Recently I’ve been doing an intense self-evaluation of my evangelistic techniques. To be honest, my typical approach, which is mostly borrowed from Share Jesus Without Fear, has not to date had warm receptions from those I’ve tried it on.
This is not to say that these people rejected Christ’s message. We know most people will reject Him and not enter Heaven, but I hardly make it to the actual “good news” part of the process.
Instead, the adversity is towards the scholarly approach. Most Lost people don’t read the Bible (some, ironically, do), and even those that do don’t really believe in it. So quoting scripture (or having the Lost person read the scripture) is often times a pointless endeavor, because the Scripture has no authority in their lives. All the book names, chapter numbers and verse numbers tend to muddy the water that’s already somewhat confusing and awkward to the Lost individual who is probably hearing the true Gospel for the first time.
One of the founders of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham, spoke at my congregation a few years back. One of the things he said is that the age-old tactics for evangelism here in the U.S. weren’t working anymore. Sermons that once brought in the sheaves are now falling on deaf ears. Why? According to Ham, it’s because the U.S. is no longer a nation of “Jews” (religious people of the Bible yet without Christ), but “Greeks” (people with either a pagan or no religion at all and no belief or knowledge of the Bible).
Over a century ago, most Americans learned to read from the Bible, went to church most of their lives, and knew the story of Jesus. This doesn’t mean they were saved, but they had the head-knowledge base. To bring them to a salvation-decision, you just had to fill in the blanks for them.
Today, most Americans have not been raised in real Christian households where the Word of God is read and upheld as the standard for living, have not heard countless sermons on the Gospel and the Bible, and have no respect for the Church or the Scriptures. We can’t use the same method on them.
In Paul’s day, these two ideologies were personified in two people groups: the Jews, who had the Scriptures and the age-old knowledge of God and the prophecies, and the Gentiles or Greeks who knew virtually nothing of any of that. If you read Acts, you’ll see the Apostles takes a remarkably different approach to preaching to Gentiles than they do with Jews.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a crowd of mostly if not all Jews. His message about Christ was based on the Scriptures at that time, and he proved the case for Christ on the Scriptures the Jews knew and respected.
When Paul went to the Aeropagus (Mars Hill) in Athens, he preached to a crowd of mostly Gentiles. He did not quote any Scripture. The Greeks would not have known it nor would that prove anything to them if he did because they did not believe in it. Instead he used their own philosophies and such to make his point. Even then, few responded. It is hard to convert “Greeks”.
Sadly, Americans today are mostly Greeks, even in the “Bible belt”. It is hard to convert Greeks, for to them the Cross is nonsense.
With that in mind, I have decided to change the way I approach Americans with the Gospel. Instead of bombarding them with Scriptures (i.e. Roman’s Road), I will talk to them about my friend named Jesus, who saved my life. I will tell them who He is and what He’s done for us, what He offers to them, and what will happen to them if they refuse Him. I’ll use examples based on things they do know, like movies or popular media to get my point across. Then, if they want to know more, I can take them to the Scriptures we are all so familiar with.
In the end, what we are offering the Lost is not a religion or a building or a book of rules, but a relationship with the God-Man Jesus Christ. Perhaps its best if we start by introducing Him as a real person, and not just a name in an old book.