Part 5 of this series explained how to safely deal with sensitive subjects, the importance of using reliable references where necessary, and obtaining a decision on each subject presented. Part 6 discusses how to determine a person’s spiritual interest through the power of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of your own spiritual journey.

Discovering the level of a person’s interest in spiritual things is of primary importance, since without this knowledge it is impossible to broach the topic of giving him or her Bible studies. This is a delicate process and requires three things: 1) a commitment to share the gospel, 2) the courage to inquire, and 3) the skill to do so without causing offence.


Most people are hesitant to talk about their spiritual interest—even if they are quite interested—so you must not assume that they will eventually tell you unprompted. The longer you wait, the harder it is to inquire. This is because 1) friendship usually breeds casualness, which lessens the urgency to ask, and 2) the prime moment, when a person is most receptive to this inquiry, usually occurs early on. The Holy Spirit maneuvers things around so that a peak opportune moment is reached when all contributing factors for maximum impact are present, and when this moment is not seized, the best moment is lost. This doesn’t mean that a lesser moment can’t be effective—indeed it can be—but it will take more effort. And sometimes, tragically, an opportune moment never arises again. This is why the serious soul winner must always be on guard for that special moment when the Holy Spirit has arranged things for him or her to strike.

The primary reason most people postpone (or avoid entirely) inquiring about a contact’s spiritual interest is a lack of courage; the second most common reason is a lack of skill. Some have a burning desire to inquire, but are simply too timid. One way to break this hesitation is to learn from more experienced people. After a few successful attempts, your efforts will become bolder and bolder until you can do it with self-confidence, ease, and grace. Reaching this point requires a great deal of patience and love for people. You cannot expect people to accept within an hour something you took years to understand yourself.

Ultimately, it is usually we ourselves who, guided by the Holy Spirit and through developing the proper skills, bring about the opportune moment. Pray that God will open the contact’s heart and show you the appropriate approach for that specific contact. These two components, when combined, make it almost impossible to fail.


Those with experience in personal evangelism can usually make an inquiry during the first contact with a person, if the following conditions are present: 1) The contact is sufficiently intelligent and/or knowledgeable to dialogue meaningfully, 2) the contact is willing to talk to you in a friendly manner, 3) the contact speaks your language (or you speak his or her language) well enough to understand each other, and 4) you have at least fifteen minutes of private, uninterrupted time together.

After the introductions, you should, if possible, first allow the other party to learn about you. Asking about your contact first usually prompts him or her to return the pleasantries and ask about you, which may then make it difficult to steer the conversation into the spiritual inquiry process. Nonetheless, it is still possible to make the inquiry if the sequence of conversation isn’t to your advantage. You will just have to be clever in turning the conversation around to them again. Typical warm-up questions at this time are: Where are you from originally? Are you single or married? What is your profession or what degree(s) do you have? What are you studying? When will you finish? Do you like what you’re doing? Do you plan to continue in your current profession? Do you have brothers or sisters? Are your parents living?


After the initial warm-up questions, you can begin asking key questions to help find out where he or she stands religiously. For instance, you could ask, “What is your religious background?” If the answer is something like “I don’t have much to do with religion,” then you could ask, “Were your parents religious people? Did they go to church?” If the answer is “No,” then you might ask, “Was there a problem? Did you ever find out why they were neutral?” You will have to dialogue according to the answers you get, but always keep the conversation low-key and respectful.

One of the most common answers to the question, “What religion do you belong to?” is, “We all believe in the same God,” implying that detailed religious beliefs don’t really make much difference. This response might indicate the person does not want to continue with that direction of conversation. What should you do in this case? You could say, for example, “You’re right, but in my case I’ve found that how I believe in God has made a lot of difference in my life, because I’ve seen that God is really interested in me and especially how I relate to Him. I’ve actually had quite an interesting experience with God, and as I’ve learned more about His teachings I’ve been able to grow a lot more than I thought I would when I just knew Him as God. Now I’m a better person because of it.” Hopefully this will lead you into a more intense conversation about spiritual things.

If you get positive answers to your questions about their spiritual interest, like “Yes, I believe in God,” or “I was raised as a Christian but haven’t been very active in the last several years,” or “I like going to church but I’m just too busy,” then it may be an opportunity to give your own testimony. Share how God has played an important role in your life, and how getting right with God and studying His Word regularly made all the difference in your life, and how making the effort to put God first has blessed your life.


The most important objective of the conversation is to discover whether or not that person has a genuine interest in spiritual things. With practice and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you should be able to determine where your party is spiritually. Not many people will declare they want nothing to do with God and terminate the conversation on the spot. Don’t be intimidated by a short or blunt answer. Be diplomatic but persistent. The second most important objective of the conversation is to get a commitment to take Bible studies. Sometimes, if you are adept enough in managing the conversation, you will get a commitment for studies at the very first engagement.

It should never take more than two contacts, or three at the most, to accomplish these two objectives. When you are committed to sharing the love of God with your fellow human being and have made it a determined practice to make spiritual inquiries with new contacts, and when you have invited the Holy Spirit to guide you and be your partner, you will be amazed at your success in these endeavors. God will even lead to you people who are interested in spiritual things when He sees that you are a faithful and skillful inquirer and can successfully bring people to the foot of the cross. The reward is a joy that fills your whole being with spiritual euphoria.

Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who served for thirty-nine years in six world divisions.

2019 Third Quarter

Download PDF
Ministry Cover