Years ago I discovered a technique for opening the door for the sharing of the gospel. I can't remember from whom or from where I got it, but it has been invaluable to me personally. It is simply the word "FORM." It is an acrostic for......
F..amily---asking with interest about the person's family of origin.
O..ccupation---asking with interest about the person's line of work.
R..eligion---asking with interest about the person's religious background and preference if any.
M..essage of Christ.---moving to the story of who, why, and how Jesus did what He did.
The two questions asked in the Evangelism Explosion technique have for the past 30 years been my lead in from Religion... to the... Message of Christ.
This little acrostic gave me an order of thought when I desired [felt led] to share the gospel with someone with whom I had only a few moments. [As on an airplane.] It gave an opportunity for me to move relationally to the sharing of the gospel on occasion as I traveled. That only, of course, if and when I came to the point of actually sharing the gospel.
You see, I had to discipline myself to never hurry through it or to never ask questions for which I was really unwilling to take the time to listen to the answers. In other words, I didn't want to be disingenuous in any conversation. [Having an agenda that allowed me to be manipulative in my conversation. People are NOT stupid.] Notice I said "I didn't want to BE disingenuous" not "I didn't want to APPEAR to be disingenuous." It wasn't appearance I was concerned about. It was the reality of my heart. So...there were times I didn't get to the gospel at all but I sure had a good conversation.
All this to say, respect for the other person should never be lost in our zeal to share the message of Christ.
That leads me to thinking about how many outsiders [non-believers] view many of us who profess faith in Christ. I'm not talking about their natural disdain for the message of the gospel which does, by it's very nature, seem to make many people uneasy, angry, and argumentative which are some of the milder reactions, I might add, that I've seen from people through the years. I'm talking about their view of us when we are ourselves argumentative, angry, non-relational and just being old fashioned jerks. [In other words, all too often, like the typical SBC blogger. :) ]
I've met and talked with non-believers enough to know what many of them think of the average christian. It ain't good. There are reasons that certain sayings have become cliches. Sayings such as........
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
"What you are is speaking so loudly I can't hear what you're saying."
"Church people are nice enough - as long as I go where they go and do as they do."
"I want to have real relationships with real people, NOT add religious activities to my social calendar... "
These cliches all exist partly because some christians try to witness with little interest in the person with whom they may be attempting to share the good news of the gospel and with little insight as to the importance of relationship. As a result there is no sense of relationship at all but, rather, a sense of adding a notch to our evangelistic six-gun as one goes about "witnessing."
I don't believe real sharing of our Lord [witnessing] is a propositional thing anyway. It is, in fact, the sharing of life. Ours first and then ultimately the truth of His life and death on our behalf. That takes time and the building of trust in relationships for it all to happen sometimes.
On top of this, I do believe we are to love people period. It is not a thing of.. "I love them so I can share the gospel." The fact that my love will ultimately include sharing the gospel is a reality but does NOT discount the fact that it will include a lot of genuine love BEFORE that opportunity arrives. If I forget this I've ceased being a bona fide witness. Of course there will be those times when there is no possibility of a prolonged relationship where trust and confidence can be built because of circumstances. It is those times which I'm addressing in this simple post. I hope it helps.
The gospel IS seed and we have the delight of sowing that seed as we go about the living of life. But it has taken me the last two-thirds of this post to make sure we don't see the first one-third as a mechanical, propositional, and even artificial sharing of the gospel. There is no such thing as that when the gospel is REALLY shared.