I moved to a new place a year ago this past June 11th. Since I moved here, I have met many people and have friends that don’t believe in God and many of them find it ridiculous. They know that I am a Christian, and I want to help them since I noticed that most of them are missing the joy of having Jesus Christ in their life. As a teenager, in a school where religion does not matter, it is somewhat of a difficulty for me to talk to my fellow peers about the wonders of God. I know most of them are going through situations that are difficult to surpass without God’s help and presence. I want to help them and show them God’s glory, but I don’t know how to since they don’t like to talk openly about God or anything. I want to know how I can show them God’s will for their lives without trying to be impulsive to them about what their religious views should be.
I am thrilled with your passion for your friends to know Christ. Jesus’ parting words recorded in Matthew 28:19 as He ascended to heaven were to “…go and make disciples of all nations”…. You are fulfilling His wish.
So how do you share the Good News of Jesus with your friends? Do you need to be pushy? What do you tell them? How do you even start a conversation about spiritual things?
Let me give you a few thoughts.
First of all, evangelism is a partnership. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is the only One who can convince (and/or convict) a person of his or her need for salvation through Christ. Jesus explained this truth to His disciples in John 16:7-11: “But it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) won’t come…. And when he comes, he will convince the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is unbelief in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the prince of this world has already been judged.” (NLT)
You cannot convince your friends of their need for a personal relationship with Jesus without working closely with the Holy Spirit. What you can do is explain the benefits you have in Christ, and perhaps answer their questions, and perhaps share your own faith in Christ—and why you believe. Then, pray for the Holy Spirit to break down the unbelief in their hearts by convincing them of the beauty and reality of Christ.
Now, let’s get personal. You mention that they “don’t want to talk about these things.” We know that relationships open the door to talking. The more time you invest with them—especially getting to know them—the more likely they are to open up to you and listen to your ideas.
The more you get to know them, the more you will see deep into their hurts and struggles. Remember, everyone is fighting a battle. Ministering to their hurts often opens the door to their inner souls so we finally get a chance to talk with them about Jesus.
In John 4:1-30 Jesus led a woman He met just moments earlier into the Kingdom of God. He opened the door by talking about her hurts. He knew that she had been married five times and was currently living with a man not her husband. He moved straight to the rejection issues that were crippling her life. Facing her needs and sensing the emotional healing power of a caring Person, she moved quickly into a deep, genuine relationship with Him.
Everyone hurts. We are born into an imperfect world, live among imperfect people, and we ourselves have flaw. So we all have hurts. Sensitivity to others pain will open the door with anyone.
I use a technique which works as well with brand-new acquaintances as well with folks I have known for years. One of my evangelism models is based on Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”
First, I ask, “What was the best day of your life?” People never hesitate to tell me. As they relate their joyous day, I rejoice with them. I reflect back how wonderful that day must have been. I get excited (genuinely excited) about their experience. This is rejoicing with those who rejoice.
Not long afterward I ask, “What was the worst day you ever had? I have never had anyone fail to answer that question either. I listen as they share; I ask questions; I mourn with them. I say things like, “I am so sorry. How did you feel as you were going through that difficult experience? What an awful time for you. I am so sad you had to experience that.” Immediately, I see an openness and vulnerability I would never see if I went directly to dealing with their sin issues.
Ministering to people’s hurts is often the key that opens the door to helping heal their “fallenness” and need for Jesus.
Let me give you another Biblical model from Luke 19:1-8. Zacchaeus was a hated, crooked tax collector for the Roman government. He used his position to line his own pockets with wealth. He was a traitor to his own neighbors and they hated him for it. His nasty behaviors were evident to all. He was a wicked, lying, stealing, cheating and selfishness man.
Think with me now. Could you imagine that a man like Zacchaeus might have some feelings? Certainly he would. He had to! You know that he was feeling lonely, rejected, despised, hated and guilty.
Now, could you imagine that a tax collector behaving like he was and feeling like he did, might have some needs? Certainly! Among other things he needed love, acceptance, companionship, forgiveness and affirmation?
When Jesus arrived in town He walked immediately to Zacchaeus’ tree and called out, “You sneaky, thieving, selfish little man! Stop it!” No, of course, that is not at all what He said. Only a beginner starts like that. Christ gently said, “Zacchaeus, come down. I’m going to lunch with you today.” To go to his house and eat from the same bowls with your fingers was one of the greatest signs of acceptance Jesus could have done in this culture.
Good things happened during lunch. During the next three hours Jesus ministered to his needs and healed his feelings Three hours later the front door flew open and Zacchaeus shouted for all to hear: “Half of all I have I give to the poor; and whatever I have stolen from any of you I will restore four times over!” Jesus declared, “Today, salvation has come to your house!”
Zacchaeus found faith in Christ—not because Jesus yelled, “Stop it,” but because Jesus took the time to build a relationship and then ministere first to his deepest needs and hurts.
The deeper the levels of trust we build into relationships the more we can share with our friends and the more they will listen and give credence to what we say. Many of us miss opportunities because we are not willing to invest time in the lives of others. To build relationships takes time, energy, and a passion for people. We cannot sit in the comfortable pews of our church and shoot “gospel bullets” over the walls. Jesus ate with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes and social outcasts. He knew how much they needed Him.
While relationship building takes time, it is not always essential. Sometimes the Lord Jesus puts some one in our paths who is ready to hear the gospel immediately and will respond by praying a prayer to receive Christ. This is often the case on the mission field where men and women have never heard about Jesus. We should always be prepared to share our faith. Paul advised his friend, Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season. Always be ready to give testimony to the hope that lives within you” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Finally, remember that we are not living in a “churched” society. We live in a “Post-Christian”. Millions of Americans have never darkened the door of a church. That does not mean that they are not spiritually hungry. New age teaching, occult practices, kabbalah, scientology, Mormonism, Islam and other spiritual avenues are being widely explored by our friends and neighbors.
When you are discussing Christianity, be aware that some of the people you speak to don’t believe in God, or the Bible or even that Jesus existed. Instead of beginning with Christ and salvation, we most often will have to deal with their questions concerning atheism, agnosticism, suffering, God’s existence, evolution or comparative religions—among a myriad of others. Learn about these ideas so that you can answer their questions with at least some degree of information. But, remember, you don’t have to have all the answers to any of these questions. Your personal story of what Christ has done in your life is the most compelling truth you can share.
I hope this helps. God bless you, R, as you love your friends and find open doors deep into their hearts.