I learned in High School, and especially in college, that after a test when no one in the class scored well, there was a saving grace. It was a method of grading in which even if your initial score was a failing grade, you could end up with a B or even and A on the test. It was called grading on the curve. When used appropriately by the teacher it was the instructor’s way of meeting the students where they were, when the teacher made the test a little (or a lot) too difficult for the students abilities. The key determiner of that fact for the teacher was the score of the best student’s in the class. If the best students in the class, the ones who always pull A’s, and often get close to or even 100%, scored failing grades, 50% or 60%, and the teacher knows they tried hard and studied, then it may be time to grade on the curve. Grading on the curve meant that the students who scored the best, even if it was 50%, received an A, and the rest of the students grades were determined by a bell curve from there based on how well they did relative to the top students. Grading on the curve saved my GPA on more than one occasion. Thank God for the curve.
When it comes to having Spiritual conversations with other people, many of us don’t feel equipped for the various situations we find ourselves in either. Every conversation is different, every person is unique, and there is no easy formula to use for speaking to people about Jesus. Although we might try to do that. We might try to use the same comments, the same questions, the same Bible verse with everyone, like “Are you sure you are going to heaven? Listen to what Jesus says in John 3:16….” It might work with some people but the majority of the time, that’s not meeting people where they are.
For those who really have a heart to bring their faith in Jesus into their daily conversation, which is what Jesus encourages us to do, it’s almost like every conversation becomes a test. Sometimes we think, “Jesus, this is just too hard” and afraid of failure, we give up.
When our Lutheran Hour Ministries speaker, Rev. Dr. Chad Lakies was with us in mid-October he told us about Jesus’ saving grace. Yes the saving grace of Jesus death and resurrection forgives us and promises us eternal life, but I’m actually talking about another facet of that saving grace. This saving grace, God has designed spiritual conversations to operate “on a curve” as well.
That means, not every conversation has to include John 3:16 to be a successful spiritual conversation. Some spiritual conversations, that are meaningful, and helpful in drawing others to Christ may never even talk about the topic of heaven.
Rev. Dr. Chad Lakies introduced us to this curve through materials prepared by Lutheran Hour Ministries. The curve starts with people who might be “reluctant” to talk about Jesus or faith. With these people, successful spiritual conversations entail a lot of listening to their concerns over health, anxiety, their future and deepening a trusting relationship with that individual. That’s a win! That’s an A in the spiritual conversation book. Once someone is at the “receptive” place on the curve, then a believer can begin to share a scripture passage about the concerns they have regarding anxiety or health. Or, the believer might tell a story of God’s work in their own life. A believer might even offer to pray with them. When a believer realizes that the person on the other side of the conversation is actually on the “seeker” side of the curve. That is: they are asking questions about faith and wanting to know more. Then it’s the time to pull out John 3:16. Then it’s time to tell them all about God’s promises of heaven and how salvation is given through Jesus. Spiritual conversations are not near as daunting when we realize God designed them to operate “on a curve.”
You can learn more about this curve at https://www.lhm.org/learn/outreach-essentials and look for the “Prepared to Respond: The Spiritual Conversation Curve” materials. Create a log in and you can watch the videos and learn more. It’s a great way to become comfortable having spiritual conversations. At Holy Cross you’ll hear more about these resources as we seek to make use of them in the coming year.