It’s always exciting to have gospel conversations with people who don’t yet know Jesus. We are always praying, preparing, and looking for opportunities to do just that!

But not every conversation is a gospel conversation. Many people need their curiosity piqued or their trust built before they are ready to discuss spiritual things. Jesus understood that when He began a conversation with the famous woman at the well (John 4).

Jesus was a great conversationalist! He knew how to listen and ask thought-provoking questions. He didn’t explain everything to everyone every time He spoke. He met people right where they were.

Pre-evangelism really is part of evangelism. Painters know that preparation makes up a big portion of the job; cracked and peeling layers need to removed and smoothed over; then the primer is applied, and the paint can then adhere beautifully to the wall.

The best pre-evangelistic work is prayer. Nothing prepares a heart to receive the gospel like faithfully asking God to work in someone’s heart for their good and His glory.

Sometimes pre-evangelism means helping to meet one kind of need and praying that an opportunity will open to point people to the One who can meet a deeper need. But remember, not all needs relate to poverty. Think about the rich young ruler who needed to care more about the Lord than his possessions. Jesus loved that young man and was sad to see him go. We want to develop compassion for various kinds of needs.

Asking (and really listening to the answers) is a way to care for people and goes a long way in building trust. That trust can work like a primer. Then there are thought-provoking questions that can open up spiritual discussions.

Holidays can be a great time to ask questions. If you have Jewish friends, it would mean a lot if you wish them a “Happy Passover” later this month. But why not also take the opportunity to ask what they plan to do to celebrate, or what some of their favorite childhood memories are of Passover? Then a thought-provoking question might help the conversation take a turn. Something like: “At Passover, when you think about being set free to serve God, do you ever wonder about what might hold people captive and prevent them from loving and serving God today? Not physically, like Pharaoh, but in other ways?”

Most journeys to faith in Jesus involve many people and lots of preparation. It’s always a privilege to have whatever part God gives us as we partner with Him—and with one another—to see Jews and Gentiles find forgiveness and new life in Jesus.