This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Jonah 4 preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday January 28-29, 2012.

When you have gotten to know someone decently well you begin to know what pushes their buttons, gets under their skin, and their pet peeves. Rarely can we hide from others what really makes us tick for long. It shows up as our agitation, anxiety, awkward silence, drive, outspokenness, sensitivities, and quirks.

The things that stir our souls reveal important things about us. When people show us emotion, their beliefs, values, and hopes are on display (Luke 6:45). These are precious and powerful moments. These are moments when friendships are forged and lives are changed. Seeing Jesus’ relevance in these moments in the gospel is most relevant.

Unfortunately, these are also the times when there is a strong tendency to back away from people. We find these moments intimidating, uncomfortable, or “personal.” While nothing of significance should be approached cavalierly, neither should moments of such influence be ignored.

The question is, “How do we engage these moments with the honor they deserve while seeking to maximize the potential they hold?” I will offer some suggestions on how to approach these moments to engage gospel conversations.

Ask a good question. It can be as simple as an observation, “That was really important to you.” Maybe you ask, “What did you like/dislike most about that?” Just don’t let the question get in the way. Make it short and an acknowledgement that you’re interested in what is significant to them.

Honor push back. Interest is one door to winning trust; honor is another. If the other person is uncomfortable, let the question rest. We model Christ’s compassion when we do not force our concern upon them and are not offended if they are not open to the conversation.

Show genuine interest. Evangelism should never be a “technique.” Nobody wants an unsolicited counselor. If you cut quickly to what you really wanted to talk about (i.e., Jesus), you risk insulting the person you are seeking to reach.

Don’t try to complete the journey in one conversation. This is relational evangelism. If you are able to put their concern/passion into words and they say, “Thank you! Finally somebody gets it,” that is a huge win. You are an ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20). Ambassadors know the value of trust and learning culture (emotions are “personal culture”) for delivering an impactful message.

Listen for sin and suffering. When we seek to share the gospel through the window of emotion we must know how the gospel speaks to sin and suffering. We need to be able to offer God’s forgiveness and comfort. The “idols of our hearts” are sought for both pleasure and refuge. For on how the gospel speaks to sin and suffering, see these two videos.

Listen for how you’re like them. Testimony is uniquely important in these kinds of gospel conversations. You may not have the same “driving desires” (idols) linked to the same historical influences with the same emotional response. But chances are you can relate to the pattern – heart set on [blank overgrown desire] that is important to you because [historical reason] so you [emotional response].  People are not as different as we like to think we are.

As a Christian, you should be able to talk about how the gospel has changed the way you respond to those moments – how Christ’s Lordship put overgrown good desires back in proportion, is transforming the way you understand shaping events, and is creating stability in your emotions (for an example of this applied to anger/conflict click here). You just shared the gospel. Now all you need to do is to ask if they are interested in a similar relationship with Christ.

Continue having “normal” conversations. The freedom of the gospel is expressed (in part) by the fact that while Christ comes to us in our weakest moments we are not defined by those moments. Be God’s ambassador in this way as well. You are inviting them to be a part of God’s family (where people are defined by their relationships), not God’s recovery group (where people are defined by their struggle). This is someone you know them well enough that they allowed you to see their soul; honor that by showing concern for their whole life.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Emotions” post which address other facets of this subject.