The other day I was having a discussion with a friend about a situation we were both involved in. We were arguing about how to handle the situation because we both had different ways to go about it. She thought I was wrong and I thought she was wrong. Sometimes, there’s one right way to do things, and other ways are just wrong. If my car has an empty tank of gas, and I decide to refill it with chocolate syrup, and my friend thinks I should refill it with gas, I’d obviously be wrong.
Sometimes, though, there are multiple ways of doing things that all work, and you can make a decision for what works best for you. I prefer to make macaroni and cheese in the kitchen in the dorm beside mine, but the girl down the hall has a fancy little bowl that you microwave your mac and cheese in, and it cooks the pasta in five minutes (and I’m not being paid to talk about this, I just like food). We both end up with mac and cheese in the end, so it’s all good.
With all of this talk about chocolate in a gas tank and methods for cooking mac and cheese, you might be wondering what in the world that has to do with reaching the lost. Allow me to explain.
God didn’t make us all the same. We have different gifts and experiences, so we approach reaching people who don’t know Christ in different ways.
The reason this whole topic is on my mind is because I just went to do street evangelism on Wednesday. Back home, we walk around in groups, going door-to-door or just approaching people in the street, with a few questions on pieces of paper. We ask people where they think the universe came from, who they think Jesus was, that kind of thing. We circle back through and we ask more questions, and we have a discussion based on those questions. We also have a Gospel presentation if the people will listen to it.
Things were very different on Wednesday. We met up outside of a courthouse in a parking lot and we had tracts. We asked people if they were going to heaven and how they knew, and handed out tracts as people walked in and out of the building. There was a notepad, and we’d get in brief conversations with most people, but then we’d take down names and numbers for the people who were in a hurry so we could talk more with them later.
And you know what? It worked. On more than one occasion, we had the opportunity to help Christians who had no transportation find rides to churches in the area. We were able to offer reassurance to two people who became Christians a long time ago but didn’t know if God still loved them. I met a man who wasn’t affiliated with any religion, but who was searching for intellectual answers, and I was able to point him to some good sources to learn what Christianity was about from an intellectual standpoint. We also had a conversation with a man who said he believed in Jesus, but that nobody shared the same beliefs as him. When we asked him what we believed, it seemed like he basically read the Bible and came up with his own completely different belief system on his own, based on a few Scriptures out of context. When he walked back to his car after exiting the courthouse he shouted at us, “Don’t forget to call me!” He was pumped about having someone who wanted to hear his point of view.
I was actually surprised at how much we were able to learn about people and their beliefs from just handing out tracts and asking people if they knew if they were going to heaven, but it worked. In the setting we were in, people were in a hurry and didn’t have time for a long conversation. Handing out tracts, asking a quick question, and taking contact information worked well because we could set up appointments later when people had more time to talk and we made connections. Back home, asking a lot of questions about what people believed and getting in deep discussions worked well, too. People thought our interest was interesting and always wanted to share more.
There are some things that we all need when we engage the culture. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it, how to be gentle and respectful, and how to listen. There might be some other things we all need, but those are some basics. Outside of those things, there’s a lot of wiggle room. I wouldn’t speak to a group of 3rd graders the way I would speak to a bunch of adults. Paul wrote, ” I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” That’s what we need to do. Not all people are the same, so we shouldn’t talk to them all in the same way. If we know our audience, we’ll know how to talk to them.
Watch out for a future blog on different approaches to apologetics and evangelism.