The Power of a Persistent Conversation



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 19:8–16

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.


Conversations matter. And conversations about faith really matter. And conversations about faith with people who do not yet believe may matter the most.

Preaching and teaching are critically important in the work of the gospel, but it’s easy to slip into thinking this is primarily how salvation happens. You know the story. Some awesome preacher preaches a powerful sermon, makes an invitation to come forward, and people respond and are saved. Isn’t that what happened at Pentecost with Peter and some three thousand people responded to the invitation?

Most of the time it looks more like what’s going on in today’s text. Paul speaking in the same place to the same people for three months, arguing persuasively and boldly. It takes two to have an argument. It requires conversation. It requires caring enough for people who don’t agree with you and who probably don’t like you to stay in the argument for the sake of possibly persuading some of them to believe the gospel. Paul was having conversations about faith with people who did not believe.

He stayed with it until it got nasty and rather than leaving town, he opted for a change of venue. He went from the synagogue to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Get this: He went there daily and engaged in discussions, which is another word for “conversations” for another two years.

Conversations about faith comprise the day-in and day-out inglorious, yet beautiful work of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but my problem is I’m not in enough conversations these days with people who don’t believe.

The interesting thing about the Wesleyan movement in eighteenth-century England is the way people came to salvation. It didn’t happen so much in response to Wesley’s preaching. It happened in the conversations people had together afterward in the class meetings. And, of course, the band meetings were the secret sauce of the whole thing. 

Don’t hear me to diminish the role of gospel preaching. I’m just saying that most often there’s a lot more to it than that. It could be as close as your next conversation.


Father, would you increase my circle of people who do not yet believe in you? There are people I kind of know yet who are really still strangers to me. Would you show me the path to an acquaintanceship with them? There are a number of acquaintances I hold at a safe distance; some of them even neighbors. Would you show me the path to a friendship with them? And there are friends with whom I have never even broached the subject of you. Would you open the doors and windows and grant me the courage to begin a deeper sharing with them of who you are to me? Even now, you are leading and helping me to pray for new conversations with all these people. Step by step, Lord, I will follow you step by step. Come, Holy Spirit, and make me a witness. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.  


What about your conversations about faith with people who have yet to believe? How is that going? How might it get going? What keeps you from it? 


Today we will sing “Take Time to Be Holy” (hymn 316) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here.

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. I’ve come to believe that there is far too much reliance one the sermon (one way communication) to bring about a true conversion. It’s kind of like shooting a shotgun into herd of feral hogs. You’re bound to hit a few, but not likely to take any of them out. I agree that true a true conversion requires dialogue, so that questions and misunderstandings can be addressed. I believe this to be true, whether speaking about trying to reach the unchurched as well as internal evangelism within a church body. I’m definitely convinced that in order to grow mature disciples, participation within a small group of some sort is an absolute necessity. These types of open discussions cannot be facilitated in a typical Sunday morning worship service, or even an adult SS class where there are too many folks, and time is limited. Yes, classes or bands are definitely essential for effective Kingdom expansion.

    1. Well said Bob. I have seen open, Spirit-led sharing according to 1 Corinthians 14:26 work beautifully in groups of various sizes. I once saw it work in a group of about 150 people. I attended a group every week of about 40 people who meet that way with no problem.

  2. Last October I attended a Spanish language immersion school in Costa Rica. My class only had three students, an 18-year-old guy from Germany, an 18-year-old guy from the USA, and me. Our teachers was a 40ish year-old guy with extreme gay mannerisms named Jesús. There were about 7 classes in the school and about 20 or so total students while I was there.

    The classes were conducted in Spanish and were very conversational. Jesús began our class by asking us how we had been learning Spanish. I told everyone that I had been reading the Bible every day in Spanish for 9 months. That got some curious looks from my two classmates and from Jesús.

    God is mentioned quite a bit in the Spanish language. Every time you say adios, which means goodbye, you mention God — Dios. So, I had many opportunities to talk about the Creator. Eventually Jesús asked me if I grew up in a religious home. In my broken Spanish I told him that my parents weren’t religious, but that as long as I remember I believed in and talked to God even though my parents didn’t attend church until I was about 12. Then they only went because I kept asking them to.

    I told Jesús how the routine religion of going to church helped turn me into an agnostic. I still believed in some kind of distant creator, but I had no idea who or what the creator was. Then I shared with him how that all changed when I was in college. In Spanish I said to my teacher Jesús: “I went to an informal campus meeting where people were telling how Jesús had changed their life and in an instant, my life was forever changed when I met Jesús — but not you, the other Jesús.”

    For a second or two Jesús looked stunned. Then he burst into genuine, kind, uncontrolled laughter that went on and on as tears rolled down his face. My two classmates looked at me as if to say, “What is going on?” I had no idea.

    Eventually Jesús got up, went into the hall, closed the door, and continued to laugh cathartically outside the room. I had never seen such a spontaneous response to the name of the living, resurrected Jesús. When my teacher Jesús finally came back into the room to continue the class, he seemed different. He was relaxed, openhearted, and humble. During the rest of the class, he continued to ask me about my faith. When I “graduated” and left the school, Jesús gave me one of the warmest, kind, non-threatening hugs I have ever received. Every time I tell people this story tears fill my eyes. I continue to pray for Jesús to personally get to know, follow, and obey the other Jesús.

    During my two weeks in the school, I got to have friendly, non-threatening conversations about reading the Bible in Spanish and about the other Jesús with most of the 20 or so students and a few of the teachers and staff. When I left, I gave many of them my blog address. The next day or I had almost 100 views from Costa Rica. I have always wanted to be able to talk to people about Jesus and it has always been awkward for me, but at the Spanish language school, conversations faith naturally (or supernaturally) flowed from me. (To visit my blog, google Free Gas For Your Think Tank.)

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