CoJourners: Participating in Others' Spiritual Journeys (Part 1)

“Everyone is on a spiritual journey. We can’t help it. God created us that way. Granted, some are moving toward God and others are moving away from Him. Some pursue gods who aren’t God at all. Others are stuck in a spiritual quagmire and are not going anywhere.There are those who are spiritually open, while others are closed. Some are spiritually involved; some are not. But in each and every case, they are on a spiritual journey. Here is a second fact you can count on—God is already at work in people’s lives, whether they ever glance heavenward or not…There is one more foundational insight—people like to travel together. It’s true on road trips and on cross-country flights.Even climbing Mt. Everest, you want to take a Sherpa or two along. And I’m convinced it’s true on spiritual journeys as well. Now, obviously most people don’t think of spiritual journeys as a social endeavor.We’ve been raised to obey the eleventh commandment, “Keep thy religious views to thyself—thank you very much. But here’s the key—while spiritual journeys are personal, they’re not private. We are designed as spiritual and relational beings. That means even a spiritual journey will be enhanced in relationship. Always has been, always will be—ducks quack, dogs bark, people talk. The inescapable correlative of all this is rather simple: people need people in their spiritual journeys.”

I love this description by Keith Davy, a Cru staff member. I think it so perfectly sums up some of the most basic truths I know – that we are all spiritual people on a spiritual journey, and we cannot do it alone.

Chances are, if you’re a Christ-follower, you have at least have some desire to share your faith with others. (If you don’t, well that’s a topic for another day.) Sharing our faith is something Jesus has commanded all of us to be a part of (Matthew 28:18-20). But most of us struggle with putting this desire into action.

We don’t know who to talk to, or how. We worry about it being awkward, or offensive. We struggle to articulate exactly what we believe, and can’t seem to figure out how to even get to a conversation where we can talk about what we believe! There’s so much to figure out, we can end up feeling defeated before we even start.

This was me as a young believer. At one point, I hated sharing my faith. I wanted to do it, but the first few times I tried went really badly, and I got burned. I didn’t want to risk those same horrible experiences again!

But eventually I realized that sharing your faith doesn’t have to be awkward, strange, or offensive. It can be done with gentleness, compassion, understanding, and tact. And I want to share what I know with you! This will be the first in a 4-post series on how to share you faith with others. (All content is taken from a Cru resource, “CoJourners”.) Like the material says, this is not a strategy, but rather a paradigm through which all of your life can, and should be lived. It is, quite simply, learning to come alongside God and others as we spiritually sojourn – that is, to “CoJourn”!

Hopefully by the end of these posts, you will feel equipped to share your faith with your neighbor, your co-worker, that parent from your child’s dance class, or basically anyone you know!

There are basically 4 roles a person assumes in this process: Explorer, Guide, Builder, Mentor. Today we’ll focus on “The Explorer.”

THE EXPLORER

When out and about in our daily lives, we encounter many different types of people. Often, we assume that we know where they stand spiritually and how open they would be to hearing about Jesus. But an Explorer NEVER assumes. As we Explore the people around us, we’ll discover people on a vast spiritual spectrum.

A diagram to display where most people fall on the "spiritual spectrum."

A diagram to display where most people fall on the "spiritual spectrum."

 

We’ll discover Christians – some who are Connected to a community of believers and growing, and some who are Unconnected.
We’ll discover Seekers – who are searching for God in their spiritual journey.
There are individuals who are Open – they are not actively seeking God, but they are generally open, if approached appropriately, if in a safe environment.
The greatest majority may be the Indifferent. For them it is just not on their radar screen, they aren’t thinking much about it, because it seems irrelevant to how they live.
Another group is the Resistant . Their resistance is rooted in world-views and beliefs that conflict with the gospel.
Finally, there are the Hostile. Their hostility could flow out of strong beliefs that conflict with the gospel, but often it flows emotional issues like bad experiences in their past. 

The purpose of these categories is not to "label" people, or shoe-horn people into a description, but to help us be aware of the different "way-posts" of a spiritual journey. Because, of course, we can't help someone along in their journey if we don't know where they've been, and where they a

When sharing our faith, we will frequently encounter difficulties, or what we will refer to as “Sound Barriers.” These are barriers that keep us from moving forward with someone in their spiritual journey, unless we can figure out how to overcome them. 

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We will discuss all of them eventually, but for now we will focus on the first two - 1) Initiating conversation and 2) Moving from general conversation to spiritual matters.

As an Explorer, our role is to ask good questions, and listen well. We can overcome those first two sound barriers simply by doing those two things. We want to initiate conversation that will help us figure out (1) from where someone has come [where they have been on the spiritual spectrum] (2) where they are now [their current position on the spiritual spectrum], and (3) where in their life we can point them to Jesus. We want to enter into their life with the intent to discover, learn, and understand.

The first thing to do is to ask good questions that will reveal common interests or shared experiences. These can be simple “chit-chat” type of questions such as “Where are you from?”, “What do you like to do for fun?” etc. As you ask questions, listen well and be interested. You especially want to listen for “windows to the soul” – statements or comments that reveal what is really happening within a person. Oftentimes, the easiest way to do this is simply by asking “How are you?” and genuinely wanting to know the answer. 

You see, life was never designed to work outside of a relationship with God and his commands for us. All of us are going to have unmet needs and desires, even after we come to know God.  Although the Gospel isn’t a panacea that will instantly cure all of our problems, it does change how we face them – and this is a significant window into being able to talk about Jesus with others.

Sometimes, you even get the chance to hear something that shows that God is already at work in someone’s heart. A passing statement about God, or a casual comment that screams that the Holy Spirit has already begun his work is an exciting opportunity to come alongside this already-begun work and continue it!

To give you an example of what this might look like in everyday life, last year I met a student named Skylar. As I chatted with Skylar, the topic of my job with Cru came up, and so I got to share a brief sentence about my spiritual life.  This led easily into my absolute favorite question – “What’s your spiritual background?” She shared that she didn’t really have one, but shared a brief story about her one church encounter. I listened well as she shared, and asked a few questions along the way for clarification, and to let her know I was listening. After she shared, I affirmed her experience, and then asked her, “You know, I get to teach lots of different people about Jesus. Would you be interested in learning more about God, if you had the opportunity?” She responded that she would, and we set up a time to meet later next week to talk more.

And that’s all it took! If she had said no, I would have affirmed her choice and left the door open by telling her that if she changed her mind in the future, I would be there. But she said yes! And that began our “Co-Journey” together.

That’s really it – ask good questions. Be a good listener.

Because I am the kind of person who really values concrete examples, here is a list of questions that I have found valuable, but please (please please please) don’t print this out and walk up to someone and start reading them. That would be…weird. The best thing you can do is to be friendly and genuinely interested in someone’s life.  Your questions can and should change dependent on your circumstances – who you’re talking to, in what context, and what kind of relationship you have with them. Be aware of their boundaries, and be sensitive to them.  Explore.

The inescapable correlative of all this is rather simple: people need people in their spiritual journeys.
— KEITH DAVY
  • What was your religious background as a child? Was your experience positive, negative, or neutral?

  • Where are you now in your spiritual journey?

  • Do you have a spiritual belief of any kind?

  • What words would you use to describe your life spiritually?

  • Have you ever been involved with a vital community of believers?

  • Have you ever been burned or turned off by religious people? If so, how?

  • What is most important to you? Why?

  • Who has had the greatest impact on your life spiritually? Why?

  • What don’t you believe?

  • How would you describe your belief in God?

  • Has anything ever happened in your life that has convinced you that God is real?

  • Who is Jesus to you?

  • Where would you say you are at with God?

  • Do you find yourself moving toward God, away from God or staying about the same?

  • Are you satisfied with where you are at or do you desire more?

  • What would you say is your greatest need spiritually at this time?

  • If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

  • If God could ask you one question, what do you thing he might ask?

  • If a friend asked you how to become a Christian, what would you tell them?

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your desire to know God personally?

  • What do you think is most important to God? Why?

  • Do you believe in a heaven and a hell?

  • If you were to die tonight, how sure are you that you would enjoy eternal life, that is, a never-ending relationship with God? Why?

  • If you were wrong about what you believe, would you want to know?