Jesus was no door-to-door salesman. The Bible records not one occasion of Jesus knocking on the door of someone’s home in (fill-in-your-favorite-Bible-city) and asking if the residents knew where they would go if they died tonight. Jesus didn’t have a five-point message that ended in the waters of baptism. He didn’t often seal the deal on people’s conversions. Jesus wasn’t much of a "closer". Why? Because he loved them, and he knew a conversion by coercion is probably no conversion at all. And he trusted the plan God had set in place for their salvation. If you think about it, there’s a lot about Jesus’ conversations that you won’t find in your typical evangelism training. I’m sorry if that’s offensive to you, but it’s true. Just look at the gospels. Lots of people heard him teach, and lots of people noticed that he taught with authority. But there weren’t a lot of people who were actually convinced that what he was saying was true. And there was no one hanging out around the tomb on Sunday morning with “Welcome Back, Jesus” banners.
There’s another thing I find interesting (and difficult to imitate). Jesus would, apparently, talk to anyone. To my knowledge, Jesus never turned anyone away – even though he knew their deepest, darkest, ugliest secrets. One time, a guy named Simon was watching Jesus interact with a woman who had a terrible reputation. The guy thought to himself, “If Jesus really knew what that woman was like, he wouldn’t even want to be in the same room with her.”
Jesus knew what the guy was thinking and called him out. Then he proceeded to let the guy know, in no uncertain terms, that he thought this woman might actually be closer to God than Simon was!
He talked to a rich young ruler and an impoverished widow, a member of the Sanhedrin and a member of the Roman army, Jews, Samaritans, Greeks, hookers, IRS agents, men, women, children, scholars, lepers. No one was too old, too young, too educated, to dumb, too sinful, too far gone or too far beyond the mainstream for him. He even talked to people he knew would walk away from him.
In most of these conversations, he asked questions. “Why do you call me ‘good’?” “Whose face is on this coin?” “You know the law, what do you think?”
Jesus is involved in 67 conversations in the Gospel of Mark alone. And they include at least 50 questions. People considered Jesus a prophet, but he was a very different sort of prophet from those who had come before him. The prophets we read about in the Old Testament were always trying to tell people stuff. Jesus was more likely to ask you something.
And then he listened to their answers. He didn’t just listen for their answers so he could go on with his pre-determined speech. He listened to them. He interacted with them. He gave them credit when they were correct or exceptionally witty. Once he even told someone, “You’re not far from the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 12:34).
Why does that not sound much like our typical conversational evangelism strategy nowadays?