We care about our friends, and we want them to participate in the joy and discovery of this wonderful thing called salvation. But when we do that, so often we come across to these people as saying, in attitude if not in words, “I’m good and you’re not.” People are turned off by that, and rightly so.
Several years ago, I was involved in training the laity of a local church in the activity we call personal evangelism, and I did that over a period of sixteen weeks. Of that sixteen weeks, about three weeks required training in the content of the message we call the gospel. That was the easy part. The rest of the training was devoted to helping people learn how to communicate their faith in a way that was nonthreatening and noninsulting to people.
People are extremely sensitive about how they’re approached on matters of religion. Many of us who are so excited about our faith in Christ want to share it with everyone we love, and our intentions are good. We care about our friends, and we want them to participate in the joy and discovery of this wonderful thing called salvation. But when we do that, so often we come across to these people as saying, in attitude if not in words, “I’m good and you’re not.” People are turned off by that, and rightly so.
Somebody said once that evangelism, true evangelism, is only this—one beggar telling another beggar how to find bread. There’s nothing that should make me boastful about my faith. I recognize that my faith is a result of the grace of God. And so we must understand that when we’re talking to people, we’re called to be gracious and kind. The fruit of the Spirit that the New Testament calls us to exhibit includes gentleness, meekness, patience, and love. That’s the spirit in which we are called to communicate to people.
Even though we are gracious, kind, patient, friendly, and sensitive to people’s dignity, we cannot remove altogether what the New Testament calls the offense of the gospel because the gospel does call people to repentance, and people are threatened by that. But it is important that we not add unnecessarily to the offense that is built into the message of sin and redemption. Sometimes people reject us and what we say because they’re rejecting Christ—and we suffer unjustly. But many more times people get angry not because they’re offended by Christ but because they’re offended by our insensitivity toward them as people.
This article previously appeared on Ligonier.org, and is used with permission.