In the course of being a bi-vocational minister I have had the opportunity to study various methods of evangelism as well sales programs. It is interesting how similar they all are at the very core. However, some evangelism programs miss an important element — the relational element. They emphaize the key phrases or questions to move the person toward a final decision, much like some sales methods do. For example — asking a serious of questions that are all answered “Yes” with the idea of leading to the final question of asking for the sale (conversion decision) and the “Yes” is almost automatic. When you are sold in that manner you feel manipulated, as does the person being “evangelized” by a slick “method”.
David Ramsey notes that all sales transactions go through 4 steps. The bigger the transaction, the longer it takes to go through the steps. Buying a T-shirt — it happens in seconds. Buying a house or car — can take hours or even days (or if you are my wife months).
Qualifying / Building Rapport / Educating / Closing
In true disciple making we can see these four steps. In fact I contend the steps become somewhat cyclical in the life of a disciple.
When making a disciple the first step is qualifying — determining if there is any interest. Jesus said don’t cast pearls before swine. (Qualify your audience to determine if they are ready to hear and/or what they are ready to hear).
Then you build a rapport (relationship). There has to be a common ground or an earning of the right to speak. This is why the guy on the corner with a bullhorn is so much less effective in making disciples than the loving neighbor who shares her faith over coffee will be.
Education — Establishing who God is, who and what we are in relationship to Him, the role Jesus and His grace plays in building the bridge back, and what must be done to accept that gift of grace. These are all part of educating the potential disciple.
Ramsey notes that a sales close comes naturally and without effort if you have done the work in steps one – three. On Pentecost the crowd asked, “what must be do?”. The Ethiopian official asked, “here is water — why not baptize me here?”. When closing the “sale” is forced or uncomfortable. If we have to struggle with asking for the decision — maybe we have not done the work demanded.
Who do you know that is ready to hear some good news of hope in their life? What can you do to build a relationship with them? As you live life together you have opportunity to use “teachable moments” to share the hope that lives in you because of Christ. The close will come naturally.
But remember — this is a large transaction. They are giving up their life entirely. They are about to die to the old life and all they know of that life. It may take time. But do the work of making disciples and we can win the world, one person at a time……