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Are you a person that talks with your hands? Maybe you are like some people who find it almost impossible to speak without making some kind of hand gestures or facial expressions as you converse. The truth is that we all use hand movements, nodding, and other gestures to varying degrees. Many of these gestures and others like known as emblems.
Knowing how we can communicate more effectively as we share the gospel can only help to open doors and create opportunities. When we involve the Holy Spirit as we share, He convicts and opens the heart of the listener. He does the saving. Not us.
I can illustrate this by giving an example I saw recently. I was at an evangelistic training event for an outreach in a local community working on the streets. One person gave a demonstration of how they went about witnessing. He picked a gentleman from the audience to do a role play. What he said was very good, however as he spoke he invaded the person’s space standing closer than a foot away holding the man’s hand continually and not letting him go. You could see how uncomfortable the person was and how he desperately wanted to move away.
Key Point: Good communication involves using common sense
When I teach evangelism I say that most of it involves the use of common sense. We just need to speak to people in the way that we would like to be spoken to. Having an awareness of how the person feels taking careful notice of their reactions.
“The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction” Proverbs 16: 23 NIV
“They make a lot of sense, these wise folks; whenever they speak, their reputation increases” Proverbs 16: 23 Message
Sometimes known as signs or emblems, gestures can replace or supersede words, numbers, and even punctuation marks. They can vary from the well-known gesture of a person holding their thumbs up to signify that everything is good, through to someone making a fist pump when they win at something or get a good result.
We also need to be aware that signs and emblems can vary in different cultures. The thumb and forefinger gesture used to represent the word ‘Okay’ in countries like the United States can take on a very offensive interpretation.
When you are sharing the gospel, a good thing to do with your hands is to keep them open while you speak. You can do this by using what is known as open body language. Meaning that when you stand, make sure that your arms are down by your side with your palms facing your listener. Doing this signifies that you are open and honest as well as being open to what the person has to say.
We sometimes fold our arms when we are cold or because it is a comfortable position. However, it can also be a barrier when someone basically hides their hands in an arm fold. Children often do this when they are told “No” by their parents, which is usually accompanied by a frown or a pout. This form of disagreement can transcend into our adult life, so we need to be aware of folding our own arms when someone objects to the message.
People disagreeing with you or even making objections to the gospel is to be expected as you witness. The evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said that fish don’t generally jump into fishing nets.
We make gestures or illustrators to add weight and reinforce what we are saying. In most cases, as we converse we do this subconsciously. Signs or emblems include all of those gestures that supplant words, numbers, and punctuation marks. Correct use of them adds a great deal to the words we use.
Great preachers are often very expressive as they speak. They draw people in and reinforce what they say illustrating with gestures and other expressions. They know how to do this, combining them with changes in vocal volume, speech rate and the use of deliberate pauses to add emphasis.
Using them wisely can be used to grab a persons attention and they can also confirm or repeat what we say. A common example would be saying yes to a person while we nod our head at the same time. Also, we use them as a substitute for words, such as shaking your head to say no or using nonverbal signals to regulate speech. These are known as “Turn Taking” signals.
Correctly using these gestures along with what we say make it possible for us to alternate the conversational roles of speaking and listening. We don’t want to give a speech. We need to have conversations.
I am absolutely certain that the Apostle Paul would have spoken in this way. He was undoubtedly empowered by the Holy Spirit who worked through.
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand to begin his defence. Acts 26: 1-2
One to avoid is finger-pointing, especially when accompanied by the word “You”. This is an over-assertive act. If you are not careful you can come across as accusatory. It is ok to use pointing in a complementary manner. It can add emphasis when using phrases like, “You are correct” or, ” You did well”.
I have seen people witnessing for Jesus, pointing saying, “You are a sinner” or “You are lost”. I say to evangelism classes, “If you want to point, make sure that you point at yourself. Replacing the word “You” with “I”. Using phrases like, “I realised I was a sinner and needed Gods forgiveness” or “I understood that I was lost and needed a saviour”. Speaking in that way means that you don’t come across in condemnation of the person you are speaking to.
We need to remember that we are trying to win a person for Christ. We must avoid our conversation becoming a jousting contest. Our aim is simply to have a meaningful conversation so that we can tell them about Jesus.
Have you really thought about how you communicate?