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Don Everts grew up assuming that spiritual conversations are always painful and awkward. But his surprising-and sometimes embarrassing-stories affirm what Scripture and the latest research reveal: spiritual conversations can actually be a delight. "The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations" was written by Don, who joined Mark Eischer, Senior Producer of "The Lutheran Hour" radio program for this interview. "The Reluctant Witness" is available for purchase at shoplhm.org. Read Part 1 of the interview at lhm.org/ourLHM

Mark: Now in your own personal experience, how did a trip to Mexico make a big difference in your life in terms of your own comfort and confidence in sharing your faith?

Don: I'm a reluctant conversationalist, so that's one of the things you find out in the book. Like embarrassingly so.. Not only an introvert, but just really hesitant to talk about things and I had an experience where I went on a mission trip in college down to Mexico, and we were living in these small villages, and we'd run vacation Bible schools. But then we would also give presentations and testimonies and that sort of thing.

Don: And I found myself standing in front of a room filled with almost the entire village, hundreds of kids, dozens of adults, and I was enjoying it. I was standing up front talking about my faith, my walk with Jesus, and I was actually enjoying it.

Don: Upon reflection, one of the things I realized is that I had prepared to talk about my faith. We didn't just do tactical preparation for our time, though we did. We worked on Spanish language, we bought supplies, we made plans. But we also did spiritual preparation. We spent time praying with each other. A lot of time praying. We spent time in the Bible studying First Peter with each other before we ever went to Mexico.

Don: And so I found that being in spiritual disciplines made it easier for me to talk about my faith. And that's actually one of the points the research makes. That eager conversationalists apply spiritual disciplines, like reading the Bible, praying, going to church, more than reluctant conversationalist.

Mark: Okay. And these are practices that distinguish eager conversationalists from the reluctant ones.

Don: That's right. So one of the five differences between eager and reluctant folks is how active they are in applying spiritual disciplines in their life.

Don: And so the researchers won't point to causation. So they're not willing to say, if you read the Bible more, pray more and go to church more, you'll talk about your faith more. They just say there's a correlation. But it doesn't take much to see that makes sense. If you're more active in your faith, you're going to be talking about your faith. And that's what I found in going to Mexico.

Mark: You mentioned the importance of the God moment in a spiritual conversation. What is that and how do you recognize it?

Don: Yes, so a God moment, that's the phrase we use to refer to times when God is actively, his spirit is actively pursuing a non-Christian and moving in their life. You know, we believe that God is alive, that his Holy Spirit is present. We believe that God is seeking after, still, those who are lost.

Don: A God moment, Mark, is when I'm in a conversation or relationship with a non-Christian and I get this whiff, I get this sense that God's doing something in their life, that God's moving in them. Maybe convicting them, maybe piquing their curiosity about the gospel. That's what a God moment is.

Don: And the the relevance of that for spiritual conversations is for we Christians to be on the lookout for those, because if God is moving in someone's life, that's the train I want to get on. I want to lean into what God's doing in their life. And I've been amazed to find out how powerful it is when I just get a like a whisper, like I think God's doing something. There's a little tear where there shouldn't be a tear. What's going on? And when I slowed down in the conversation and kind of lean into that a little bit, God can really use that. So that's a part of how we can be more fruitful in spiritual conversations.

Mark: Now the statistics in the book give some cause for concern about where our culture is right now and where we as the church are. But you're very careful to also point out some hopeful signs. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Don: Yeah, it's true. It's kind of sobering research. Like whoa boy, the cat's got our tongue, the churches, she's quiet. There's real hope here. So for one thing, one of the things we found out is people really enjoy spiritual conversations. They're really enjoyable. Christians and non-Christians, when when we ask them think back to your most recent spiritual conversation. What was your experience? What did you feel? The top two emotions that come up are peace and joy. This is Christians and non-Christians alike. So it's actually really hopeful news people enjoy spiritual conversations.

Don: Another good piece of news is that spiritual conversations are fruitful. People were asked, can you reflect on a time when a spiritual conversation led to big life change for you and Christians and non-Christians alike say yes. And so we know that spiritual conversations are powerful.

Don: And also good news is this whole eager, reluctant thing and finding out that these five attributes ... this is interesting, Mark. The five things that make an eager conversationalist are all things anyone can grow in. So they're not something you have to be born with. That's actually a reason for hope because we as a church, as we tried to do in the book, can say, how can we grow more eager? How can I develop these five practices in my own life?

Mark: I'm talking with Don Everts, author of The Reluctant Witness, Discovering the Delight of
Spiritual Conversations. How can listeners obtain a copy of your book?
Don: Yeah. They can just go to Lutheran Hour's website, lhm.org, or anywhere they buy books, Amazon, et cetera. We're selling it widely around the country.

Mark: And how could something like LHM Learn help someone to become better prepared and more confident in these sorts of conversations?

Don: Great. So LHM Learn are these free online courses that we've developed. So we developed one just on the differences between eager and reluctant conversationalist and how we can grow more eager. And so it's an entire course where people can walk through and learn about what makes for an eager conversationalist. And then we walk them through making a plan. They can like score themselves on the five attributes. They get an eager score, which helps them discern, here's something I can lean into to grow. So that course is called Prepared to Respond and can help anyone lean into becoming a more eager conversationalist.

Mark: Don, thanks for joining us.

Don: Thanks, Mark.

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