Faith Talks: The Compassionate and Conversational Gospel

Is this how we view the people around us? Really? Do we truly see them as “helpless and harassed,” as “sheep without a shepherd,” or do we more often tend to see them as “sinners” or “selfish” or “worldly”? Until we see people the way Jesus saw them, we are not experiencing compassion toward them.

The F-A-I-T-H Model

Since my days as a youth pastor several years ago to becoming a lead pastor of a church, I have sought ways to help myself and the people I pastor share our faith more readily, more naturally, more frequently and more effectively. One tool that has helped me is drawn from the outreach example of Jesus. I simply call it the F-A-I-T-H model. Here is an overview of it, set up in a way you can use to teach and train people in your church:

Remember, effective outreach always requires FAITH. It always has and it always will. It may not come naturally to us, but with the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit it can become a much more “natural” part of our lives.

Several years ago, I began to see that my experiences in outreach, in sharing my faith and training my congregation to do the same, could be summed up in a set of guiding principles. These simple concepts have come to me over and over and proven to be a real help in this vital area. Collectively these five principles spell out the word  ‘faith’ as an acrostic. They can be easily taught and remembered. So, in seeking to live lives of compassionate conversation in outreach, we must:

Find someone.

This first step of effective outreach, whether personally or in community, is about seeing the opportunities of outreach all around us. We simply need to find someone in our lives to engage in conversation about Christ. As we slow our busy schedules and minds enough to see—really see—the people God has placed around us, we soon find that there are so many of them: people at work, at school, at stores where we shop, in our families, in our neighborhoods and so many other places—people who need Jesus. But for God to notice people, the people of God may simply need to notice them. Developing this kind of compassionate eyesight that Jesus had involves praying for these people and asking God to open our eyes and hearts more fully to their needs. Effective outreach always starts with seeing the people around us who need to be reached for Christ. Then our faith and our prayers have a focus.

Assume they like you.

This may be the most difficult hurdle for some of us to get over, but get over it we must. This step in the F-A-I-T-H model has been such a help to me and other people in the churches I have served, in the area of overcoming fear, hesitation and reluctance when it comes to engaging people in simple conversation. Charles Stanley says, “In order to win people to Christ, you need to know how to win them to yourself.”

This step is about believing in the possibility of outreach. Too often we do just the opposite, don’t we? We doubt ourselves and question whether people will be open to us and to what we have to ask and say. Isn’t it better to assume people will like you? Get that thought worked into your mind and keep it there. Give people around you a chance to get to know and engage you in conversation and friendship. This requires authenticity. Chuck Swindoll puts it this way: “Know who you are. Like who you are. Be who you are!” Remember, witnessing is not so much something you do; rather, a witness is someone you have become. It is a part of your identity.

Initiate conversation freely, frequently and naturally.

Organic is a word that has ratcheted way up on the usage meter in our age. We see it and hear it all around us. People are increasingly interested in foods, systems and practices that are as whole, natural and authentic as they can possibly be. This also holds true in our conversations. Today’s generation is really good at sniffing out times when they are being played or manipulated. Authenticity in our outreach conversations is perceived by others through our genuine compassion drawn from the example of Jesus.

This step involves engaging the flow of outreach. The best tool I know for initiating conversations is asking powerful and sincere questions. Jesus used questions all the time—no less than 12 times in the Sermon on the Mount alone. The questions we use with others communicate the level of interest we have in them. And one of the things many people find quite irresistible is genuine interest. Dale Carnegie once said, “You’ll gain more friends in three minutes by getting interested in others than you will in three years of trying to get them interested in you. In order to be interesting, you must be interested.” The Apostle Paul said something similar when he told the Philippian Christians to “put the interests of others before your own interests” (Philippians 2:4).

Robert Crosby
Robert Crosbywww.twitter.com/RCCrosby

Robert Crosby is the co-founder of Teaming Life Conferences and Resources. He trains and consults pastors in creating teaming cultures. Crosby pastored churches in Upstate New York and Boston and conducts Teaming Church and Teaming Family conferences. He is the author of The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press) and is a professor of practical theology at Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.). His next book, The One Jesus Loves, releases in March 2014 (Nelson Books). Contact him at Robert.TeamingLife@gmail.com
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