Building Trust in Evangelism

James and Elizabeth Medina, Destino MTL’s in Los Angeles, began their ministry last year with a handful of students. But they said the learning process for building a Destino movement has been difficult.

James explained that the main issue is “How do we build trust with the non-believer in 30 seconds? In a minute? In 5 minutes? Over 3 appointments?” They purposely wait to share Knowing God Personally until they have built trust, typically not until the third appointment.

I was intrigued, so I asked if they would tell me more. Read on for more about Building Trust in Evangelism.

Like many of us, James and Elizabeth conduct surveys and seek to follow them up. When they call for an appointment, they explain that they want to learn more about them and how they got there.

Also, like many of us, they often get stood up. After an hour, they will text them to say that they were sorry to miss each other. Then they ask about trying next week. They minimize the missed appointment, because nothing is gained when if they focus on shame. Instead, they praise the circumstances of their life that led to the missed appointment. If it was because of studies, they commend them for valuing their academics. They operate on the principle that “it is better to leave a gift, than a guilt.”

Sometimes after several attempts they are able to meet with the student. They find that their persistence shows care for that student.

I asked what they talk about in the first conversation. James said he focused on getting to know them. They ask lots of questions.

  • How did you get here?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Does your family want you to do that?
  • What does your family think of your being here?
  • Did anyone else come with you?
  • What do you want to get involved in?

They look for common ground. They ask about their spiritual background. They ask if they can show them the perspective cards sometime. They offer an open invitation to attend events.

They try to use the language of the community. Academics, leadership, service, mentoring, and giving back. They talk about spiritual mentoring and leadership development.

In the second conversation, James and Elizabeth ask how they are doing in the activities they talked before. They try to learn more about what their own needs are. As a result, they are painting a picture of spiritual need. In that context they share more about Destino and their own spiritual journey. They might bring up the Gospel in the conversation.

It’s during the third conversation when they are intentional about sharing the KGP. It seems to be a more natural way to connect the dots of activity, background, spiritual journey and the Medinas’ own story.

James, who is half Chinese and half Mexican, said, “My culture needs me to do a better job at expressing genuine care. I have watched a face go from interested to no longer interested. They shut down.”

Elizabeth observed that when they have had multiple interactions with someone before going through the Gospel, the student is more willing to continue the dialogue. She said they are seeing more genuine life commitment because they slowed the process down, but grew the level of trust.

Listening to them talk reminded me of the lessons learned in reading I Once Was Lost. The authors talk about five thresholds a non-believer must cross before entrusting Christ.

  • Trusting a Christian. Moving from distrust to trust.
  • Becoming curious. Moving from complacent to curious.
  • Opening Up to Change. Moving from being closed to change to openness.
  • Seeking After God. Moving from meandering to seeking.
  • And Entering the Kingdom. Actually crossing into the Kingdom itself.

Each threshold has specific faith issues the non-believer must have satisfied and there are ways for us as believers to come alongside them in their journey.

It also reminded me of the SomeTime focus designed by our R&D Team.

Thanks James and Elizabeth for your contribution to sharing the lessons you have learned with us.

Some other resources that might be helpful.


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