the way the Lord meets us in those, forgiving our sins and revealing our temptations. Those are good things, even today, rather than just back in the day when the Lord first brought me to faith. And I think that that often leads me to a place where I can talk about God in my present life, which makes it so that I can ask the person across to me like, “Do you have a spiritual background?” Or like, “What is your spiritual background.” Or the process that you’ve come through in spirituality and being able to make the same with that everyone has some sort of spiritual process that their beliefs impact their actions. And even making that statement sometimes sets me up for future conversations down the road.
Rebecca McLaughlin: I don’t know if you found this, but I have often found that people think that I’m going to tell them that I think I’m better than they are and I actually have to work quite hard to make sure that’s not what they hear, even if it’s not really what I’ve said. So I tend to, when I’m explaining the gospel to somebody, rather than saying, “You’re a sinner and Jesus died for you.” I actually start by saying, “I’m a sinner and this is why I believe Jesus died for me.” Just so that they can see that I am not saying I’m better than you. I had a conversation with a friend a couple of years ago where she was like, “Oh, you’re really not a good person, are you?” And I was like, “No, I’m really not you. You may well be a better person than I am, but that’s why I know that I need Jesus and I think that maybe you do too.”
Taylor Turkington: Yes. I think that’s so true, and I think early on when I began to share my faith, I was more presenting myself as someone who they should be like rather than showing how great Christ is. And I think even in conversation, something I often do is I’m thinking about the themes that we’re talking about and then revealing how great Christ is compared to whatever we’re talking about so that the greatness is on him instead of on me, and that might even be the brokenness of bad health or of temptation or guilt or shame or broken family structures that were designed to reveal the character of God, but often don’t. All of those pointing to the greatness of Jesus instead and natural conversation.
Rebecca McLaughlin: I err on the side of inviting people to church, even if I think that might be weird for them or new for them or something they’ll say no to,, because often people say yes and I’m surprised and I think it’s so important for people to hear the gospel from us, but then also to be connected with other Christians and to hopefully see a church community that is messy and broken and full of sinners, but nonetheless something that is beautiful and compelling to them because we are crying out to Jesus together.
Taylor Turkington: Yes. Yeah. I think it’s beautiful to see the community of people together, thinking about how we need him. The other thing I do is in connection to church is talking to people about the Bible. I often ask them, “Have you ever read the Bible? And in my context a lot of people have, but it’s usually in school, they’ve read a little bit of Genesis and a little bit of Song of Solomon. I have no idea why Song of Solomon, genesis makes sense to me. But that’s true that’s my experience.
Taylor Turkington: And then being able to say, “So what do you think the main message of the whole Bible is?” Being able to listen to them and then even being able to offer if they want to hear what I think the main message it is, which is the good news of Jesus Christ are oftentimes being able to ask, “Would you like to read more of the Bible? Would you like to, I love reading the Bible people. Do you want to talk about it with me because I really do.” And sometimes people say yes and being able to continue to engage with them about who God is that way.
Rebecca McLaughlin: I had a crazy situation with a friend in when I was an undergrad and she is a philosophy PhD student and we played on the same soccer team and we’re chatting one time and she was like so way cooler than I am in every possible way. And I said to her, “Would you be interested in reading John’s Gospel with me?” And she was like, “Yeah, I would.” So I spend this entire semester, once a week sitting with my friend, Claire, who was older and cooler and clever than I was. And we read through John’s Gospel and I don’t know the impact that it’s had on her today, but the opportunity to just open up God’s word with somebody is always so much better than any words that we have to say.
Taylor Turkington: And John is a great book to do that with.
Rebecca McLaughlin: With a philosopher especially.
Taylor Turkington: Wonderful. Well, Rebecca, here’s the question. What has been challenging for you as you have had conversations about God with people?
Rebecca McLaughlin: I am an Enneagram Two, which means I like to love and be loved. And the message of the gospel is offensive. And so anytime that I am sharing Christ with an unbelieving friend, I’m actually risking rejection, and if I’m not that I’m not being faithful to Christ ultimately. It’s so easy for us to imagine that if we only put the right words around what we’re saying, that it would always be acceptable. And that’s just not the experience that Jesus had or the first disciples had or that many of our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing real persecution have. So for me, the hardest thing is when I experience actual relational rejection and I don’t experience that enough because I don’t have enough boldness to do that as often as I should.
Taylor Turkington: You know, my friend that that is something that I have struggled with as well, though I think it’s also something in this season of finding the time to really be able to have full conversations with people and being intentional enough to carve out that time where I can be at the park and be talking to people or being going over and chatting with my neighbors for a good amount of time. But I am so thankful that we do not rule in these conversations, but rather our God is the one who’s pursuing people and we’re invited into this journey to be able to be the people who share the gospel with others.
Rebecca McLaughlin: Amen.