CoJourners: Participating in Others' Spiritual Journeys (Part 2) - The Guide

Two days ago I shared Part One in this 4-part series, detailing the role of being an Explorer in someone's spiritual journey. If you haven't read that yet, I suggest starting there before reading this.

...You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, into a prison that you cannot taste or smell or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You must see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and you believe…whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
— Morpheus, "The Matrix"

Like Neo, we all need a guide when it comes to navigating the big things in life - new cities require maps, new tools require instruction manuals, and new ideas require a teacher. Spiritual exploration is no different. We need someone to come with us, walk alongside us, to point us toward the truth and help process what we learn along the way. 

This is the next role you assume - "The Guide." Throughout the Bible, we see God's people assuming the role of a spiritual guide as they point those around them towards the truth. Take a second and think of some of the most famous Biblical characters. Moses, David, John the Baptist, Paul. All of them assumed the role of spiritual guide at some point in their stories. 

If you remember from the last post, we discussed what a sound barrier was, and how to overcome the first two. In this post, we'll discuss the next two, and how you can move past them in your journey.

When in conversation, the next sound barrier is Moving from Spiritual Conversation to the Gospel. You've already done the hard work of building trust, forming a relational connection, and getting into conversation about spiritual things - but now what? This is honestly the most difficult barrier I think one can encounter. It's easy to talk about "God" in the big sense, but getting down to sharing the nitty-gritty of the Gospel is where many people find themselves stuck, forever floundering in the shallow end with the entire ocean just a few feet away. 

This was my reality, too. A lot of my conversations looked like this:
Me: "So what's your spiritual background?"
Friend: "Well, I went to church occasionally as a child, but when I was a teen we just stopped going. And honestly I've just never really gone back, you know? But I think I believe in God...."
*awkward silence*
Me: " did you see 'Dancing with the Stars' last night?"

Ugh. I'm just no match for the awkward silences. When that inevitable Sound Barrier arose, I would panic and change the topic. I just couldn't figure a way around it, until I learned this one key thing:

Ask for permission.

Seriously. It's that simple. Asking for permission puts a ladder against that sound barrier and allows you to climb right over, no bait-and-switch or tricky foot work required. The best part? It's respectful and tactful, and allows your friend to respond to your advances at their own pace. 

"Can I tell you a little bit of my own story?"
"Can I show you what has really helped me understand .....?"

"Can I tell you what I think about X ?"

In ongoing relationships, where you know you'll have the opportunity to talk to the person in the future, the key word to use is "sometime."

"Sometime, can I share something with you that has really helped me? It's a short outline that gives the essence of what the Bible says about this."

The word "sometime" takes the pressure out of the moment, and most people will probably say yes. Then all you have to do is set up another time to meet in the near future. My favorite part about this? It gives you the opportunity to invite others in to pray for you and your friend and your meeting together. 

Sometimes, people will say "no," when you ask for permission. That's ok. It just means you ease off for a bit, and come back to the topic later. It doesn't mean that they'll never be open to hearing about God - just maybe not right then. And that's ok. We need to to realize that "boldness" in evangelism doesn't mean coming into the conversation with a gospel-shaped wrecking ball. Rather, it means knocking at their door, again and again, and being prepared to come inside when they allow us. 

I'm really sorry that I probably just made you start singing "Wrecking Ball" and imagining Miley Cyrus in your head. Here's a picture of a really cute kitten to cleanse your brain.

The other key in being a Guide is to share a little bit of your own story. A LITTLE BIT. (No really, I mean a LITTLE. No one likes it when someone talks too much about themselves, so be especially careful to not share too much all at once. Brevity is key.) 

Take a second, and try to think of how you would share your encounter or experience with Jesus in one sentence? (John 4:29)  How would you sum up some of the amazing things that knowing Jesus brings, like forgiveness or love? (John 5:19, 20.) How could you share your own story about Jesus in just a few minutes? (Acts 26:1-32.) Being able to share these things briefly could help pique the interest of your friend, and open doors for further conversation in which you can share the full gospel.

Another tool to have in your back pocket at all times is the ability to succinctly and clearly explain the gospel to someone. There are plenty of illustrations and diagrams out there, but the one I prefer is Cru's, "Would You Like to Know God Personally" tool. It is basically the cliff notes of the Bible, and allows you to walk someone through a simple outline of the Gospel, and invite them to make a decision about what you've told them. It's simple enough that you could memorize it, if you wanted to, and draw it out on a napkin or the back of a receipt. 

However, if you're like me and have the memory of a goldfish, you can download this in a well-illustrated app (for iPhone and Android), and have it on your phone or tablet, ready to use when you need it. 

The "Would You Like to Know God Personally" portion of the "God Tools" app can help you share the gospel succinctly and clear with someone.

The final tool to have in your belt as you play the role of "Guide?" Christian community. Many, if not most, non-believers have never had the opportunity to participate in real, honest, gospel-centered community. Whether you invite them to your Bible study or an informal hangout, getting to be around committed Christ-followers gives non-Christians a chance to experience the grace and love of the gospel first hand. Getting to see how Jesus transforms the lives of average people can be an important step for a non-Christian in committing their life to Christ. 

To give you an example of what this all might look like, I'll share another story from my own life. Last year, I was out having lunch on the campus of Hocking College with a student in our ministry. As we were chatting, an acquaintance of hers came and sat down with us.  For the purposes of this story, we'll call him "Tony." We talked about various things for a few minutes, gradually moving from general introductions to spiritual conversation. Tony shared a story about how his mom used to send him to church as a punishment while growing up, and finished the story by saying something along the lines of, "I was just never really interested in a God that only wanted to punish me."

At that moment, I had a choice in the conversation. I could either allow it to naturally shift to the next topic, or I could take the bait and ask Tony for permission to go further. I swallowed my fear, and chose Option B.

"Tony, I actually don't believe that God really likes punishing us, honestly. Could I share with you what I believe?"

Tony said yes, and we had a lively conversation about the gospel, which included me drawing several diagrams on a napkin to illustrate. Tony wasn't ready to make a decision about Jesus that day, but at least he walked away knowing that the Bible actually taught that God loved him, and was interested in a relationship with him far more than punishing him for the things he had done.

I love, love, love getting to act as "Guide" alongside someone in their spiritual journey. Everyone wants someone to help them through new territory, and spiritual matters are no different. In my experience, people are often grateful and touched that you cared about them enough to walk through spiritual ideas with them.  It shows a level of love and vulnerability that many people never experience out of their daily friendships. 

So now, you know as a Guide that the most important pieces are to,
-Ask permission
-Share a little bit of your own story
-Invite into gospel-centered community.

As you act out the role of Guide in someone's spiritual journey, I think you'll find that more often than not, people are incredibly open to hearing about Jesus and his invitation to come to Him. We just have to be willing to do the work to cross those "Sound Barriers" to move the conversation and the relationship forward. 

So, what about you? Have you ever gotten to act as a "Guide" in someone's spiritual journey? Has someone acted as a guide in yours? What was that like for you?

Tomorrow, check back in as we explore the role of a "Builder." This important role shows us how to overcome those inevitable "roadblocks" we'll encounter as we travel with someone spiritually. We'll talk about the most common kinds of roadblocks, how to respond to them with sensitivity and compassion, and ultimately how to overcome them as we seek to help people come to know Jesus.