Monday, April 16, 2007

What's in a Name?

This is a short blog to let you know that I changed the name of the Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) Blog that I have called up to this moment: Kingdom Come. Kingdom Come from the Lord's prayer is my fervent prayer: to make a difference in the lives of people through the Kingdom being on earth as it is in heaven. At the same time I have been captivated by a statement Susan Scott makes in her book, Fierce Conversations. She said the role of a leader is to engineer epiphanies in the lives of the people they lead. That is what SLE is all about, helping people have aha! moments in their lives--at the intersection of God's story of redemption and the lost person's own story.

Tomorrow I will share a synthesis of Principle 3 from Scott's book and SLE when I write about how a witness needs to be fully present with the person to whom he or she is witnessing. That can happen when we, as witnesses, listen more than we proposition.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Unmasking Makes Evangelism Real

Last week I synthesized Susan Scott's first principle of a fierce conversation into an evangelistic setting: Master the courage to interrogate reality. Essentially, the witness needs to inquire into and value the reality in a lost person's life. This week I move to principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. This is basically Scott's definition of a fierce conversation.

Both the witness and the lost person benefit in the evangelistic conversation when each in turn take their masks off and be real with each other before God. The witness unmasks as he or she is aware of the beliefs that are shaping the witness shared. More than the content of God's great story of salvation, the beliefs extend to what the witness believes about his or her own abilities in the conversation. What the witness believes about the lost person is also important. If the witness does not believe the lost person is a person worthy of God's salvation, obviously, that will impact the conversation. If the witness or the lost person is carrying around an incredible amount of personal pain, either may resort to abstract language, rapidly changing the subject, or telling their own story instead of staying on track with the witness.

The witness needs to create a safe enough atmosphere for the lost person to take off his or her mask as be real in the conversation, too. Letting the lost person know that it is safe to have questions, doubts, concerns, and even anger toward God, the church, or groups of believers is OK.

In her book for business and life, Scott encourages fierce conversationalists to write their own stump speech, just like a politician does. It needs to be brief, to the point, memorized, and told often. The witness needs to create a stump speech for his or her evangelistic efforts, answering these questions: Who am I as a witness? Where am I going in my witness with lost people? Why am I going there? Who is going with me?

Fro me, as a witness, I am fulfilling the Great Commission. In the spirit of the Greek participle of Matthew 28: 19, "As I go, I share the Gospel with those in my path." That is the value of a Story Listening Evangelism approach to witnessing. The tools are there for any occasion, for any person, to equip the witness to adjust the conversation to meet the spiritual needs of the unique individual God is seeking to save.

Where am I going in my witness? I am going to stay sensitive to the story that unfolds from the lost person and to the story of God that surfaces in the conversation.

Why am I approaching evangelism this way? Because it honors the lost person and provides room for the Holy Spirit to do the work of salvation.

Who is going with me? I hope you, the reader, is going with me. I hope business people who struggle with being politically correct in dealing with clients and colleagues will discover the effectiveness and respect that comes from this form of witnessing. I hope the person who has never led a person to the Lord is coming along, discovering that the process can be learned and followed by anyone willing to listen and care for lost people. I hope that people who want to be on the cutting-edge of the Kingdom will come with me on this journey to make evangelism real and fierce.

What mask do you need to take off in order to be a fierce witness? What beliefs mobilize your witness? What beliefs get in the way of your attempts to share your faith with a lost person?
What witnessing conversation are you avoiding with someone right now?

I invite you with the skills and tools of Story Listening Evangelism to show up in someone's life today, without your mask!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Evangelism Goes Fierce©

What if evangelism were practiced fiercely? No, I do not mean witnessing to people without regard for their feelings. That does not mean turn or burn tactics. Instead, I believe that if witnesses incorporate the principles of Susan Scott's book, Fierce Conversations, their efforts at sharing their faith with others will be enhanced. Every reference to fierce in this and future blogs is based on my understanding of Scott’s work, and my synthesis and application of her seven principles of a fierce conversation to Story Listening Evangelism (SLE).

According to Scott, fierce is honest, robust, intense, full of passion, power, and integrity. It is bold, courageous, and unbridled, untamed. Fierce is not blood-letting or telling other people off. That sounds biblical to me when the apostles in the Book of Acts were instructed to wait for boldness to come over them before they fulfilled the great commission. Fierce adds a boldness to witnessing.

Fierce informs our evangelistic efforts as it reminds us that Christianity is fundamentally an extended conversation with God. Sharing Christian faith with another person is also an extended conversation. Somehow we got in our minds that an evangelistic encounter is a one-time experience, an all or nothing offer to be accepted or refused in a moment's time. I like what Susan says at this point. “While no single conversation is guaranteed to change a person or situation, any single conversation can." Witnesses should be encouraged by that. Any one of our evangelistic efforts might lead to a person’s accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. More likely, several conversations may need to take place for that to happen. In fact, fierce is informative on this as Scott quotes David Whyte who says, "The conversation is the relationship." SLE is committed to teaching witnesses how to build relationships with lost person through conversations and listening for not only the lost person’s story, but also God’s story that is moving toward the salvation of the lost person.

Scott's definition of a fierce conversation is, "when a person comes out from behind himself or herself into the conversation and makes it real." It is interesting that she says when a conversation is real, the change takes place before the conversation as ended. Sounds like when we have a genuine conversation with a lost person, the work of the Holy Spirit does its transforming work even before our conversation is ended.

So how does a person begin to add fierceness to his or her evangelistic conversations? Scott would say that would begin by listening to ourselves first. She uses the concept of a stump speech. Just like a politician gives a stump speech about who he is, where he is going, how he is going to get their, and who he is taking with him, a witness needs to prepare his own stump speech. That means before a person engages in a fierce evangelistic conversation with a lost person, that person needs to have engaged in a conversation with himself and with his God. It must be said that before a witness can lead a person to God, that person needs to have been led to God himself. And that person needs to know where they are going in their witness to the lost person. That means a witness needs to have confidence in who they are as a person of faith.

The first principle of a fierce conversation is: Master the courage to interrogate reality. Master means it takes practice, and more practice. Courage says it all. Scott says that a planned conversation is a failed conversation. If you try, like a chess player to out maneuver the lost person even before you begin the conversation, the conversation will fail. If you plan a conversation with a tack and a script, it is likely to fail. It takes courage to show up in a conversation and meet the lost person exactly where he or she is at that moment in time, without a script, equipped only with a living faith and a sincere desire to hear and experience the lost person’s story.

Seems like we have been trained in the past in evangelism that there is only a single reality and that is: all lost people are alike. Adding fierce to our witness challenges us to discover the current reality in the lost person's life. That means asking questions. In fact Scott encourages practitioners of fierce conversations to not make any declarative statements until late in the conversation. That means no declarative statements until both the witness and the lost person agreed on the shape of the current reality in the lost person's life. While this fierce approach to witnessing may seem a little weak and passive on the surface, this very first principle calls for a vigorous interrogation of reality. That means that the witness does not accept what Scott calls in business the corporate nod. The corporate nod comes when a person merely agrees with the person for the sake of getting off the hook of explaining himself or herself. Sometimes lost people nod their head and don't really understand what coming to faith is all about. Sometimes lost people nod their heads just to get the witness off their hands. Here is where the witness asks the lost person to tell us what their nod means.

Mastering the courage to interrogate reality also challenges the witness to listen for the lost person's belief systems. Lost people have beliefs, too. And witnesses have beliefs that sometimes can get in the way of sharing faith. Are there people we do not believe God can save? Do people have to believe in God the same way we do in order to become a follower of Jesus Christ?

Scott talks about a military term called ground truth. Ground truth is what is actually happening in the field compared to what's span is being said is the official truth. Sometimes a witness will say one thing and believe another. Sometimes a lost person will not come clean up front about what they really believe. Ground truth in witnessing is revealed in the behavior of the witness as well as the lost person. How a person behaves reflects their current reality. For the witness, we're not talking about what other people believe, what our denomination says, or what we hope to believe in the future. Rather, our behavior reveals our current beliefs.

Interrogating reality also involves bringing up the undiscussables. What is it that the lost person has not had opportunity to voice to another person? Perhaps they haven't had an opportunity like the father with the epileptic boy who said to Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”
I remember visiting a man in the hospital in North Carolina. Practicing story listening evangelism with him, for the first time in his life he was able to bring up a subject that he thought he could not talk about. And when he did, it was not hard to see the transformation taking place, especially on his face. When he shared with me something he'd been afraid of talking about since he was a child, there was an incredible release of energy and tears flowing down his cheeks.

The challenge I have in using fierce evangelistically is the premise that no one owns all the truth. That is true for us as human individuals. I agree with that. The challenge is there are competing religious truths and our world. As a Christian, I believe that the full and final revelation of God is found in Jesus Christ. At the same time, I do not understand or know all the truth that there is found in Jesus Christ. You can call me a slow learner, or there is a lot left for me to learn. At this point the discussion could regress to a conversation of world religions and conflicting truths. I'll leave that for another day. Instead, I want to explore what Scott would call an ensconced witness. A witness who has all the answers will close the door to faith for a person who is genuinely seeking a relationship with God. If the lost person is ensconced in their refusal to hear God’s offer of salvation, then the witness can ask the lost person what their ensconcedness means.

The value of fierce at this point is for me to be able to share as much truth as I have appropriated about God in my life and to listen for the truth in the lost person's story. As you explore the amount of truth from God in the lost person's story, a good question to ask might be, "What is currently impossible to understand or accept in your current faith that if it were possible, it would change everything?"

That summarizes my synthesis of fierce and story listing evangelism to this point. Just like fierce is a way of life, so is evangelism. Evangelism is an extended conversation with the lost person, one conversation at a time. The lost person may come to faith in one conversation, or after many. Story listening evangelism is enhanced by Scott's concept of fierce when the witness masters the courage to interrogate the lost person's reality.

In the coming weeks, I invite you to join me in an ongoing fierce conversation about story listening evangelism and how it can be empowered by the principles of fierce conversations as espoused by Susan Scott. Next week we will look at Principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. We will look at the challenges a witness has in taking off his or her mask and being real in the evangelistic conversation.

P.S. I think you will find it interesting to read about Susan Scott’s own faith journey. You will find that in the October 2006 newsletter on her web site at Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Silence is Golden

Somehow witnesses and many other folks, too, have received the message from who knows, that it is important to keep talking and avoid silence at any cost in a conversation. William Isaacs in Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together wrote that people don't listen, they reload. Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations recommends "letting silence do the heavy lifting."

Silence is good. Silence is golden in witnessing conversations. Silence allows the Holy Spirit to work in the heart of the lost person AND the heart of the witness.

In a recent class on Story Listening Evangelism (SLE), two of the participants voiced concerns they face with this issue as they listen and witness. One said that it becomes awkward if they wait too long in the silence and it seems like they should have come up with something to say in the glaring gap of time that has passed in silence. the other said that here challenge is that she is already formulating what to say, even before the other person has finished speaking. That usually means the witness is missing something of what the person is saying.

For the second challenge, Isaacs recommends allowing the sound of the last word a person says to cascade into silence before the other person(s) in the conversation speak(s).

If the witness truly has no response at the time, then it is OK to say, I need to think about that. I'll get back with you. Christians do not have to appear or act like they have all the answers to be credible to another person. Being honest and modeling faith go a lot further than appearing as a know it all.

As for the first challenge, Susan Scott would say that the more complex the issues discussed in the witness, the need for even more silence. If the person witnessed to gets antsy about the witness's silence, the witness can simply, non-anxiously say I am giving what you said serious thought. Or the witness can do a perception check and say, It looks like my silence is leaving you a bit uncomfortable. Could I be right? Or I am wondering what your anxiety over my silence means?

Once again, these examples describe what is important in the SLE witness--the process.

In the next blog I am going to begin to introduce you to the newest tool in the tool box--applying the principles of Fierce Conversations(c) by Susan Scott to SLE. I will contend Evangelism should be Fierce (c).

See you again, then! Blessings

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another Affirmation for SLE

ABP and the Baptist Standard recently carried Tony Cartlege's North Carolina Biblical Recorder story Ron Martoia's presentation at a recent ministry conference. Martoia is reported to have said that there is little evidence that many Christians are experiencing true life changes. He encourages churches and ministers to think beyond a point-of-sale witness that focuses only on heaven to the biblical model of salvation that includes the whole person. He says that the Gospel is the fulfillment of the Old Testament's promise of shalom that suggests wholeness, wellness, and peace. He goes on to argue that Christian witnesses to the Good News need to speak a language that people understand in their own culture.

Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) fills that bill. SLE has as its starting point the lost person's story and the witness responds in the lost person's language, including cultural as well as sub-modalities like visual, auditory, and kinesthetic predicates. These matched predicates build rapport. As rapport continues to be built, the lost person is led toward an aha! moment where there is an incredible release of energy for life--the wholeness, wellness, and peace Martoia talks about. Yes, SLE is a powerful vehicle for presenting the eternal demands of God AND it is a powerful vehicle to enter into an ongoing conversation with a lost person toward that shalom.

Let me know how you are doing in your practice of evangelism. Send me you most difficult situations and I will look over your shoulder through the lens of SLE and coach you in the direction your next conversation with that person should take.

By the way, Houston Baptist University and Union Baptist Association are hosting an Introduction to Story Listening Evangelism on the HBU campus May 2, 2007. You can contact Dr. James Furr for more information, if you are interested in attending. His campus e-mail is


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Simple Scoop on Role of Dialogue in Evangelism

After last week's blog on evangelism applications of William Isaacs' work, Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, even I have felt the need for a Readers' Digest or Cliff Notes version of why dialogue is an important component of the Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) toolbox!

Essentially using the skills of dialogue in the evangelistic conversation helps keep the conversation open and going. The characteristics of Thinking Alone (abstraction/fragmentation, idolatry of memory, certainty, and violence) as described by Isaacs tend to shut the conversation down. Isaacs calls the characteristics of Thinking Together (participation, unfolding, awareness, and coherence) cures for Thinking Alone. The process of SLE is informed by the skills of dialogue and are used by the witness to be authentically present with the lost person.

That's the simple version. AND dialogue takes practice, practice, hard practice.

What was not included in last week's blog is the flow of the dialogue conversation through different fields. Fields are spaces in the conversation where there is a particular quality of energy and exchange (Dialogue, p. 257). Movement from one field to the next occurs only through crises that are caused by the people engaging in the dialogue ( p. 257). In essence these are thresholds through which the participants must cross over in order to have dialogue, and I would say, continue in the evangelistic conversation.

The first field is that of civility. This stage is characterized by a politeness going on between parties in the conversation. there is no capacity to carry on an intense conversation. People tend not to talk about what they really feel or think. Sometimes the witness in this stage is hit by the lost person's criticism of what is wrong with God, religion, the church, or some teaching. Very little reflection takes place in this field. the crisis, or turning point, in this field comes in the form of emptiness as Isaacs describes it (p. 263). For the witness the emptiness is a feeling of the need to empty oneself of any expectations if anything is to happen in this evangelistic conversation. Nothing is going to happen if the witness continues to expect this unique conversation to happen the way a tract says the conversation should flow.

the second field is called breakdown. Here the participants in the conversation begin to say what they really think. The witness creates a safe enough atmosphere for this to take place on the part of the lost person. And through effective use of counterstory and tracking of clues in the conversation, the witness is real, too. As it becomes safe to talk, the lost person may say what is really on his or her mind and the conversation can break down into blame or the taking of a position, or digging heels in more deeply. The challenge faced in this field is the surfacing of the pain in the lost person's life and in turn the pain that is kicked up in the witness's counterstory. This step is necessary for the conversation to go forward as both the witness and lost person realize just how difficult the journey is that lies ahead in facing sin, brokenness, a holy God, and letting go of self to embrace the Kingdom of God. At times in this field will become angry and talk about things in the past which feels like a safer way to deal with what is happening in the present. the past becomes a metaphor for the present. Tension rules this field and silence seems dangerous. Here is where the mettle of the witness is tested to provide silence and safety for these feelings to emerge and be examined without shutting the conversation down.

The third field is reflective dialogue. This is where the lost person begins to come to the aha! moment. They let go of the fight and begin to reflect on their story as it is mirrored back to them by the witness. together witness and lost person experience and explore God's story of salvation. Silence characterizes this field and time seems to disappear from awareness as a listening fro God's story to unfold becomes more intense.

Isaacs calls the fourth field the rarest. This is what SLE calls the aha! moment. Heart to heart conversation takes place between the witness and the lost person. The witness is a servant to the lost person as the conversation simply flows. Isaacs notes just how hard it is for participants in a dialogue to go back home after experiencing the fourth filed because people back home will have no idea what that experience was like. Imagine the townsfolk in the Decapolis region attempting to understand the now healed Gadarene demoniac as he shares what Jesus did for him alongside the Sea of Galilee.

What you have just read is my adaptation of Isaacs fields of conversation. While in purist dialogue as Isaacs describes it there is not a one-to-one correspondence to an evangelistic conversation, dialogue can be used to inform, guide, and experience an effective witness, all the while keeping the conversation going.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Evangelism as Dialogue?

Put on your SCUBA gear! What follows is DEEP STUFF! Not for the faint of heart!

Imagine my surprise, interest, and excitement as I opened for the first time Williams Isaacs' Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together! There at the top of the introductory chapter was Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together,..." I thought, "Wow!" and from an MIT professor! Maybe dialogue can be a key ingredient in effective Story Listening Evangelism

My immediate excitement was short lived for two reasons: First, consulting a trusted commentary on Isaiah, I discovered the verb to reason belongs to OT legalese for a rebuke. Sinners are not called upon to enter into debate with God but to stand at attention while He sums up His case against them and explains the alternatives facing them ( Page H. Kelley, "Isaiah," Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 5, page 189). Second, and more telling, is that dialogue purists, such as the dialogue think tank that Isaacs is a part of, say that in dialogue all parties give up something of themselves and come away from the table with something new, a synthesis. How can you have dialogue with an immutable God? How can you witness to a person with the absolute claim that God makes on a person? Is there something of God that bends in his seeking to save that which was lost? Or did the bending already take place in creation and incarnation? As tantalizing as a chase down those paths might be, I'd rather at this time share with you the things that dialogue can unequivocally contribute to the SLE toolbox.

Isaacs writes:

Most of us believe at some level that we must fix things or change people
in order to make them reachable. Dialogue does not call for such
behavior. Rather, it asks us to listen for an already existing
wholeness, and to create a new kind of association in which we listen
deeply to all the views that people may express (Dialogue, 20).

Perhaps the best evangelism is that which listens for the wholeness that comes from the fact that God's story is moving toward the lost person's story for an aha! moment collision. Perhaps the openness of dialogue calls witnesses to realize there is more than one way to enter into and stay in a saving conversation with a person--that there is more than one way to share faith with a person.

The essence of dialogue is providing a safe container, a crucible, whereby a lost person can examine the claims of God on his or her life and the witness can listen attentively to the cry for help and even the protests against God from that same lost person. A crucible's sole task is to hold, and that's all! Crucibles are fragile, they break easily, even those that hold molten steel when dropped, shatter into pieces. How much like the witnessing encounter: fragile, easily shattered, yet when it holds, a life is transformed!

Dialogue is the process whereby people make meaning together. In SLE the witness creates a safe atmosphere where the meaning and claims of God in a person's life can be safely explored.

Dialogue demands deep, effective listening--that means not thinking alone. Thinking alone involves four habits: abstraction or fragmentation, idolatry of memory, certainty, and violence.

Abstraction is often a sign or clue of personal pain on the part of the witness and/or the lost person. Abstraction also creates fragmentation. This occurs when a witness sees himself or herself in a whole different category than that of the lost person. Often this may occur as a holier than thou attitude or that I have all of the truth.

Idolatry of memory occurs when a person confuses memory with thinking. The problem is that thoughts become re-presented in the consciousness as if they were real and active now. That can lead a person to let a peak experience from the past become an idol. So a witness will think that there is only one way to lead a person to the Lord because they were successful in the past in that one way. For the lost person a peak experience from the past may be when their view of who God is failed them in a given situation. That memory colors all their present experiences and up until this current witness, closed the door to salvation. Another issue with the idolatry of memory is that it causes a person to avoid the pain of the present moment. That means a witness may have difficulty sharing faith with someone because of the pain that their counterstory experiences from the story of the lost person. Or it could mean that the lost person is stuck on experience in the past. That pain blocks them from the saving graces of God in the present moment.

Certainty is another hindrance to dialogue and effective evangelism. It is not the witness's certainty of the saving power of God. Rather, it is when the witness takes on a partial or limited view of the lost person and sees his or her understanding as accurate and complete. The witness stereotypes the lost person instead of just letting the lost person be himself or herself in the present moment. Certainty also occurs when a person rigidly holds onto his or her own personal views. Certainty prevents reflection or perception about the possibilities such as a different way to reach a person or a different way God may speak to a particular lost person. And behind that mask of certainty, if we can call it that, is the fear that there will be nothing beneath if we let go of our beliefs. Witnesses need to remember that God's everylasting arms are beneath. Witnesses need to create an atmosphere where lost people can realize they can let go of their dysfunctional beliefs long enough to expereince God's story.

Violence occurs as a detriment to dialogue when we impose our views on others and the world. That's what many non-believers do when they cry, "Foul!" at the absolute faith claims of Christianity. We do it ourselves when we judge and defend our own interpretations as if they are the final truth. Ultimately, God has the final word. Isaacs says the real problem with violence in thinking alone is that we live in a world that is connected without any genuine contact happening between people. Witnesses, instead of judging a lost person, need to get close enough to be in contact with a lost person. Just like Red Adair, the famous oil well firefighter, had to belly up to the out of control infernos in order to put the fire out, Christian witnesses have to get close to lost people to deliver their witness. The skills of dialogue and other tools in the SLE toolbox equip a witness to do that.

The true essence of dialogue is thinking together and that provides the cures for thinking alone.

The principle of participation is the cure for abstraction and fragmentation. That's where the witness learns to pay attention to the details that are going on in a conversation with a lost person. That's where the witness senses his or her connection to other people and to the God who is reaching out to save that lost person.

The principle of unfolding is the cure for idolatry. This is a quantum physics idea that there is an invisible patterned reality waiting to unfold in the present visible form. For SLE that means as you listen to a person share their story, from time to time, something is going to come into your awareness as you listen for their meta-story and God's story coming towards their life. It is like watching an eddy on the side of a river. As that whirlpool takes place in front of you and the water flows through that form, sometimes a stick, a piece of debris, or a leaf may show up, appearing and then disappearing. As you listen to a lost person using the skills of dialogue and other tools in the story listening toolbox, you'll notice that unfolding continues to take place.

The principle of awareness is the cure for certainty. That's when the witness develops the capacity to see the living processes that underlie all of things that are taking place in that witnessing conversation and the life of the lost person. That may include body movements and amount of animation in the tone of voice. It may also include becoming aware of ourselves as a witness and the impact that we are having in that moment in the life of the lost person.

The principle of coherence is the cure for violence, when we're seeing only the fragments and not the whole. And that involves the whole process of story listening--learning to see how everything fits together instead of judging a person on bits and pieces of their lives.

Why dialogue is an important tool for Story Listening Evangelism is that it helps us to build capacity as witnesses. Dialogue does this through listening, respecting, suspending, and voicing. Listening means hearing the words of the lost person, accepting and embracing that person, and also letting go of the inner clamor that goes on inside our minds as we attempt to hear that person's story.

Respecting is looking for the streams that feed the pool of another person's experience. We begin to understand why a person has behaved or believed the way that they have. We see the lost person as a legitimate person in the eyes of God who is worthy of salvation, who is crying out for help for salvation. We also see God's story coming to the rescue.

Suspending is another tool in dialogue that can assist the witness in Story Listening Evangelism. Suspending allows us to suspend our judgment, to change direction, to stop, to step back, to see things with new eyes--even the eyes of God. It also involves the act of looking at our own thought processes which in SLE is called counter story. We begin to notice what the other person's story kicks up into our conscious awareness from our own unconscious.

Dialogue is a very helpful skill for the practice of SLE. As we practice suspending, the witness stops and asks, "How is this working? What is going on here? How has this problem manifested itself in the life of the lost person? Why is that person so sure? What is leading a person to hold onto their sin, their loss, or their choice to go it alone without God so intensely?" A witness can ask himself or herself what is the payoff in this person's story? What would happen if you let go of your protestations against God? What is the risk if you invite Jesus Christ to come into your life? What might you lose? What do you fear you would lose?

Voicing is another helpful skill that comes from dialogue that can inform our Story Listening Evangelism. Voicing is revealing what is true for you regardless of other influences that my be brought to bear. It means at times, sharing your counterstory with the lost person in a story check--asking if your perception of their story is accurate. In essence, you ask yourself, "What needs to be expressed now in order to find my own voice?" The witness needs to be willing to be still, to trust the emptiness, even to leap into the emptiness of the void. It means finding the right words to say and also to listen for what Isaacs calls the distant thunder, to listen for what still small voice is speaking to you as that person reveals himself or herself to you to story.

There is much more we can learn from Isaac's book, Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together that can teach us to become better listeners and better witnesses. This has been only a brief examination of some key elements that need to be considered when you're a witness listening with all you've got to a lost person.

I told you it was DEEP! So is salvation! Witnessing is hard work and entering into the story of a lost person is hard work. The deep skills of dialogue can assist the witness to hear the cry for help, the metasotry of the lost person, even before the lost person is consciously aware of his or her eternal need. I encourage you to get a copy of Isaacs' book and take it for a spin with evangelism in mind.

So, dialogue can be an important tool that informs our witness even without entering into the sticky debate of whether God is immutable or not or whether the certainty of the absolute claim of God upon us in a fierce with dialogue is a tool for evangelism.

I welcome and await your feedback and discussion.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Where Do You Wear Your Faith?

I read about a Gallup Poll in the Baptist Standard this past week that says Americans want less religion in the public arena. And rightly so for those who wear their faith as a chip on their shoulder or a badge over their heart, daring people to disagree with them or thumping their truth in others' faces!

Where do you wear your faith? Is it under your hat, to be pulled out as a trick when you need to surprise and awe someone? Or do you wear it in your pocket and occasionally touch it when you are reaching for something else?

Seems like the respondents to the Gallup Poll want to wear their faith on their underwear. I say that because in days gone by skivvies were sometimes called unmentionables. That way a person would keep silent about their faith. Out of sight, out of mind. Kind of reminds me of the best definition I ever heard of an atheist: someone who doesn't want you messing with their beliefs.

Jesus said genuine faith can't be silenced--the very rocks will cry out, if no one speaks up!

In Story Listening Evangelism (SLE), a witness wears his or her faith in the very fabric of their being. Obeying Scriptures, the witness is alert for opportunities to share faith, "As they go,..."
Sounds a whole lot like the Great Commission, straight from the Greek participle that begins it, doesn't it? SLE equips witnesses to be instant in season--to be able to pick up on a lost person's cry for help even before the lost person is consciously aware of his or her need for salvation. And the SLE witness's faith does not get in the way of listening to the lost person.

Some businessmen in Alabama asked me when do they close the deal in SLE? I told them to trust the process. They insisted on a way to turn the witness into a decision to buy into the Kingdom. Although at the time I gave them some moves to direct the conversation toward commitment, I remain adamant that a witness can trust the process because it is God-ordained and God's Holy Spirit is the One who is drawing the person to Himself. We, as witnesses, remain instruments of His peace in the lives of those who need His great salvation.

The next time you get dressed or see yourself in a mirror, ask yourself: Where do I wear my faith? Wearing it in the very fabric of your life, you will be dressed for success, for the Kingdom's sake!

Next week I will share with you how to speak the same language of the person to whom you are witnessing. No translator needed!

Best wishes, as you go,...!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Story Listen Evangelism Process, Part 3

Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) is a process of being used by God to listen to a lost person and lead that person to a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As the witness listens to the lost person, over the shoulder of the lost person, the witness sees God's story of self-revelation and salvation coming toward the lost person. The witness also hears the lost person's story as he or she reveals a cry for help that salvation can respond to. The witness is also aware of his or her own story (counterstory) and how that story can be used to respond to the story of the lost person.

The process of SLE can be very short or take a while. the fastest I have ever been able to hear a person's story from the time of first thing said to the aha! moment was sixty seconds. That scared me, it was so fast! As the weight lost commercials say in fine print: results are atypical. I will tell you: your results will be different! That happened only once in twenty years of doing story listening.

Usually an SLE witness can take minutes, hours, days, weeks, even months. One woman witnesses to the man who had proposed marriage to her. She told him she did not want him to become a Christian just so she would marry him. Rather, she wanted him to come to a genuine saving faith. He had been deeply hurt in an earlier experience with a church. Over several months she practiced SLE, listening to him and being coached by me and a class of witnesses in an SLE training workshop. The day came, after months of active SLE, when we all read the e-mail with joy that he had made a profession of faith. AND they did marry, too! What joy!

The process of SLE can be described as a series of interchanges over a period of time when the witness listens to what the lost person says. What the lost person says is his or her own story as he or she self-reveals, sometimes unconsciously, the need for salvation. The witness hears within himself or herself a counterstory that the lost person's story kicks up into awareness from the unconscious. At times to clarify understanding the perceived counterstory, the witness will do a story check with the lost person, It might go something like this:

As we have been talking, I've heard you talk about several things that seem to be missing in your life at this time. I'm wondering if you are searching for something that matters that can fill those voids? Could I be right?

Notice the tentative language. None of us has lived in the shoes of the person to whom we are witnessing. We can only make a guess as to what is going on in their life. And with SLE, you can make a very educated guess.

Then you listen for the response to your story check. If you are on target, the lost person will tell you so and the conversation will be that much closer to an aha! moment. If you guessed wrong and have built rapport with the lost person, the lost person will adjust the story to put you better on track to hear the self-revelation. Only if you guessed too soon, without rapport or trust being built, will the lost person shut down the conversation completely or divert attention with a story that moves away from an aha! moment.

The interchange process will then be a back and forth story, counterstory dance. Sometimes the lost person will change the subject, become more or less animated, go silent, become angry or any number of moves. With each move by the lost person the witness carefully notes his or her own counterstory which helps to understand the story that is being revealed by the lost person. AND the witness holds in abeyance the counterstory and keeps on listening to the lost person, acknowledging that the witness is hearing the lost person or offering a story check to clarify understanding.

The interchange creates clues as to what is really going on in the soul of the lost person. I will describe more of those clues next week and in the weeks ahead.

Until then, let me know what you think and what's happening in your attempts at sharing faith.


(c) 2007 The Aurora Network

Monday, February 05, 2007

Story Listening Evangelism as a Process, Part 2

All evangelistic conversations have a beginning and an ending, even apparently unsuccessful ones. Sometimes a witness is not aware of the beginning because he or she did not hear the cry for help from the lost person. Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) equips the witness to hear those clues as they are revealed, even those clues which the lost person is not consciously aware of.

The first thing a person says to you as an available witness contains in highly symbolic, metaphorical form, what the person is struggling with. Do not problem solve the first thing said because you will get resistance. Just listen to the next thing the person says. Use the first thing said, held in abeyance as a measure against all the subsequent things said by the lost person. That will help you to hear the person's meta-story and later mirror that back to the lost person as a story check. Here's an example of a first thing said. I was in the bank talking to the young woman who was my teller:

Ernest: Hi! How are you?

Teller: Can't complain! (first thing said)

Ernest: Would you like to? (notice my attempt to problem solve)

Teller: Oh, nobody would listen. (notice the resistance)

Ernest: I would.

The teller then began to share her story with me as I stayed open to what she was trying to say. I need to note that there was not any other customer in the bank at the time so I had the time and opportunity to keep on listening to the teller's cry for help. Can't complain is an acceptable way to say hello in America. It is not a neurological accident. She had something to say and was not being heard.

How well the witness deals with the first thing said will determine if there will be a middle to the evangelistic conversation. Suppose the lost person said he went fishing yesterday and caught 10 fish. You come back with your own counterstory and tell how you caught 50 fish yesterday. Every fisherman knows what happened to the 10 fish caught story! The same thing happens in witnessing if you as the witness tops the lost person's story. The evangelistic moment is over!

Witnesses do this when their plate or cup is full, even with good, Christian stuff. When your cup is full, there is no room or capacity for you to enter into the story, the pain, the sin of the lost person. You will tell your own story, change the subject, or tune the person out. You will throw a circuit breaker because you did not at the time have the capacity to hear that person's story of lostness.

I picture SLE much like what Red Adair did when his team put out raging oil well fires. He had to get close to the fire to put it out. Likewise, witness have to belly up to the lost person's hellfire, sin, in order to provide a witness that God can use to put out that fire.

To build the capacity to get close to a lost person and his or her sin, I think the witness has to have his or her own aha! moments that empty them of their own painand sin and make room to hear other people. Practicing the listening skills of SLE also builds capacity. Holding your own counterstories in abeyance will also allow you to stay with the lost person's story. Later, you can share the counterstories that arose in the witnessing experience with a trusted friend or colleague so you can be heard.

The end of a wintessing conversation will either be an aha! moment when the lost person experiences the intersection of his or her own story and God's story of redemption and salvation, or the conversation will be broken off by the lost person when their is no rapport, the witness moves too fast too soon, or the witness does not have the capacity to stay in a conversation with the particular pain of lostness that the lost person shares in his or her own story.

The middle of an evangelistic conversation may contain all sorts of twists and turns. There may be changes of subject by the lost person, silences, anger, confusion, pieces of free information (things said by the lost person that the witness did not ask for), an increase in animation, clues from body language, and diffferent levels of story told by the lost person.

Next week we will look at the levels of story listening and illustrate them with more details of what happens between the first thing a lost person says and the hoped for aha! moment of salvation.

I welcome your feedback as I continue to lay out the design of SLE.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Process of Story Listening Evangelism

The Process of Story Listening Evangelism

Story Listening Evangelism is a process by which a witness is used by God to bring a person to a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Essentially, the witness is used by God to mirror back to the person witnessed to their own words that reveal their need for salvation. Often lost people are not consciously aware of their need for salvation, let alone their lostness. As the listening witness hears the unconscious cry for help through what the lost person says, the lost person comes to an aha! moment that occurs when that person's story of lostness and seeking intersects God's story of self-revelation which has as its theme seeking and saving those who are lost.

More specifically, the aha! moment occurs when the lost person hears his or her own meta-story, the story that is deep inside a person that is driving all the stories a person tells to their conscious awareness at the surface. When a witness listens to a lost person, in each exchange of conversation, the witness experiences a counterstory. Counterstory enables the witness to hear the clues that the lost person shares that will guide the witness in his or her response.

The challenge for the witness is to not allow his or her own counterstory to shut down the witnessing conversation. The rule of thumb in story listening is that a witness cannot go any further into a lost person's story than he or she has gone into his or her own story. That does not mean the witness has to sin the sins of the lost person in order to be able to lead that person to the Lord. Rather it means the witness has to have capacity. If the witness's plate is full, even of good stuff, he or she will throw a circuit breaker when he or she encounters the sin and pain of a lost person. The witness will do this by changing the subject, telling his or her own story, or ignoring the lost person and ending the conversation. The only time a witness should use his or her own story in a witnessing conversation is when the conversation becomes stuck or when the witnesses uses the tool of a story check. A story check occurs when the witness makes a guess as to what the meta-story is in that lost person's life. A story check is offered in tentative language because the witness is not sure what the meaning of the lost person's story is until the lost person tells the witness what it is. None of us has lived in the skin of another.

A story check looks like this: The witness might say, " As we have been talking together, it sounds like to me that you might (note the tentative language) be afraid you are dying and do not know where you will spend eternity. Could I be right (again, notice the tentative language) ? The lost person will either answer YES or NO. If the response is yes, then continue with the witness. If no, and you have built rapport with the lost person, just listen to the next thing the person says, In Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) , the rule is not one strike and you're out! Just listen to the next thing the lost person says. Like an air traffic controller, he or she will tell a story that will that will more clearly reveal the direction of the lost person's meta-story. The witness should then follow this direction change to stay with the lost person's story.

The process continues....

Next week I will share more clues in SLE including why the witness pays attention to the first thing a lost person says, when a lost person changes the subject, the tone of voice, the modality of the lost person's language, and even how to deal with silences and anger.

I ask for your feedback and dialogue as I share with you Story Listening Evangelism. I especially welcome your conversations about how to build capacity so that a witness can stay in a witnessing conversation.

Looking forward to being with you again next week!

(c) 2007 The Aurora Network

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Introductory Blog

Welcome new readers and fellow bloggers interested in a way to lead a person to faith by genuinely listening to and focusing on the lost person and not through gimmicky propostions.

The purpose of this blog is to invite dialogue about the new paradigm for evangelism I have developed called, Story Listening Evangelism. Over the next several weeks I will share with you assumptions and challenges involved in this approach to evangelism. I will also share with you previews outlining the toolbox of witnessing skills that will make up the book I am writing as a guide to Story Listening Evangelism.

Story Listening Evangelism, or SLE, for short, has been developed to address the need to listen to the lost person who is being witnessed to. From the beginning of Evangelsim Explosion to today, most schools of evangelism mention the need to listen to the lost person, yet they do not tell the reader how. That is what SLE intends to do with a multi-skill toolbox that the witness can choose from to tailor each individual witness.

Up first: Assumptions

  • God is a story-telling, self-revealing God who is actively seeking to save each and every person in his creation.

  • We, as human beings, are created in the image of God and therefore are story-telling, self-revealing creatures.

  • The aha! moment in salvation occurs at the intersection of God's story of self-revelation and the story of the lost person.

  • Story is any verbal and/or non-verbal self-revelation on the part of a speaker.

  • Story listening evangelism is the process by which a witness listens to a lost person and mirrors that person's story back to that person in an ongoing , perhaps extended conversation or series of conversations, to the point that the lost person experiences an aha! moment of his or her need for God's salvation.

  • Through SLE a witness can hear a lost person's cry for help even before that person is consciously aware of his or her own need for salvation.

  • SLE is a universal tool that transcends cultures and equips the witness to be used by God to enter into and stay in an evangelistic conversation with virtually anyone, anywhere, until the person witnessed to chooses to end the conversation.

  • God is the agent of salvation through the person of the Holy Spirit who draws a person to God, and the saving act of Jesus Christ's atoning, vicarious death on the cross for the sins of all mankind.

  • SLE fulfills the Great Commission's original Greek grammar, "As you go,..."

These are the basic assumptions that form the foundation of SLE. In the weeks ahead I will introduce the process known as Story Listening. From there I will share with you tools and skills from the SLE toolbox including:

  • Autonomic eye movements that guide the witness in which modality to use to speak the same language as the person witnessed to

  • Transitions, which provide a rich source of information by which to tailor the witness

  • How to deal with verbal anger encountered in witnessing

  • How to use dialogue to lead a person to faith

  • How to use family process as a tool to lead a person to faith

  • How to use fierce questions from Susan Scott's Fierce Conversations in an evangelistic conversation

  • How to identify neurological filters in a speaker's words in order to understand and predict how that person will make a decision to come to faith in God through Jesus Christ

  • How to identify dysfunctional beliefs that impede a person's coming to faith

I look forward to hearing from you as I share God's calling to me to synthesize the tools of story listening into the toolbox of SLE. To God be the glory!