To Engage a Curious World
Walking around Athens, as recorded in Acts 17, Paul noticed a statue inscribed “To an Unknown God.” He basically told the Athenians he knew the Unknown God and proceeded to tell them about Jesus. Not everyone believed, but some of them wanted to stick around and chat more. There’s a lot we can learn from how Paul engaged the philosophers of Athens. Here are three suggestions—essentials, if you will—we can consider as we encourage others to seek the God unknown to them.
Notice the answers that others are actually seeking.
In the midst of our evangelism and discipleship trainings over the years, we have loaded up on packaged answers and convincing arguments. The problem, as Sean Connery’s character asserted in the movie Untouchables, is that we are too often bringing a knife to a gun fight. In other words, we come with answers to questions people aren’t asking. What if, instead, we noticed the question they are actually asking, the concern they actually have, and the answer they actually seek?
2. Notice the people who welcome further conversation.
Throughout our evangelism and discipleship training over the years, we have been trained on how to make a gospel conversation happen, and even at times, how to force the issue. The problem, as Catherine asserted in the Broadway production of Newsies, is that we don’t pay attention to when it actually might be a good time to shut up. In other words, we are already thinking about what we feel the need to say rather than noticing what others are feeling and whether they are welcoming us to speak further. What if, instead, we listened well to what they had to say and looked closely to notice whether they were welcoming us into more conversation?
3. Notice how the God you know connects to the God others don’t know yet.
During our evangelism and discipleship training over the years, we have held to an assumption and presumption that people already know something about the God of the Bible and quite possibly want to know more about Him. The problem, as Winnie the Pooh said, is that lots of people aren’t as worried about where they are going as much as they are focused on where they’ve been. In other words, people today are often ignorantly content, ignoring the contentment that could be theirs while holding blissfully onto the hollow certainty and sometimes even the comfortable unknown they’ve grown accustomed to. People aren’t always looking for us to make a connection, but we should always be praying for wisdom and discernment as to how Jesus connects into the unknowns people have accepted. What if we got really articulate about how we ourselves need Jesus and noticed how our experiences with Jesus might possibly connect with whatever the experiences have been of those we engage with?
Three essentials. Notice them. May we be His witnesses who encourage others to see and seek Jesus, too.