Making Disciples - Part 7

How to share the gospel with unbelievers: when is the right time?


Randy Pope

President of Life on Life Ministries


The following video explores one important aspect of learning how to share the gospel with unbelievers – watch now to identify the right time to start a gospel conversation.


So now we want to answer that important question: When is the right time to invite someone into a discussion or to investigate the things of Christianity?

Let me use an analogous situation that might help us understand the answer to that question. Imagine that you’re in a hotel. You’re a large forum area where you’re at one end. You notice, walking across the back of the room, there is someone that you’ve been wanting to have a conversation with. So you call them by name and as they’re walking. They look back at you, and they see you and you see them. You wave, and they wave back. And so, you kind of do a motion with your hand of, “Hey, can I talk to you just to…”.

About that time. You see them turn their head, pick up pace and start walking a little faster moving away from you. So, what do you think? Well, if you’re thinking correctly, you think this person does not want to speak to you right now. Imagine if you chose to chase after them. So, you start walking faster than them. You start going toward them and calling their name, but they speed up a little more. Well now you know for sure they do not want to speak to you.

That’s the picture of the Christian faith in terms of how we share our faith with other people. It’s become so typical that there is no lack of people today that are avoiding Christians saying, “I don’t want to have a close connection with you because I know you’re coming after me.

Using that same analogy, let me explain maybe how it should be done. Imagine that this person is now walking across the back of that lobby, and you say their name. They see you and wave, and you kind of wave them towards you, and they start walking toward you. You begin to approach them, and you finally get to a place that you think, “Now is the time to have a conversation.” You wouldn’t start the conversation when you’re far apart. You’d wait until you got closer. Let me dip into that analogy just for one minute, telling you a true story.

I’m in the gym. I’m working out and I’m standing up right in an aisle. Somebody calls my name. It’s someone that I’m acquainted with, but don’t know well. They say, “Hey Randy!”

I look up, see him, and I said, “Hey.” I could tell they wanted to talk. So, I start walking toward them. They begin to walk toward me.

Here’s what happened though. When I stopped, seeing us in a close enough place to be able to have a conversation, he didn’t stop. And do you know what I mean? That uncomfortable feeling when someone walks, and their face is so close to yours. Well, I don’t want to be rude to him, so I just very graciously take a little step backwards without being too obvious what I’m doing. Now, if you’re in my shoes, what would you hate? You know, it’s for them to take a step closer to you.

That’s what he did. And so, I took another step back. He took another step closer, and we are way too close to each other. And so finally I was getting so frustrated. I thought I’ve got to turn this into a game. I thought, there’s a wall behind me about 10 feet. I’m going to see how far he will chase me. I’d take a little step and then another step, and finally, my back is to the wall. He’s right up in front of me. When that conversation ended, I thought, I will avoid this man here at all costs.

And again, that’s what Christians are being guilty of. They get too close too quickly. Going back to the analogy, what we really want to do is. They get close, you see that they want to converse with you, and you finally get to a point where you think you’re close enough to have a conversation. And, because you think that this could be an opportunity, you might throw out a small piece of conversation, topic, issue, or something that may have to do with religion. It could have to do with church. It could have to do with happiness. It could have to do with whatever you deem reasonable, and you just throw that out and see. Look. Watch their body language. What do they do? And at any point, if you see them kind of continually engage and sense that they’re into this conversation, you might try a little further. But, at any point when you find them backing up, the last thing you and I want to do is step forward into them.

In fact, what I suggest is that if they ever show any evidence of backing up—meaning their facial expression, their attitude, anything—then I will take a step backwards. Hopefully they will likely think, “Oh, maybe I was wrong. I thought he was coming after me spiritually.” Now I know this is not a good time. And so, I want to encourage you think about it that way.

As you get trained in how to share your faith, you’ll come up with a handful of things that you could say to people that you’ve found have been engaging in spiritual things, but always remember, don’t get to the place where they feel uncomfortable talking to you. Wait until you can build that opportunity in a correct way.

Now you may say to me, “Hey, you’re violating your own rule of thumb. A few videos ago, when you shared the story of meeting over lunch, they pushed their hand out at me and showed every indication that they were not interested to talk. I did pursue a little further, and I did violate what I typically would not have. If you remember, I kept pressing and said, “Would you be willing to listen to a little, quick diagram?” The reason I did that, and I did take a risk, but I took the gamble because I knew there was not a whole lot to lose. I was not going to see this man again, I knew that. And I thought, you know, “He might just be willing to just see the diagram.” And I did promise him that if he wasn’t interested to talk further, then I certainly would not say anything else.

But here’s the thing. Make sure, just make sure that you are being very careful. Pray. Ask God for leading, and then follow these little rules of engagement and watch what God does.

Having completed these videos, I hope you’ve got at least a little bit of an understanding of what life-on-life, in terms of making disciples, is. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it. There’s a lot more that we can offer, but this has hopefully given you some great insight into what this life-on-life disciple making is all about. Thank you for taking the time to watch the videos. I truly hope it’s been helpful, and I hope we can help you more in the future.


If you would rather read this series, you can download the Making and Training disciples booklets here.