One of the reasons we feel stuck in our evangelism may be that we’ve wrongly narrowed down our task to sharing a message about how to be saved. That message is crucial and central, but if it’s all we have to share, and we’ve already shared it, and it’s already been rejected, we might feel stuck. But our task is richer, deeper, and fuller than that. We’re to share the gospel and our own selves (1 Thessalonians 2:8), because a life redeemed by the gospel retells the gospel but with unique, personal, and relatable details.
What is more difficult than sharing the gospel for the first time with someone you love? Sharing the gospel for the tenth time with someone you love — even after they’ve already (repeatedly) responded with rejection or indifference.
At that point, we often feel stuck, as though we’ve played to a stalemate with our friend, child, neighbor, or spouse. We’ve prayed faithfully, spoken the gospel clearly, and loved patiently. But there’s been no sign of movement or progress. What more can we do?
We don’t plan on giving up. Too much is at stake. But we know that unwanted repetition of the same gospel words may repel rather than attract, harden rather than soften. So, what to do next? Tiptoe around in conversation? Settle for pleasantries? We’re left feeling weary and discouraged. We might grow cynical and resign ourselves to what feels like the inevitable reality that the person we care about won’t ever follow Jesus.
What do we say when we’ve already said it all? How can we persevere in pursuing the lost we love?
How to Get Unstuck
There are several helpful responses to those of us who struggle in this way. First, it may be that we’re too focused on our own ability (or lack thereof) to win the person we love.
Jesus points us away from ourselves and to the sovereignty of God. We can trust that, in his time, God will draw his people to his Son (John 6:44). It may be that we’re too absorbed with our present lack of success. The apostle Paul points us instead to the future: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Another cause of our despair and confusion may be Satan’s lie that we’re dealing with a static situation. Deep down, we’re convinced nothing’s ever going to change. Our reason for feeling this way may be an unspoken belief that runs something like this: I have an unchanging gospel to share, and I’ve already shared it (multiple times!). I have nothing more to offer. I’ve done all I can. Nothing’s going to change.
But what if evangelism is about more (not less) than sharing the content of the gospel? What if people are more complex and unpredictable than we may think? And what if the situation with our spouse, friend, child, parent, or neighbor is more dynamic than Satan would have us believe? In the face of an apparent stalemate, it’s refreshing and encouraging to remind ourselves of three dynamic realities in any relationship with a lost loved one.
This Person Will Change
It’s all too easy to believe that the loved one who has repeatedly brushed you off or beaten you down will always reject the gospel. But people change. There’s a popular myth that every cell in our bodies is replaced every seven years, so that we’re literally different people every 84 months. While untrue, it’s a helpful metaphor for what really is the case. A 45-year-old you is (or will be) a different person from the 35-year-old you (who was different from the 25-year-old you). And this should make us hopeful.