I’ve been in the Christian ministry since I got out of high school and I have been trained in how to talk to people about Jesus, and today, I realize that all of these efforts in all their various styles were not correct. I will tell you how I talk to people about Jesus today. Maybe it will work for you, too.
What’s wrong with the old ways?
The common thread that runs through all the previous methods that I was taught about how to talk to people about Jesus, is that the methods were approached from what I call “spiritual arrogance,” which is referred to in Christian mental health issues as spiritual narcissism.
Spiritual narcissism is an arrogant state of mind that assumes that the person who is delivering the message is superior to every person that you are communicating with. The status of an inflated ego will make the delivery of any message more difficult to receive by anyone who would have an open heart even if they would benefit greatly from the message you are trying to deliver.
Spiritual arrogance or narcissism is offensive and will put any listener on the defensive. Here are the things that will cause someone’s heart to close down, making the delivery of your message fall on deaf ears:
- Bragging about your spiritual or religious endeavors.
- Using your faith or spirituality to manipulate others in order to improve your religious status.
- Communicating with a condescending attitude, passive-aggressiveness, and/or defensiveness.
- Pointing out flaws and errors in personal or religious areas of life.
- Telling someone that they are wrong, and they must do what you (or the Bible says) or else.
- Asserting that you and your view of God are right, therefore everyone else is misled.
- The assertion that this or that is black-and-white.
- Overburdening a non-believer by quoting 2,000-year-old text (the Bible).
- Avoiding personal responsibility, “It’s not me, it’s God.”
I’m sure you could think of other things to add to the list, but you get the idea. As much as you are trying to relate to this person, you cannot do it, if you’ve caused them to disconnect due to your delivery method. Check the body language, they stiffen, lean back, reduce eye contact, and after the eye roll, you’re done. You have lost before you even got started. To keep going, after the receiver has already shut you out, is equivalent to narcissistic abuse.
Debate and Intimidation
I know, back in the day, bullying people and overwhelming them with data, scripture, and the threat of burning in hell could result in a conversion to your idea or belief and truth. Today, debating and over-powering someone is not effective. You cannot intimidate someone to give their life to God.
Just stop it.
How to Talk to People About Jesus
This is so simple, but if you are used to outdated methods of manipulating or persuading someone to convert to your idea of what God is all about, you may have bad habits that you will need to break before you can effectually communicate with another human being heart-to-heart.
Heart-to-heart communication is the only way to truly reach out and connect to another person.
To do so, you must,
- Let go of any expectation of an instantaneous conversion.
- Love them with the level of love that Jesus would have.
- Make it about the person you are talking to. Don’t make it about you.
- Seek to listen to them, then understand where they are coming from.
- Use scripture sparingly and paraphrase it in your own words, this increases relevancy.
- Use your religious experience and words sparingly.
- Let your life be your testimony. Let them ask you why you are different.
Avoid doing these things at all costs. Do not:
- Judge them or try to hold them responsible for believing differently than you.
- Be critical about their current lifestyle.
- Offer them your perspective or advice unless they ask for it.
- Overwhelm them with TMI “too much information.”
That is a lot of ground to cover in this brief presentation, and it can be extremely hard to change the way you approach others about something that you are so passionate about.
Let it be known that it is not working the way that you’re doing it now, and you’re probably doing more harm than good.
I often see people and try to support them to recover from what they call, “spiritual abuse.” Don’t be one of the perpetrators of spiritual abuse, or risk being labeled a spiritual narcissist. Don’t let this happen to you.
How I Do It
I guess I just live my life and love everyone like I think Jesus would. I am a big fan of Jesus and I think he just loved everyone. It didn’t matter who they were, where they were on their life’s journey, or even if they had a questionable character in the past. He just loved them.
That’s what I do, in the work that I do when I meet with people. I no longer try to get them to fit in my world, I do like St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9 (22), “I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” and that works for me.
It works for them because they are inviting me into their world. They are never defensive, always open, and I never judge them. It’s a real connection that we share. It’s that heart-to-heart thing. The added benefit for me is that I get access to the most interesting information that they wouldn’t tell anyone else. I am blessed just to be there.
Try it. You might like it.
If you are interested, you can take our free course, “How to love others like Jesus.”