Recently, the Caskey Center for Church Excellence reported that our students have engaged in over 60,000 gospel conversations since August, 2014. The Caskey Center for Church Excellence requires all of our scholarship recipients to share the gospel at least once each week during the semester. In addition to the great news of 60,000 gospel conversations, a total of 7,485 salvations have been reported, which reflects the fact that 12.4% of the gospel conversations have resulted in salvations.
I have been the Associate Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence since January, 2015. While I was not present for the first semester, I have had a front row seat for every semester since. I would like to share a few observations on what I’ve learned from these 60,000 gospel conversations.
- Intentional is Essential. While it is true that many of our students over the past 8 years would have had one-on-one gospel conversations, the fact remains that these 60,000 conversations occurred because each student intentionally engaged in a conversation and prayerfully guided the conversation towards the gospel. God is ready to grant His mercy and grace. We must be intentional in looking for those divine appointments.
- The Best Place to have Gospel Conversations is Where You Are. Of the thousands of gospel conversations each semester, there is no single location where the gospel was most effective. Our students have shared the gospel at church, at home, at the store, at the post office, at schools, at the park, at restaurants, at sporting events, on the street, in the air, on a boat, and many other places. Anywhere and everywhere is ideal for engaging in gospel conversations.
- Rejection of the Gospel is the Most Frequent Response. This is not an encouraging observation since we know what that rejection ultimately means for that person. However, 87.6% of the 60,000 gospel conversations resulted in either outright objection or an expression of unreadiness. We should remember this decision is between the hearer and God. If God does not force them to be saved, neither should we. Our response to rejection should always be prayer and follow up. Continue to love the person. Pray for the person. Find opportunities to share the gospel in the future.
- Accountability Helps. Many of our students commented over the years that knowing they were going to be asked about their gospel conversations helped motivate them to be intentional in having gospel conversations. Find someone to partner with you to ask about your gospel conversations on a regular basis. Pray together for the people you encounter.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Share with Loved Ones. Many of our students have reported being intimidated to engage in a gospel conversation with family members. However, once done, they found the fear of rejection from their family member was largely unfounded.
- More People Than You Think Are Willing to Discuss Spiritual Matters. There is an old Emily Post saying, “never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” This rule of etiquette is to help avoid conflict. I think a better rule would be to learn how to talk about spiritual matters with an attitude of love. People are more than willing to tell you what they believe about spiritual matters, as well as to hear what you have to say.
- It’s Harder to Transition to the Gospel Than It Is to Start a Conversation, but It’s Necessary. Striking up a conversation is not too difficult. This is true even for introverts. Finding a good way to transition the conversation to a spiritual discussion and ultimately to the gospel is not as easy. As you begin every conversation, pray for God to speak through you. Don’t worry about being smooth or effortless in your transition. Simply look for conversational connections. They will be there.
These are a few of the lessons I have learned thus far. I am excited to see what the next 60,000 gospel conversations reveal. I pray the future gospel conversations make much of Jesus, and I pray you would join us in intentional personal evangelism every week.
Jeff Farmer, PhD, serves as professor of church ministry and evangelism and he is the associate director of the Caskey Center. He oversees the research efforts of the Caskey Center and consults with smaller membership churches.