Tuesday 25th June 2024
Just Walk Across The Room: How to Share the Gospel With Someone
Audio / Equipping

Just Walk Across The Room: How to Share the Gospel With Someone

Adrian Holloway on November 23, 2008 with 0 Comments

John 4:4-42 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

Just Walk Across the Room (week 4 of 4)
Title: How to share the gospel with someone

Here’s a question . . . How do I get into a conversation that impacts the eternal destiny of someone who is far from God?

Well tonight, we get to learn from the master. How did Jesus do it? This evening, in John chapter 4 we get to watch Jesus conduct a masterclass in personal evangelism.

4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Even though he is the Son of God, Jesus starts this evangelistic conversation with an everyday, normal question. He asks for a drink of water.

Later on, Jesus is going to tell this woman that he is the Jewish Messiah. But that’s not how he starts.

No, Jesus starts with small talk. Normal talk.

He’s been on a long journey. It’s the sixth hour, which is noon, it’s the hottest part of the day. He’s on his own because the disciples have gone into town to buy food. The Bible says he was tired. He’s probably very thirsty. He’s at a well, but he hasn’t got a bucket. A woman arrives at the well who has got a bucket, therefore we can understand why Jesus started a conversation with this stranger by asking for a drink.

First lesson . . . If I am serious about wanting to give people the greatest gift that I could ever give another human being, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ, I will need to first make small talk.

Jesus made small talk.

But it doesn’t have to be forced. Jesus, here, is saying something that is congruent with his personality. In fact, throughout this encounter, Jesus remains calm and relaxed. He seems at ease.

No-one’s suggesting that as a result of this series, you need to suddenly become a cringe-worthy extrovert! No-one’s suggesting that you should start high-fiving strangers at bus stops!

I mean if this is you normally . . . just waiting at the bus stop. (Metro, green wooly hat)

No-one’s suggesting that you should now arrive at a bus stop of total strangers saying: “Yo, how you doing?” Give me five! On the side! Alright! Can I share God’s plan of salvation with you?” (pointing with both hands).


If I go up to a teenager at a bus stop and say: (snapping wrist) “Safa! What’s happenin’ man? Wanna cotch down my yard?” He’s going to think: “you’re a 40 year old bald guy, why are you pretending to be something that you’re not.”

So no-one is suggesting that you need to start pretending to be something you’re not.

Here’s her reply . . .

9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jews did not associate with Samaritans because of a long-running racial and religious feud. After King Solomon died, the Jewish kingdom of Israel had been divided in two, and disaster struck the northern half of the kingdom in 721 BC, when the Assyrians invaded and then re-settled the northern kingdom of Israel with foreigners, with non-Jews. So the Samaritans, as a result, were regarded by the Jews as being “mixed race”. So they were racially different from the Southern Jews of Judea, but there was also an added religious division, because in around 400 BC, the Samaritans had set up their own temple at Mount Gerizim. And that was a massive statement which effectively said, “we are no longer going to come down over the border to worship God in Jerusalem with you lot. We’ve now got our own temple, thank you very much.” And the Samaritan woman is going to ask Jesus opinion on this controversy later in the conversation.

10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Jesus speaks to her in terms of a felt need that she has. Living water is pure running water. If you live in the Middle East, living water is a real life-saver. So anything that’s as good as pure running clear water is going to get her attention.

11″Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

She says: “you have nothing to draw with,” and I think, “Come on lady, lend Jesus your bucket.” But she can’t because Jews weren’t even allowed to drink from the same bucket as Samaritans. In fact he shouldn’t really be speaking to her at all according to the conventions of the day.

She continues:

12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So now Jesus is saying: “You are stuck in a cycle of feeling thirsty, then you drink water, but, a few hours later, you’re thirsty again, so you drink, but then you get thirsty, and so the cycle continues and you’re never eternally satisfied.” Jesus says: “What if I give you water that’s so satisfying that you’ll never thirst again. I can give you water that will well up into eternal life.”

15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

OK, so she doesn’t fully grasp the spiritual dimension to what Jesus is saying, but, he’s got her talking about something that she’s interested in.

That’s how you get to share the gospel with people. You start by talking about something that they are really interested in. Ask them about them. People want to talk about themselves and their own interests. And then you are looking for a natural bridge from what they are talking about that carries you over into some gospel content.

Now Jesus is using water as a bridge here, but when we have these conversations today, there are hundreds of these bridges, and, you only need one.

So here’s the most recent John 4 type of encounter I had. It was last Saturday night. I was at a wedding reception in Hampshire. I’m talking to a complete stranger, called Tony. We make small talk. He tells me he’s a roofer. There’s my first potential bridge. I have a Christian friend from a previous church, who’s a roofer. I can remember two of my mate’s roofer stories, and if Tony asks me anything about how I know my roofer friend, the answer is church. But we’re only 2 or 3 minutes in, so I don’t go over the bridge yet.

And then I get another 3 or 4 other times I could go over the bridge because Tony mentions people or places, where I have some kind of natural non-cringe Christian connection.

So we get onto music, he used to be into heavy metal. The biggest metal band of his era was Iron Maiden. I read this article the other day about Nicko McBrain, who’s the Iron Maiden drummer who’s become a Christian. If you know anything about Iron Maiden, that’s a big surprise. But I don’t go over the bridge yet, I’m still building trust with Tony.

We talk about a job he did in Upper Norwood, well that’s where Spurgeon’s College is, which is where I did my dissertation for my history degree. So I can talk about how I used to cycle over there. Who was C H Spurgeon? He was a Victorian preacher and revivalist. He built the world’s biggest church at Elephant and Castle, the Metropolitan Tabernace. You’ve probably seen the façade on the roundabout at Elephant and Castle. That’s another bridge I can go over.

By this stage of the wedding reception, the music’s getting turned up, and I can see that soon we’ll hardly be able to hear each other. So it’s time to go over the next bridge. I ask him what he’s been doing today. He’s been working on his car. We talk about cars, then motor sport, then Formula One. I tell him about a day I spent once in the pits at Silverstone with a F1 driver called Martin Donnelly. I say I’d driven up from Reigate to Silverstone. He asks me why I moved to Reigate, I reply it was because I was involved in starting a new church there. He said: “what do you mean, starting a new church?” And so I went over that bridge. And then we had the conversation I told you about last week.

You have loads of these bridges. Just think about all your life experiences, people you’ve met, places you’ve been, think of all the Christian testimonies you’ve heard. If you wrote it all down it would be 1000s of pages. Just keep talking and eventually either you or they will refer to something which you can naturally use as a bridge either to your story, or someone else’s faith story.

OK, next . . .

16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17″I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19″Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

Naturally Jesus would have been able to work out that this woman was probably a social outcast because she’s at the well on her own in the middle of the day, which was highly unusual for a woman, because all the women went in the morning, before it got hot, because of the effort of carrying the water home again, but this woman’s there at the hottest part of the day, so she apparently has no friends. But the only way Jesus can know she’s had 5 husbands and that the man she’s now with is not her husband is if Jesus gets some kind of supernatural revelation.

Now if we really believe that God still speaks today, then we should be asking God for these kind of prophetic insights, or so-called “words of knowledge.”

Let me tell you a quick story about how hearing God’s voice today. One morning. I wasn’t at home for this, but our next door neighbour, who I’m going to call Fiona. I should just explain that she is a barrister in the High Court. She got her two bags on the doorstep one morning, and then, we’ve all done it, goes back into the house because she’s forgotten something. She comes back to the doorstep to see that her bags has gone. All her documents for the defence case for the trial at the Old Bailey has gone. And she’s in a real flap. She goes next door, she rings on our doorbell. I wasn’t at home. Julia comes to the door. “Oh Julia have you seen my bags. Someone’s stolen my bags. I don’t know what to do.”

Julia says: “I’m sorry, I was upstairs in the kids bedroom, I didn’t see anything.”

So Fiona starts phoning the police.

And Julia’s thinking: “Oh Lord, how can I help Fiona, her bags have gone. Lord where have her bags gone?”

And she feels God say: “Just look up the top of the street. You see that van up there. They’re in the back of that van.” And so Julia goes out the front door, it’s a long street, terraced street, cars parked on both sides all the way to the top of the street. Now I’ve got to be honest, if it was me, I would have probably chickened out at this point, but Julia’s a much better Christian than me so she just goes for it. It’s quite a long walk. She gets to the van, and lo and behold there’s a man sitting in the drivers’ seat, so she knocks on the window, so he winds down the window, and says to the driver: “Have you got two black bags in the back of your van, that don’t belong to you?”

And he goes: “oh no, I knew we shouldn’t have nicked them.”

So he gets out the van, he walks round to the back, opens the doors. And there are the bags in the back of the van. So he takes Fiona’s bags out the back of his van, he pulls the handles up and he begins to wheel them back down the street and then his mate, who’d just gone round the corner, comes back and he sees what’s happened, and his mate goes: “Oh, no I knew we shouldn’t have nicked them. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. They were just sitting there on the pavement.”

So Julia’s walking back with these two big guys who are dragging the bags back. And Fiona’s standing there on her mobile phone. Julia appears with these two blokes pulling Fiona’s bags, and at that moment, the police arrive. And so the police arrest them, put the two blokes in the back of the squad car. They drive off to the station.

And Julia is left standing there on the pavement with Fiona, who has just been re-united with her bags, and now as you can imagine, there is just one question that Fiona wants to ask.

She asks Julia: “Julia, how did you know that the bags were all the way up that top of the street, in the back of that van?”

To which Julia replied: “I think God told me.”

Well, Fiona is now higher up the scale than she was. Now some of the other mums from school got to hear about what had happened, and lots of them asked Julia about it. “Is that really what happened?” That opened up masses of conversations for us, along the lines of “God still speaks today” “God is real” kind of conversations.

Jesus says “you’ve had 5 husbands and the man you’re now living with is not your husband.” All the commentators say that what happens next is that the Samaritan woman tries to change the subject because she’s under conviction of sin . . . She says:

20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

My view is that this is not a red herring. They are standing next to the Samaritan temple. They might even be looking at it. I think this is a genuine question. She wants to know whether she’s going to have to totally abandon her Samaritan religious and cultural identity if she chooses to follow this Jewish Rabbi called Jesus.

Now Jesus does respond to her objection. We need to be able to respond to the most common objections to the Christian faith. I have been asked hundreds of times in my life: “OK, so if God’s so good, how come there’s so much suffering in the world.” Many of our friends think that science has disproved the bible, others think that all religions lead to God. And so we have 3 separate nights addressing each of those 3 objections on our Alpha Course, and we ask every Christian who is new to Christ Church to come on our Alpha Course, so you can hear each of those big three objections answered in depth.

So if you’re a bit rusty on suffering, science and other religions, come on the next Alpha Course starting in January.

And then Jesus gets into the content of the gospel . . .

22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

OK, so this bit is a different from the sort of conversation we’re likely to have in London today, because firstly we’re not the Messiah, so we can’t say: “I who speak to you am he.” But moreover the chances are that your colleague at work is not waiting for the Messiah (called Christ) to come. I can’t think of any non-Christian I’ve ever met, who’s said what this Samaritan woman says when she said: “I know that the Messiah is coming, when he comes he will explain everything to us.” I’ve got friends who are waiting to win the lottery, I don’t have any who are waiting for the Jewish Messiah to turn up. So this Samaritan woman is much closer to faith than most of our unconvinced friends are.

Another thing that’s a bit different is that Jesus doesn’t say anything here about the cross. But of course after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, his disciples, especially Paul and Peter talked about precious little else.

But I want to give you the chance to get even better at sharing the gospel. Last week we had a go at sharing our testimony, our faith story. Tonight we’re going to have a go at explaining the gospel.

So Right now, I’m going to teleport all of you to that wedding reception. And in a moment, I’m going to ask you to get into pairs. Imagine you’re now at the wedding reception in Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire. You’re talking to Tony. You’ve just shared your faith story, your testimony with Tony. The band is on stage but they haven’t started playing yet. But you’re sitting so close to the loud speakers, that you reckon you’ve got about 1 minute before it becomes deafeningly loud, and Tony has just asked you, “OK, so what is it, in a nutshell that you Christians believe?” Tony says: “Someone told me once that I should ‘believe the gospel.’ What is the gospel? What is it that you Christians believe?”

Let’s have a go at that now. Same rules as last week.

Person A asks: “What is it that you believe?”
Person B: You have 45 seconds to answer this question.

If you don’t want to say anything, no problem, get into pairs anyway, and just let the other person talk. Or if you’re on your own, and you can’t find a pair, just join the nearest pair and make it a threesome. If you’re worried about this, just join a pair and just listen, you don’t have to say anything.

OK, Person A is nearest this wall, and Person B is nearest this wall.

So you have 15 seconds to say hello, and then 45 seconds to answer the question, starting from now . . .


OK, hands up if you felt happy with how you just did in explaining the plan of salvation? If you felt you presentation was good, your hand should be up
OK, hands up if you felt unhappy with how you just did in explaining the plan of salvation? If you felt your presentation was weak, your hand should be up.

So why was that experience so traumatic and embarrassing? Because we weren’t ready!

Plus, you say: “When you made us stop, in my gospel presentation, Jesus had not even been born. I was still in the Garden of Eden.”

Person B asks: “What is it that you believe?”
Person A: You have 45 seconds to answer this question.

OK, let’s switch . . .

Person A, it’s now your turn:


OK, hands up if you felt happy with how you just did in explaining the plan of salvation? If you felt you presentation was good, your hand should be up
OK, hands up if you felt unhappy with how you just did in explaining the plan of salvation? If you felt your presentation was weak, your hand should be up.

Why did we do that exercise? Because the bible says that it is the gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. So our presentation of the gospel is therefore very important. And that’s why we’re going through this book, because in chapter 7, Bill Hybels trains us . . .

Here’s how Bill does it. Bill gets pen and paper, and he goes . . .


One of the reasons that the world is like it is, is because in our selfishness, we have separated ourselves from God. There’s a chasm, a huge distance between us and God. We take life for granted. We don’t thank God or worship God like we should. We’re cut off.


All our religious efforts to get to God fall short. In fact all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No amount of church going, or charitable giving will get us across the abyss.


However God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die the death that we deserved. Creating a bridge.


Which means that if we put our trust in the cross of Christ, we can walk over the bridge and be re-united with God. In fact, Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24

Or Bill does his Do versus Done routine. He says: “At the end of the day, it’s the difference between Do, and Done.” Religion is all about Do-ing things. Trying to get to God by do-ing better. More good works, more effort.

But Christianity says, it’s all been DONE for you, by Jesus on the cross. The chasm was bridged from the other side, from God’s side. God sent his son to bridge the chasm that you and I could never Do enough to traverse. Then Bill says all you have to do is walk across the bridge.

And then Bill gives the pen to the other person, and says, point to where you think you are at. How close to the cross are you?

OK, I don’t usually draw diagrams, but in my mind I base what I say on, “Two ways to live,” because when I was part of a wonderful organization called the Durham University Inter Collegiate Christian Union this is what we all had to memorize, and I’ve never forgot it.

God creates the world. So we live under his authority.

But we choose to live under our own authority. We ignore and reject God, and we do our own thing. We want to do it our way.

And so when we die, we face judgement. Beyond death, God will hold us accountable for what we did with the life that he gave us. We face eternity without God.

But because God loves us so much, he sent his son Jesus, and on the cross, Jesus died instead of us. Jesus lived the sinless life we failed to live, but he died the death we deserved to die.

Jesus then rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Which leaves us with a choice. There are two ways to live. We can choose to either live under our own authority, or we live with Jesus. Eternal death or eternal life.

Now here’s the point, we were all made to memorize those verses at the bottom of the screen, and that’s what I’m working through in my head while I’m talking to people. I want to encourage you to memorize a gospel outline,

Bridge to Life – in this book
Or google – Two ways to live
Or we use here at Christ Church – Knowing God personally

because if you do, it will massively boost your confidence that you really know what you’re talking about.

Let’s look finally, then at what happens next in John 4 . . .

27Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29″Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

And so the whole town comes out to hear the gospel. And we can imagine them all making their way towards Jacob’s Well, where Jesus is standing.

31Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34″My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

I believe that the fields in London are ripe for harvest. We have found that 1 in 3 of those who attend the first week of our Alpha Course, will become Christians. If that statistic was 1 in 40 or 1 in 50, I don’t think I could stand in front of you, and say: “the fields in London are ripe for harvest.” But I tell you this, these are ripest fields I’ve ever seen in the UK.

39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.
42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

And so we can see how, one decision on the part of Jesus to walk across a room resulted in hundreds of people being saved in Samaria.

And as we finish this series, I just want to ask you to imagine with me, this Samaritan woman as a grandmother. She’s got her grandchildren all around her. And then one of her grandchildren, asks the Samaritan woman, let’s imagine, she’s now 75 years old. “Grandma, how did it all start? My parents are Christians, because you’re a Christian, but everyone at school tells me that the whole revival here in Samaria started with you? Is that true?”

And she’s going to reply. “No, it didn’t start with me. It all started when one tired, thirsty, exhausted, Jewish Rabbi, who sat down at a well, did something unusual. He began a conversation with a gentile woman. Jesus excused himself from the circle of believers, who went off to buy food, and Jesus walked across, not a room, but some dusty paving stones around a well.”

And her grandchildren ask: “What did he say? Did he say: “I’m the Son of God. Through me the entire universe was created.”

She says: “No,” he asked me: “Can I have a drink of water please?”

The grandchildren say: “No way!” The reason that we’re all Christians today, the fact that I’m going to go to heaven when I die. The fact that we worship Jesus in our family. You can trace it all back to one man asking a woman for a drink of water?”

She says: “Yes.”

Friends, when we walk across rooms, we have no idea, how many lives are going to be affected. You see a woman, who’s been married 5 times. God sees generations of her descendants. You see a 23 year old trainee accountant or lawyer, God sees their great-granchildren who will be missionaries to the unreached people groups of India.

I see a roofer from Orpington sitting at a wedding reception in Hampshire, God sees his great grandchildren, who could found the first Christian school and the first Christian hospital in Libya and Saudi Arabia.

I wonder if the band could come up

When we leave our comfort zones, when we walk into the zone of the unknown, we are truly following Jesus, who left the comfort zone of heaven and crossed the universe to enter our world in a stable. It wasn’t comfortable for him. His journey involved dying on a cross. But it was worth it. To win billions of people who he loved.

It’s worth it. In heaven, none of us will regret walking across rooms. And neither will the many people who’ll be there with us. They’ll come up to us in heaven and say: “Thanks so much for talking to me on that golf course.” “Thanks so much for talking to me at that party.” “Thanks so much for organizing that school re-union,” “Thanks so much for inviting neighbours like me to your flat warming, because look where I am now. I’m in heaven.”