Via Tim Brister:

1. Dwell Incarnationally 

I know the term “incarnational” is debated in missiological circles. If you prefer another term, that’s fine. It’s the concept that’s important. By that, I mean it begins by us going to where they are. Drive-by evangelism sowing seed into the wind, not the ground. By dwelling with unbelievers, we are penetrating darkness and going where Christ is not named. When I was in college, that meant I held block parties on Wednesday nights on campus. When I was in seminary, it meant working at UPS and getting there early to hang in the “smoke shack” (while holding my breath for long periods of time). As a pastor in Southwest Florida, it means working 2-3 days a week in the community (I’m typing this at Dunkin Donuts). The point is making yourself accessible to unbelievers so that skin and flesh can be put to what is a “Christian.”

2. Engage Intentionally

If dwelling incarnationally is going where they are, engaging intentionally is starting where they are. That means they determine the topic of conversation. You enter on their terms. If they want to talk politics, sports, pop culture, or whatever (assuming it is not sinful, vulgar, etc.), then enter in. People will generally talk about what is most important to them, and intentional engagement means understanding what they focus on the most.

On the one hand, there is their context. These are matters outside of them, usually events, people, situations, or issues they relate to in one way or another. On the other hand, there is their subtext. These are matters within them, usually feelings, struggles, challenges, problems, or hurts. People will share both of them, sometimes at the same time. If they go with the subtext, you know they are inviting you into the story of their lives. Each conversation is a page in the narrative of their life story. Eventually, you want to connect their story with the story of the gospel, for only then will it have a happy ending.

3. Listen Attentively 

Dovetailing off engaging intentionally is listening attentively. Most people talk about context or subtext matters but no one really cares enough to listen. The next person is waiting to one-up that with a better story or counterpoint in the conversation. Listening well means understanding not just what they are saying but why they are bringing it up. It also means taking notes (not at the moment but writing them down later), remembering names and previous conversations. When people know you care enough to listen well, their appreciation will lead to future permission.

4. Ask Provocatively 

By asking questions, you are not only validating your listening and understanding, you are inviting more participation. You are encouraging them to engage their own thoughts, convictions, feelings, and presuppositions with questions which are not necessarily confrontational but sometimes subversively so. Asking questions may lead to them inviting you to provide an answer to your own questions, assuming they will not have thought it through or simply don’t have an answer. The “What if” or “Have you ever considered” questions come to mind a lot.

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About the Author

Tim Briggs is the Creative Media Pastor at Church at Charlotte in Charlotte, NC. He blogs regularly at Church Sports Outreach. He also regularly writes about ministry, the church, technology, culture, and creative stuff. He is married with three children and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

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