Preparation. It makes all the difference between doing well in court and doing mediocre. I've been preparing for a big trial for the last couple of months, and you wouldn't believe how many hours I've spent working on it. I've spent even more time just thinking about it. I simply can't hope to represent my clients even adequately if I'm not prepared.
I don't know why we don't give as much thought to the evangelism and other ministry that we do in our communities. For example, I wouldn't consider putting someone on the stand if I hadn't had a personal conversation with him and talked through all the questions that might come up. I need to know what they're going to say and how they're going to say it. Similarly, if you're going to effectively minister to your friend, you've got to know where he's at or what he's thinking and feeling. You've got to figure out what the things are that make faith easier for him and what might make faith more challenging. You've got to know what sets him off and what makes him happy. If you do, you'll be able to prayerfully consider how and what to speak about to challenge that friend to know and follow Christ more deeply.
Or what about research? If I'm going to trial on a case, I've got to know the statutes and case law inside and out. I have to know what issues might come up and how to direct the court to the rules it's supposed to follow. Similarly, I think you have to prepare for conversations you might have with friends by thinking ahead of time about the relevant issues that might come up. What are the things in her life that she's considering doing or has been doing that she might ask about? What life questions is she trying to work through? And what stories from Scripture might model how to work through that question? How did the New Testament church work that issue out in their lives?
A lot of times we think about spiritual conversations with fear and trepidation. We don't want to mess up or to say the wrong thing. Or what if someone asks me a question I can't answer? But I think we really can prepare for these conversations by praying and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the important issues in our friends' lives and then by thinking and praying through what we might relevantly share.
How about you? When was the last time you brought a friend to God in prayer and asked for wisdom about the issues they're facing? Where might you be able to look for stories or ideas about how to walk through their questions with them?