Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Resurrection’s Support Ministries.
Years ago I came across a book that used this Scripture as a template for how to talk to others about Jesus. I do not remember the title of the book, but I remember some of its main points that I would like to share with you today. Talking to another person about Jesus is not a formula or a checklist. Yet, I believe this Scripture offers some benchmarks.
1) Go to where the people are — Jesus did not stay stationary and wait for people to come to him. He went to Samaria. Likewise, don’t wait until someone comes to church or knocks on your door to to talk to them about Jesus. Go to them.
2) Go to Samaria – Jews avoided Samaria because it was filled with–well, Samaritans. Jesus went to the people who were not highly valued. Likewise, go to whatever your idea of Samaria is and talk with them.
3) Ask them to help you with something – Jesus asks for the woman to give him a drink (John 4:7). By asking for another person’s help, you are esteeming them as having an ability or power that you do not have. Likewise, to begin a relationship with someone, ask to borrow their hedge clippers, stapler, etc. This starts the conversation and adds value to them.
4) Recognize them as a person of need .. like you – Jesus was speaking to a woman at as well (identifying herself as thirsty) and identified himself as thirsty. The people we want to tell about Jesus are not all that different from us in terms of hurts and stresses. Like Jesus, any discussion about Jesus with another person should include a reference to your struggles with faith, struggles with discipleship and your efforts to not be a hypocrite, and the ways you continue to cry out to Jesus. This creates a common starting ground.
5) Responding to their question AND keeping focus on the main thing– The woman at the well asked Jesus what mountain people should worship on. That was a hot button issue of their day. Notice that Jesus responds to the question but does not answer the question. Jesus responds by focusing on the bigger issue–in this case the bigger issue is that worship does happen. Likewise, if someone brings up a hot button issue such as abortion, health care, immigration, etc. with you in your conversation respond to the question but don’t focus on it. Say something like, “There are many views on that which we can have coffee about later. What I do know is that there is a Jesus who changes lives, who has changed mine and who can help you as well.”
6) Say who you believe Jesus is. — Jesus ends the conversation with the words “I who speak to you am he (the Messiah).” Likewise, know what you think about Jesus and speak it clearly and succinctly.
7) No preaching or judging. Jesus did not browbeat the woman with Scripture. Jesus did not make her feel guilty. Even his comment about having 5 husbands was a reference to knowing that she was hurting since a woman could not divorce, but rather had been abandoned by 5 men. Likewise, love the people you talk with and do not prepare long sermons or add guilt.
This story has a multitude of connections to our everyday life. I hope these benchmarks are as helpful for you in understanding how to talk to people about Jesus as they have been for me.