My friends say that I have a low cringe threshold, but I bet I’m not the only one who sometimes finds evangelism awkward. I want my friends to come to know Jesus, and I want to tell them the gospel. But the problem is there seems to be so much information that needs to be imparted. I need to explain who Jesus is, what sin is, why Jesus died, that he has risen, and that life eternal is available to anyone who believes that he is their Savor and Lord. That is a lot of information to get across!
A few years ago I became convicted that I was doing something wrong. I would start to tell people the gospel, and not only would the person I’m speaking to look weirded out halfway through my long monologue, but I personally would also feel really cringy. I’m explaining the best news in the whole world, and yet everyone is having a bad time. Surely there is a better way!
Then I read Randy Newman “Questioning Evangelism”, and ever since then I’ve found evangelism a lot less cringy. Here are a few keys lessons from that book…
Recognize people’s value
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”Genesis 1:27
All people have value, because all people have been made in the image of God. This gives all individuals great worth. C.S. Lewis wrote: “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal.”
This means that people matter. Their opinions matter. Their experiences matter. Their objections matter. Instead of responding to someone question with a lecture, we need to recognize the value of the person in front of us and start listening to them. Listening is respectful. Respect is something you show to someone with value. But respect also wins people over, and I believe gives us more of a platform to speak from. I’ve noticed that when I’m listening to someone and respecting them my evangelistic conversations don’t feel so cringy.
If someone asked you; “how do I become a Christian?” What would you do? I would probably give them a monologue. Yet, interestingly that is not what Jesus does. In Mark 10:17-18, when he is asked by a rich man what must be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus does not respond with an answer, but with a question.
Why do you think Jesus did this? There is a lot that could be said to that question, but one thing to note is that in the rich man’s answer to Jesus question a lot is revealed about him. His answer reveals that he thinks salvation is about being good, and seems to have no knowledge that Jesus is God. Jesus’ question revealed a lot about the seeker.
This is why questions are useful. They bring things out into the open. They help us, the Christian, know where the individual in front of us is coming from. Maybe they have asked us a why God would allow suffering? By responding to this with a question (why do you ask that?), we can then know if they are coming to this question from a purely academic point of view or if there is some personal story of suffering that first needs to be heard and the pain acknowledged.
Questions also take the focus off us. Often we can feel that as Christians we always have be defending the faith. Defending our belief in God, in Jesus and the resurrection. But we must remember that we are not the only ones who have a world view (a particular philosophy of life). Every single person in the whole world has one. It may be in the form of an organized religion, but it equally may not. So ask questions of it. Do you believe in God? Why do you not believe in God? Why do you think belief in the supernatural is common to nearly every culture and society that exists? If there is no God, how can we know what is right and wrong?
I can’t remember if this is a lesson or not in Randy’s book, but one of the things that stuck out to me when reading it was how we do need to be ready. When we start being more intentional with evangelism and asking people more questions, then more things will come up. We will start having more conversations and as we ask questions of people, they will start asking questions of us. So, we want to have something useful and truthful to say.
“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”1 Peter 3:15
Do you know how to explain the gospel to someone?
Do you know some basic answers to apologetic questions?
I feel a lot less awkward when I actually have got something to say. Here are some resources to help you think these things through…