Today’s reading: John 3-4.
“How do I engage people to tell them about Jesus?”
It can only help to go to the master when learning, and Jesus was a master at witnessing. He crossed all divides. He got people talking about spiritual matters. They didn’t always commit to follow him, but he brought them to the point where they knew whom they were rejecting. One of his most dramatic encounters was with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus overcame many barriers and brought her to the point where she begged for the truth that he offered.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4:10-15
Paul E. Little did an excellent job of outlining Jesus’ method in How to Give Away Your Faith. We complain about the difficulties in witnessing today, but it was no different in ancient Palestine. Barriers such as their different sexes, different ethnic backgrounds, and different religions separated Jesus and the woman at the well. Look how he broke down the walls.
He met the woman where she was. One of the biggest obstacles for many believers, including myself, is that we aren’t around unbelievers. Jesus positioned himself at a common social gathering spot, the well, and waited. He met the woman on her territory. He didn’t sit in a church and expect her to show up.
He found common ground on which to engage her. He was thirsty. She had the means to draw water from the well. He asked for a drink, and his request started the conversation. They didn’t begin by talking about God, but about something which interested the woman. At this stage, listening is just as important as talking.
He piqued her interest. He didn’t blurt out the gospel, but instead drew her in gradually with comments that aroused her curiosity. Why was he interested in talking with her? What did he mean by “living water”? Sometimes this is called “raising a faith flag.” Mention something related to your faith or belief, and watch how the other person responds. If they respond with interest, it is an indication that God is drawing them to himself. ( “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44)
He didn’t tell the whole story right away. The woman said, “Sir, give me this water,” but Jesus saw that she was focused on the natural rather than the supernatural. He slowed down in order to let her understand him better, and so that she could see her own need.
He didn’t condemn her. Jesus wasn’t shocked by her lifestyle and he didn’t let it deter him from leading her to the truth. At the same time, he didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her sin, a step she had to take in order to repent.
He didn’t get sidetracked. The woman wanted to talk about where she should worship. There are many rabbit trails that a person may want to argue about. Don’t get caught in that trap. Stick to the main point – the good news about Jesus.
He confronted her with Jesus. At the conclusion of their discussion, the woman wanted to know about the Messiah, and Jesus made sure she understood that he was that Savior.
Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well isn’t a formula that will guarantee success every time we share the gospel. It does serve as a reminder of important truths that we shouldn’t ignore:
- You’ve got to meet and engage the lost person
- You need to find common ground to cross the barriers between you
- You unfold the gospel gradually according to the person’s acceptance
- You make Jesus known to them
Image from Wikemedia Commons, public domain