In our series on Conversational Evangelism, we're investigating
four types of conversations we have with people when talking
about God and His church.
So far in this series, we've talked about the first type
of conversation: Learn about people and their religion.
The second type of conversation is to identify common ground
so we're equipped to share the gospel with them.
Two Ways to Establish Common Ground
Paul shows us that establishing common ground culturally
and doctrinally is important.
Paul, in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-5), established common
ground on a cultural basis. He began his defense before
the Jews, speaking in the Hebrew dialect, establishing common
ground between himself and the Jews. This showed the people
he could culturally relate to them, and they could relate
Paul, making his defense before Agrippa (Acts 26:2-3, 26-27),
established common ground based on doctrine. Paul
acknowledged that Agrippa was expert in all customs and
questions among the Jews, and that he believed the Prophets.
Benefits of Establishing Common Ground
When we establish common ground, we build relationships
with people and become a positive influence in their
life. For example, Jesus was a friend of sinners, spending
time with them to teach them (Lk. 7:33-35; Matt. 9:9-13).
Like Jesus, we must build relationships with people who
aren't Christians, to reach them with the gospel.
When we establish common ground, we build credibility
with people and become a religious influence in their lives.
For example, Paul established common ground with the Galatians,
both as a Jew and a sinner (Gal. 1:11-24). When we establish
common ground, telling people about our journey from a life
of sin to a life of godliness, we become a credible witness
of the power of God that works through the gospel.
When we establish common ground, we have opportunities
to commend people for the things they're doing right.
As Paul began his message on Mars Hill, he established common
ground upon the fact that they were religious in all respects
(Acts 17:22-23). Often, to get someone to listen to the
truth of the gospel, we must establish common ground based
on things they're doing right, and not limit our discussions
to things they're doing wrong.
Paul's Example of Establishing Common Ground
Paul did everything he could to establish common ground
with people, and have an opportunity to teach them the gospel.
When he lived around Jews, he lived like a Jew. When he
lived around Gentiles, he lived like a Gentile. He made
himself a slave to all men, becoming all things to all men,
so he could "by all means save some" (1 Cor. 9:22).
Simply put, Paul bent over backwards to establish common
ground and teach the gospel.
As you think about yourself, can you say that you make
yourself a slave to all men, becoming all things to all
men, so you can save some?
Present-day Examples of Establishing Common Ground
We can establish common ground based on religious living.
If someone goes to church, reads the Bible, or prays, we
have common ground upon which to talk about God.
We can establish common ground based on moral standards.
If someone believes in chastity, raising children to believe
in God, not abusing drugs, or not using tobacco, we have
common ground to talk about God.
We can establish common ground based on doctrine.
If someone believes in God, Jesus, that God created the
world, that prayer is effective, that there is absolute
truth, that there will be judgment, or that there is heaven
and hell, we have common ground to talk about God.
We can establish common ground based on the example
of our lives, that all have sinned and can be saved.
When we share the story of our life as a Christian, we show
people the power of gospel as it performs it work in those
Establish Precedent: God's Word is Absolute Truth
While working to establish common ground, you have the opportunity
to establish the Biblical precedent you'll use to teach
Two examples of the Biblical precedent you can establish
in conversation are:
- We agree on an issue based on God's word (Jn. 17:17).
- Everything we do must be authorized by God's word (Col.
3:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Some phrases you can use to establish these principles
- I believe it, because it's in the Bible.
- I don't believe it, because it's not in the Bible.
- I believe something different, because Jesus said something
- God tells us what to do; He doesn't always tell us what
not to do.
- If we disagree, one of us may be right or both of us
may be wrong, but both of us can't be right.
Continue to Learn Their Vocabulary
While establishing common ground, you can continue to learn
their vocabulary -- common ground requires a common vocabulary.
Some frequently misunderstood terms we take for granted
are: believe, repent, confession, baptism. We should never
assume someone understands what we're saying, especially
when using religious words and phrases.
How do we learn another person's vocabulary? We ask questions
to make sure they understand our language, and we understand
Too often we spin our wheels, trying to communicate
with people, saying one thing while the listener thinks
we're saying something different. When we don't take time
to establish common ground by establishing a common vocabulary,
we usually fail because we're not understood.
What's Your Attitude?
If we have Paul's attitude, we'll do everything we can to
establish common ground with people, so we can win them
to Christ with the gospel.
What was Paul's attitude?
- Though I'm free from all men, I make myself a slave
to all, so I may win more.
- I have become all things to all men, so I may by all
means save some.
- I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that
I may become a fellow partaker of it.
What's your attitude?