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The Road to Emmaus: 15 Tips for Effective Witnessing

July 28, 2010
The Road to Emmaus: 15 Tips for Effective Witnessing
Don Mackintosh, Director of AFCOE

In Luke 24, we find a wonderful example of Christ’s witnessing manner and method in a powerful post-resurrection story. In this article, we’ll uncover 15 witnessing tips that can be gleaned from this one Bible passage, which can help you become a more effective and confident witness!

Let’s pick up the story in verses 13–15:

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them (NKJV).

 

Witnessing Tip #1: Draw Near

Christ was not aloof. He went to where people gathered. He “drew near and went with them.” The root meaning of the phrase “drew near” is to come near in time and place. Christ sought out the hurting.

While much of the gospel work can be accomplished from afar, ultimately, most people need a personal, real-time connection. They need someone who will reach them where they are and become acquainted with them. They need someone who will sympathetically apply Scripture to their specific situations.

But before we go too far, notice the next verse …

Their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him
(v. 16 NKJV).

What an interesting concept! Here Scripture indicates that the eyes of these two men were restrained and they did not know that it was Jesus. The Lord wanted them to be able to focus on what He was saying rather than who He was.

Drawing near to people and witnessing to them does not necessarily require that the first thing we do is adopt an in-your-face, full-disclosure approach; sometimes much more can be accomplished if we remain “undercover” and reveal things as souls are able to digest them. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12 NKJV).

Witnessing Tip #2: Measure Your Approach

So don’t always make your purpose known unless the situation warrants it.
Of course, there are times when you must let people know who you are to avoid being counterproductive. For instance, if you knock on someone’s door, they have the right to know right away who you are and why you are there.

However, in other venues, for instance, when you are traveling, you have the luxury of letting things play out, which can provide big advantages for effective witness.

But for this to occur, we need to be aware of the “conversation” and “reasoning” that we hear people using.

The word “conversation” in verse 15 comes from the Greek root for logos or “word.” The word “reason” comes from the Greek root logismos, where we get the word “logic.”

We could take this to mean that instead of making Himself known right away, Christ chose to listen to and learn about those He was trying to reach.

Witnessing Tip #3: Listen to Them

Listen to the words people are using, listen to their logic, when you are witnessing to them. You can learn much about who they are and what their needs are. This can provide a foundation and direction for what you later share when it is time to make yourself and your purpose better known. It is easier to tailor your teaching to their specific needs if you listen to their concerns and take them to heart.

What did Jesus do to gather more needed information?

He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” (v. 17 NKJV).

We can find at least two more fruitful witnessing tips in this short verse.

Witnessing Tip #4: Explore Their Hearts

Ask open-ended questions to better know your new friends and get additional background. It is simply amazing the amount of information people will volunteer once they begin talking. When you ask open-ended questions, people often don’t feel pressured and will share what’s in their hearts. They also feel valued because they are being listened to, rather than “witnessed to” or “preached at.”

But did you notice the other element in Christ’s question? He not only asked about their conversation, He also noted and asked about what their facial expressions and body language were communicating.

Witnessing Tip #5: Be Aware of Everything

Ask the Spirit to give you Christ-like awareness and discernment. Jesus saw that these two men were sad (literally gloomy or of mournful appearance), and He specifically asked them why they were so!

Facial expressions matter, and they can tell a lot about what’s going on in someone’s head. It’s never safe to assume anything based on just a facial expression, but it certainly does not hurt to ask.

Jesus’ question and observation drew a revealing response from one of His travel companions.

Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” (vs. 18, 19 NKJV).

As you “listen” to Cleopas, can you sense his sadness? Perhaps he sounds a little bit angry too. Interestingly, this is in keeping with the actual meaning of the word translated as “sad,” which can include the idea that the person is also experiencing anger.

But Christ, the master communicator, recognizes that it’s still not quite time to speak. He hears within Cleopas’ question the desire to share even more information, so He beckons Cleopas to continue by asking, “What things?”

As you read Cleopas’ answer, see if you can identify and diagnose the cause for his sad anger:

The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see (vs. 19–24 NKJV).

Did you see the reason for Cleopas’ anger? He offered it! So what was the problem? These two were despondent and their conversation with one another was not helping one bit; it was only further depressing them.

Bottom line, they had lost hope and were in a very vulnerable and discouraged state of mind.

Witnessing Tip #6: Be Patient

If you patiently wait long enough, people will often tell you their problems and give you a chance to offer a solution.

What Christ said next would be of vital importance to them physically, mentally, and spiritually. It could very well be the difference between life and death for them.

So what did He say?

He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (v. 25 NKJV).

While at first it could appear that Christ’s choice of words might seem ill advised, they are actually saturated with meaning.

First, Jesus says, “Oh foolish ones.” Should a fool know better? Is a fool unintelligent or merely unwise? What exactly is a fool anyway? Well, according to one Scripture, a fool is one who says “in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

So what we have now is a picture of two individuals who had walked and talked with Christ for three years but were in danger of walking with God no more. They were about to give up completely, even questioning their faith and trust in God.

Let’s go to the next phrase: “slow of heart.” Slowness of heart in the Greek is bradeis cardia, and it’s where we get the word “bradycardia,” which is a term used in medicine today to describe a dangerously low heart rhythm. In other words, their spiritual foolishness had caused them to lose heart.

What was the cause of this life-threatening condition? Because they had not “believed all the prophets had spoken.” And because of this selective and faulty reasoning, what was actually a magnificent blessing was something they thought was the worst possible curse; what was depressing them was supposed to be seen as a glorious fulfillment of Bible prophecy. “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things to enter into his glory?”

Here the entire tone of this witnessing experience changes. Christ moves from being an active listener to being an active presenter of heart-saving Bible truth!

But before we look closer at His presentation, let’s remind ourselves of several vital witnessing tips that we’ve just seen.

Witnessing Tip #7: Be Complete

Jesus continued to ask open-ended questions until He and those He was witnessing to had shared enough information to have a complete picture of the diagnosis and the solution.

Witnessing Tip #8: Be Direct

Once Jesus knew the problem and its seriousness, He wasted no time in directly, but tactfully, sharing not only His diagnosis of the problem but also the solution: believing all the prophets have spoken.

Witnessing Tip #9: Offer the Solution First

To be sure that those listening to Him were not devastated by His forthright diagnosis, He shared the conclusion—the hopeful prognosis—they needed to hear before He set out to prove it.

In essence, He said, “Look, I know your pain. I understand it from your perspective, but I’ve got good news for you. You are wrong! What you think is the worst thing in the world is actually the best!”

Of course, He doesn’t just leave them with the conclusion. Notice what He does next!

Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (v. 27 NKJV).

Witnessing Tip #10: Be Prepared to Have an Answer

Christ doesn’t just tell them that they are thinking things wrong. He also shows them how to think right through a powerful explanation of Scripture! Jesus knew they were desperate for answers. You could say that He positively reproves them, offering them the correct view of the situation on the basis of Scripture.

Of course, a systematic topical Bible study—that is, looking at everything the Bible has to say about a subject—can have a powerful effect. This is in fact what an evangelist does in every presentation. It’s what we train our AFCOE students to do: to prove and reprove all things from the Word.

Witnessing Tip #11: Make It Personal

As Jesus explains this revelation, He does it in the context of His own personal pain experience and God-glorifying testimony—“the things concerning Himself.”

The most powerful form of witness is often just a simple personal testimony. You must learn to share your testimony whenever it is most useful to do so.

Be careful, however, to not overdo it. Christ actually gauged the continued interest of those who were listening to Him. He did this by indicating that He had to continue on His journey as the other two neared their destination.

Witnessing Tip #12: Gauge Continued Interest

Always monitor whether or not you are getting through to someone or to gauge the interest level of those listening and then tie off your time while interest is still at a peak. You don’t have to share everything at once. You can feed a person too much of even the best food and give them indigestion!

Notice the response of the two men when Christ said He was leaving them …

But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them (v. 29 NKJV).

Now, isn’t this the way you’d like people to act at the end of your Bible study? Constraining, begging you, imploring you to stay and show them more?

Of course, the best part of this wonderful passage is found in the next several verses. See if you can spot the results of effective witnessing.

Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (vs. 30–32 NKJV).

Did you see the results?

Effective Bible study helps people literally see Jesus. The Word is so filled with Spirit that it can take broken, helpless, “slow” of heart, sin-sick souls and bring them new life and energy. The slow of heart are instead filled with heavenly heartburn!

Witnessing Tip #13: Give the Glory to God

Remember, true witness will lead to the worship of the living Christ, not the preacher or teacher! Keep God as your focus, just as Christ always did.

Witnessing Tip #14: Leave Their Focus on Scripture

Effective witnessing will also lead you to leave while the focus of those you’ve been studying with is firmly focused on the life-changing truth of Scripture.

And what was the ultimate result of Christ’s witness that day?

So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread (vs. 33-35 NKJV).

Witnessing Tip #15: Make Disciples

True witness will lead and inspire those who have learned the truth to share what they’ve learned with the same boldness and clarity.

What a wonderful and practical picture of effective Word-based witnessing! What a wonderful example of simple techniques that not only the disciples but you and I can use in reaching out to others for the King!

Remember, it was this one simple Bible study, given during a short seven-mile walk, that was used by the Spirit to turn the world upside down! They heard the study and were gripped and equipped by it. Their hearts were set on fire, and they couldn’t help but share it with others. And now you’ve heard it and can go share it with others too!

 


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