Being Effective in Evangelism – The Difference Between Conversion and Subversion

One of the things that gets people in trouble when it comes to evangelism is trying to subvert people rather than convert them. The word subvert comes from a combination of the words sub – from beneath and the Latin vertere – to turn. The word convert is similar but rather than turning from beneath it is to turn with. This is an important distinction. We are here to walk alongside people and not just undermine their current belief system and leave them out to dry. In every single conversion story in  the Bible you have someone who was willing to walk alongside someone to show them a better way. Even Paul’s conversion had Jesus doing that, although in quite a different way from the rest of the conversions in Acts.

If more Christians would engaged in conversion – to turn with someone rather than merely upset someone’s belief applecart we would have much more success in carrying out Christ’s mission. Too often we get caught up in the trap of proving ourselves right and them wrong, which only results in turning against someone rather than turning with them.

How do you turn with someone? Here are a couple of ideas. I would love to hear what ideas you have as well:

  1. Listen– people don’t care what you have to say if you don’t care what they have to say.
  2. Understand – Don’t just listen as in “uh huh, uh huh…well, I think that you are wrong because…” That doesn’t show them you have attempted to even understand what they are saying. Listening is more than appearances. We listen because they are valuable and because we want to understand where they are coming from so we can best help them get where they need to go. Pastor Barber told a story about a person she sat next to on a plane who was trying to convert her. Don’t you think if the guy would have listened and tried to learn a little more about who Pastor was there would be no way he would have tried that! Clearly he didn’t care what Pastor had to say.
  3. Don’t expect them to get it down perfect. Walking with someone is through ups and down even though they may disappoint you, but you still walk alongside them and help them through their difficulties.
  4. Win the soul, not the battle. Speaks for itself.
  5. Discuss, don’t argue. Arguing builds walls, discussion tears them down.
  6. Have empathy toward any bitter feelings toward Christianity or God. They have their own story of why they feel that way. Instead of letting it slap you in the face personally let them know you can understand how they might feel that way and work with it rather than let it build walls.
  7. Be in prayer for them.
  8. Don’t topple their belief system and leave them out to dry…show how God fills the gaps so they have a fuller understanding of God rather than a belief system shot full of holes with no way to mend them.
  9. Be the first to admit your own weaknesses and shortcomings. If people think you think you are perfect – door closed.
  10. If you stumble in front of them, model how a Christian makes things right again both with God and others.
  11. Have more grace than judgment

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