by George R. Jaffray, Jr.
7. THE PROBLEMS OF PERSONAL EVANGELISM
The last chapter gave a method of personal evangelism, showing a procedure for use in the case of a person who has been prepared by God to receive the message. The common difficulties were not discussed, however, and there must he methods for dealing with them. I Then, for those who are not prepared, there must be a plan. In addition, there are the special needs of various groups of people: children, young people, people at a crisis point in their lives, those with various religious backgrounds, and different social backgrounds, and those with psychological aberrations.
Some of these items, which need to be discussed, will not he covered here. They are more appropriate to a later discussion of the responsibility of the church to use its different members with their varied backgrounds and abilities to meet specific needs of those who have been contacted. Treatment of these matters ought to receive special attention in a further book on evangelism and so are not covered.
DEALING WITH COMMON DIFFICULTIES
The first problem that the Christian worker may face is dealing with one of the common objections or difficulties that have been planted in the minds of a non-Christian by the unbelieving world. Sometimes it is raised to sidetrack the presentation with argument; the objection is in reality a mere excuse for not listening to or heeding the message. Often, an objection is raised after the presentation has been made, and this can happen because the essential intellectual problems that the non-Christian has were not faced during the presentation of the message. These are forms of intellectual sin, and the non-Christian has never been made to see that according to the Biblical message they are just that. However, it is also true that many people have been taken in by non-Christian objections, so that they are sincerely troubled by them. They are real difficulties to them; and until these intellectual and moral issues are faced, they will continue to stumble, with their minds clouded so that they do not really hear the message. It is therefore important to deal with any difficulties that arise, preferably at a point when it will not interrupt the flow of the presentation near its climax toward the end.
The method of the preceding chapter raises the question itself of whether or not the person has such difficulties. By discussing first the nature of God, which must be discussed in this day anyway, the way is opened to deal at the very beginning with the common objections that people have. If they can be cleared up at that point this may clear the mind of the hearer enough so that it will not he clouded with confusion and bias as the presentation proceeds. In other words, this may be the time when the Holy Spirit brings the Word of God to bear on the Word to convict him of his position in Gods sight.
This method, however, actually avoids most excuses by disclaiming the would-be opponent. By discussing Godís sovereignty, the Christian undercuts most oh the excuses at their very root. Ibis has been a fundamental fault of past evangelism. The reason that the objections have such great currency today is that Christians have allowed them, by refusing to preach basic matters that they should have been preaching to non-Christians all along. When the non-Christian objector realizes that die Christian has already jumped ahead of him and stolen his most powerful means of holding off a hearing of the message, he is left with nothing to say. He must either become downright nasty after the Christian has so graciously given him the opportunity to express himself, or he must settle down and listen to the message. It turns out, then, that most arguments have been avoided from the start.
Instead of realizing what the Christian has said, the non-Christian may still raise his objections. These must not be ignored, because there may have been such confusion because of them that the person simply does not hear correctly. The Christian should be glad that the person has raised the questions, because it gives him further opportunity to expand the points that he has been making, and these are foundational to an understanding of the Gospel. He could say, "Iím very glad you asked that, because it is important to understand what God has revealed Himself to be."
When the common objections and difficulties are examined, they are found to fall into several main categories. If a way can be found to deal with the basic problem of each category, all of the questions within each category will have been effectively answered. In this way, the problem of the Christian in meeting the questions is greatly reduced. Of course, all of them reduce back down ultimately to one problem ó sin. Men have repressed what they know of God and His ways, and as a consequence must have objections to the truth. The main categories are (1) ignorance of the Bible, (2) rationalism, (3) skepticism, and (4) moral difficulties. Finally, there is the problem of what to do when a person expresses disbelief in the Bible.
Ignorance of the Bible. Common objections based on a direct falsifying or ignorance of the teaching of Scripture are the most difficult for the ordinary Christian to meet. The following is a list of some objections or difficulties of this type:
Each of these assumes something about Christian teaching or Scripture that was not obtained from Scripture itself but by opinion from biased sources. The first thing that the Christian can do is to point out that all Christian teaching comes from the Bible and that it is unfair to judge it without looking at what the Bible actually says. Then he can ask the other person where he got the idea. He should then endeavor to give a very brief answer: 1. Christianity is not a self-perpetuating institution with authority in itself, but is founded on the Bible. 2. Historically Christians have led in correcting social problems and meeting human needs. 3. Not everyone who takes the name of Christian is truly a Christian. 4. It takes more personality and initiative to serve God than to serve oneself, and becoming a Christian gives a person truly worthwhile goals and direction to his life. 5. The teachings of Christianity as a system are rational, in contrast to those of the non-Christian who is involved in contradictions with his fundamental presuppositions at almost every point. 6. Large numbers of supposed historical errors in the Bible have been shown to be due to faulty conclusions in the past study of history, and there is no reason to believe that the handful of problems remaining will be any different. 7. The more knowledge there is of the manuscripts of the Bible, the less doubt there is about its reliability and inerrancy. Variants are so well defined that it is clear that they are of relatively small importance. 8. Christians intend to follow the Bible, but those who do not understand it as a whole are in no position to judge how successful they are. 9. The various doctrines of the Bible must be understood in terms of the whole of Scripture and the Christian understanding of God, not human speculation. 10. The non-Christian religions fail to recognize God, so the "truths" that they have are meaningless in terms of meeting manís real need to know Him. Essentially the Christian does not need to give any ground whatever, because he can be confident that with further study the answers that he gives are more than sufficient. He should become aware ahead of time what the attacks in general are and go on from there to challenge the other person to see that there is nothing to them.
The main thrust of the Christian worker should be to point out to the hearer that he has had a misleading source of information on the points that he is raising and that he should hear what God has to say in the Bible. If he is still distressed by the difficulty, books are available for study and the hearer should consult them. At that point, the Christian should boldly indicate what the stakes are: if God is what He says He is in the Bible, the non-Christian cannot afford to think that he can study the matter "some day," but had better listen to the message and find out the truth of the matter soon.
Each of these questions assumes criteria by which man can sit in judgment on God and what He reveals, and the criteria are chosen in such a way that it is a foregone conclusion that there can be no such God. It is simply assumed that God cannot do what the Bible says, and the basis for this is manís own ludicrous claim that he simply knows what has to be. Anything that contradicts his rational sensibilities should never be given serious consideration.
The Christian can first reply to all of these questions in the same way. He can ask in return ó
He may answer any number of things, but the next answer will always be the same ó
The burden is shifted from the objection to the root cause of the objection. The Christianís goal, however, is not to prove anything but to return to the presentation of the message, and this is accomplished by raising the question about manís certainty concerning his questioning about God.
Brief replies to the rationalistic objections follow, but, in general, they will not be found necessary in talking to the person: 1. and 2. God can be good and allow physical evil and sin because He is the standard of good, lays down His law for man, and is sovereign so that He has determined the outcome in accordance with His justice and judgment. 3. God has left a revelation of Himself for man so that man can seek God and escape the consequences of his sin, for which God holds him responsible. 4. Men actually have enough light, but they do not as a matter of fact use it and so will be condemned. 5. Sincere and devout people of other religions have followed after false gods and dishonor the God who made them, and God cannot excuse this sin against Himself, nor the other sins that they commit. 6. God is not obligated to send any more truth to people who have rejected the truth that they already have. 7. Human emotions are universal, but recognition of truth and knowledge of the true God comes only through the transforming power of God Himself as a person is brought to see His truth in the Bible. 8. Psychology deals with the inner state of man s body in relation to his thoughts and feelings (the "flesh"), but Christian experience goes beyond this into another realm altogether (the new creature in Christ). 9. God is not limited by His own creation, so he may bring exceptional events into the world to accomplish His own good pleasure. 10. Science is based on observations of the present world so that conditions must be extrapolated back in time on the basis of multitudes of factors that must be assumed to have been operating earlier; on the other hand, the Bible presents the creation as a direct action by God with no indication of intermediate steps or means being used. 11. Scientific knowledge is not great enough to say that no flood the size of that in Genesis could have taken place. 12. There is nothing in the knowledge of man that contradicts what is found in the Bible, unless the data are interpreted on the basis of prejudicial assumptions that in themselves rule out the possibility of the God of the Bible.
The following is a list of some objections or difficulties of this type:
The Christian must determine how troublesome to the other person his difficulty is, because these are important questions that could involve extensive discussion. Much has been written on most of the topics involved, and there has been extensive scholarly work on them. From the Christian viewpoint there are full and completely adequate answers to the detailed questions that have been raised by non-Christian scholars who have spent their lives trying to find flaws in the Christian position. The Christianís approach should be to face the root problem as before, rather than trying to answer a specific objection. The purpose is to see if the other person has been prepared by God to hear the message or not. The idea is to get the person over the hump of intellectual discouragement, if that is what is keeping him from giving full attention to the message. Some are so skeptical about the possibility of any knowledge in this area that they are unwilling to listen to what the Christian has to say. If Christians can give them a reason to listen, they may be ready to listen and actually be open to the message. Others have specific difficulties that cannot be met with such a general approach, and the application of specific knowledge and apologetic methods are required.
The basic approach with those who have skeptical difficulties is to agree with them about the worthlessness of speculative thought and challenge them to see that without Godís intervention to reveal himself, man, because of his sin, will never know the truth. It is in this way that Christianity is different from other religions and the systems of the philosophers. The person is completely right to have his doubts on this matter. However, he is actually no better off than the speculative thinker, because the data of the world must still be interpreted, somehow. Yet, there is no sound basis for this; the "scientific" principles are really adequate only for the purpose for which they were developed, to construct a working model to aid man in finding new relationships and details about the world, not to find ultimate reality. Furthermore, the very life and actions of the person show that there are vast areas of human experience that are not subject to scientific study, and it is completely presumptuous to state that there can be no such thing as a spiritual world. So the real question is whether God has actually revealed Himself, as the God of the Bible claims to have done. The only way to answer that is to listen to the message and see, with the spiritual ability that God can give, that the message is self-attesting as coming from God.
The answers to the skeptical difficulties are along the lines given below.
1. Man does make gods after his own imagination, which is why it is important instead to find out what God reveals of Himself. 2. The miracles in the Bible are not of a type that indicate credulity but are just what one would expect of a sovereign God entering into human history in accordance with the plan revealed in the Bible. 3. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that it is merely a human book, but on the contrary there is much evidence in the opposite direction, so much in fact that elaborate theories have had to be devised to explain it away. 4. Archeological and historical evidence indicates that sources for the writings of the Bible are contemporaneous with the events described, because confirmed details are given that could not have been known to men writing later. 5. There is a progressive revelation of truth in the Bible that is quite unlike the pattern for the evolutionary development of religion expounded by non-Christian scholars, and further, in the New Testament, the earliest disciples can be shown to have had the highest possible view of Christ from the very beginning. 6. The Christian view is that man was created by God capable of receiving perfect knowledge of Himself, so that the language which he had, communicated to him perfect, inerrant truth. The limitations of language due to sin are overcome through the illumination of the inspired words of Scripture by the Holy Spirit. 7. It is impossible to accept Jesus as a great teacher if He was wrong about the claims attributed to Him, and views that He looked upon himself differently are against all evidence and require an extremely dishonest handling of the Biblical materials. 8. Morals and religion are only relative to the spiritual state of people; this does not excuse them from obeying Godís standards. 9. Christian experience is based on and interpreted entirely by Scripture so that the fundamental question is whether one knows the God of the Bible, not whether he has accepted something for which he has a natural desire, since it is clear that men prefer gods of their own making. 10. One does not trust himself to Christ only because He made certain claims and certain things were reported about Him, but faith in Him is linked to a total view of life, the world, and history as given by the Bible. It is the Christian claim that apart from the Christian view nothing really makes sense.
The final group of common objections consists of moral difficulties, óaccusations that Christianity has failed or belief that it doesnít meet a personís needs. The following is a list of some objections or difficulties of this type:
Behind each of these questions is the assumption that for God to be recognized by the person He must satisfy his personal needs or the needs of man regardless of his sinful state. One should get the person to concede that God might be worthy of worship even if he doesnít meet manís needs in the way that man conceives that he would like Him to. The approach is again to tackle the underlying problem in an effort to get the person to listen to the presentation or give some more thought to the message. The Christian might proceed as follows:
This brings the Christian worker to the point where he can immediately begin his return to the presentation of the message as given below.
Some brief answers to the moral difficulties are ó 1. It has never been Godís plan to have Christianity solve the problems of the world apart from the personal intervention of Christ. 2. Christians were in the forefront of progress when they applied the principles of the Bible to all of life but lag behind when they donít; furthermore, non-Christians have merely used the principles that were originally given to them through the influence of Christian thinking. 3. Christians who hold to the Bible as the only final authority agree with one another in large measure; those who have borrowed different ideas from the world couldnít be expected to agree. 4. The question is not what Christianity has to offer, but how man is going to respond to Godís Word. 5. Christianity will remain pointless to all who fail to investigate its message; God gives to Christians, however, a full and abundant life if they follow Christ as shown in the Bible (John 10:10). 6. There is no Christian who has given up his family, friends, and possessions who does not receive back a hundred times as much as he gave up (Mark 10:29-30). 7. Dependence on fleshly feelings, no matter how deep they are, is contrary to the principles revealed in the Bible; those who seek a religious or personal experience of this type are susceptible to all kinds of evil forces. 8. It is more fundamental for a person not to be a hypocrite, but a hypocrite is one who acts contrary to his beliefs; so the real question is where a person gets his beliefs. 9. Most fundamental to man is his religious and moral nature; but according to the Bible manís independent self-will is related to sin, rather than what man is fundamentally. 10. One should consider why God allowed the world to be what it is and come to realize His final end for it in relation to that purpose; then, one should realize that the issue is, Where does the ultimate standard of morality lie, in oneself or in God?
If he says, Yes, then proceed as below. If he says, No, then the Christian should say that he is sorry that he completely misunderstood the other person and ask him again what he thinks, he will most likely give a works answer, a pseudo-Christian answer, or an "I donít know." In any case the Christian can proceed with ó
Tom, Do you know what you just told me?.
If the person hedges, then continue with ó
This brings the conversation back to the place where the Christian worker can continue where he left off in his presentation. He simply goes on to the next Biblical statement in the message.
DEALING WITH UNPREPARED INDIVIDUALS
The method of personal evangelism is devised, as much as possible, to carry a person through the message to a definite call to obey the Gospel and close with Christ. The reason for this is that the Christian has no way of knowing that a person has not been prepared by God until the call has been given and he fails to respond. He cannot count on outward appearances, because they are deceiving; and experience seems to indicate that many have been converted who have every indication of not being ready, as well as people who appeared in every way to be ready remaining unresponsive. For this reason, those who have difficulties are not to be dropped because they object to particular doctrines or wonít receive the teaching of the Bible. Scripture does not declare that people must first be brought to accept the things that the Bible teaches, but that faith comes by hearing it (Rom. 10:17). The Christian is to boldly declare Scripture-truth regardless of the hearerís belief, as long as he can be led to give his attention to the message. He is to depend on God to do the work within the personís heart.
When it becomes clear that the person is not ready, because he will not listen to the message or because he fails to respond at the call to close with Christ, he must not be dropped or mistreated. The next step is to proceed to work with him so that he may become prepared by God to receive the message and come to Christ, if it is Godís timing for this to happen. Of immediate concern is how to relieve any tension and find out the personís particular need. After this, there is the question of how to open the way for further contacts and witness. Something on each of these will be considered below.
1. Those Who Have Serious Objections. Suppose the Christian has had to meet one of the common objections mentioned above, and he could not get the person to continue the conversation with his general answer. In most cases, the Christian worker will not have the background to handle the specific problem himself. What does he do next? The answer is that he must first say that he doesnít blame the person for feeling frustrated about the answer that he just gave. The Christian has tried to point out the basic issue first, but of course that doesnít answer the personís specific question. He must also assure the person that Christians have not been asleep, and that there is very probably a good answer, already worked out in detail, to the specific question that he has asked. The Christian should be prepared with a book for non-Christians dealing with the defence of Christianity. Would the person mind doing him a favor? Would he read the short book dealing with such questions, until the Christian has the opportunity to find out the answer to his specific question? At another time the Christian can go for another visit with a person who is more qualified to deal with the personís specific need. Suggestions for ending the conversation are given later in this chapter.
2. Those Who Interrupt the Presentation. Suppose the Christian gets as far as describing how man has insulted and rejected the infinite and holy God, and by that time the other person has decided that he doesnít want to listen to what the Christian has to say. He may say something, such as "I donít believe in what you have been saying, and anyway, Iíd rather not get into that. Couldnít we talk about something else?" What should be the Christianís reply? In the first place, it is clear from this that the other person truly is not prepared, otherwise he would not object to continuing. Of course, this must be distinguished from resistance, such as objection to what the Christian has said, which may indicate nothing at all, but which stops short of calling for a halt to the presentation. Resistance must be ignored with a reply, such as ĎWell, Tom, Iím not just presenting my own ideas on this, but this is what the Bible teaches. Do you understand what the Bible says on this point?" and then continue. If he says that he doesnít believe the Bible, then the approach should be tried that was suggested above under ĎLack of Belief in the Bible." If, however, he then says that he doesnít care what the Bible says and indicates that he is not going to listen any longer, that is a different matter. It is not a simple matter of resistance, but it becomes clear that he is not prepared. The reply should be something to ease the tension, because the presentation has been designed to go ahead quite a ways without giving the other person an opportunity to stop it, unless he interrupts or takes the initiative to do so when asked the next question.
The Christian worker should try to relieve the other personís frustration by saying something, such as óOh, Iím sorry, Tom. I just took it for granted when you responded earlier, that you really wanted to hear about this. You know, there was a time when it didnít mean very much to me, either.
Then he should try to find out the reason for the personís antipathy. It may be that by drawing the other person out, he can interact enough so that he will be allowed to proceed further. It may be that the person had an experience in the past with a Christian who belittled his objections or difficulties, and that is why he does not want to continue the conversation. If so, a sympathetic hearing and reasonable response to what he says may be all that is required for him to change his mind about listening further. A method for drawing him out might be to ask him if something bothers him, in terms of the main categories of difficulties already discussed, such as follows:
If the answer is, Yes, the person is asked what he has in mind. Then the Christian can proceed with a brief and then the general answer given earlier. If the answer is, No, the Christian might mention another category of difficulty.
Could it be that you believe that Christianity does not meet peopleís needs? . . .
In the same way he might continue ó
If this still doesnít elicit an answer, he may proceed with ó
If this works then go ahead with the presentation. If not, then it is time simply to ask outrightó
The best approach from this point on is to leave something for him to read, selected on the basis of whatever would seem to best suit the personís need. here, if the presentation has taken place in connection with a church-sponsored visit, the second visitor may make a trip to the car to get whatever is needed before the visitors leave. The worker simply states later on that he would like to leave something for the person to look at for a few days. The hook should be of enough value for it to be a reason for a return visit and possible later contact. The conversation should be wound down in the same way as in the other cases (see later in the chapter).
3. Those Who Donít Respond at the Gospel Call. Suppose the Christian worker is successful in going all the way through the presentation, but the person does not respond to the call and close with Christ. In this case he will want to find out his reasons in order to evaluate how to proceed. There are five different points at which the hearer may respond negatively. The first point where a negative response could occur is after the series of questions immediately following the presentation: asking where the person stands, and if he realizes his helpless state and that faith in Christ is essential. The worker should go through these questions even if he gets negative responses. It is clear that the person is not ready to repent and trust Christ, so he does not ask him that. Instead, he says, "Tom, it looks like you are not ready to repent and trust Christ, is that right?" Then he asks, "What seems to be standing in your way?" Frequently, there will have been a basic misunderstanding of what was said, and often it will seem that the person did not hear or ignored what was said. A recapitulation may be needed, this time showing the person two or three Scripture verses on the points confused. After clarification of the points, the question to repent and trust Christ is asked; and if there is a negative response again, plans for a follow-up contact should he made. If the confusion seems very great, plans should he made immediately for a follow-up contact (later in this chapter).
On the other hand, the person may have difficulties that he has had in his mind all along but did not express. In the previous discussion of how to handle these, the goal was to clear the way for hearing the presentation. When they come out at the end; however, it is likely that they have clouded over the personís understanding of the message that they just heard, so the goal should be to use the personís thinking as a means to reflect back on what was said and clarify the message. The interaction should also be handled in such a way that preparations may be made for future contact. To do this, the Christian worker must carefully study the relationship between the points of the message and the common difficulties and their answers. If he is not able to do this, he must tell the person that he believes that it is important to give him a satisfactory answer if he is to properly understand what the Christian has been talking about. Would he do the Christian a favor and read a short hook (dealing with the defence of Christianity) until he can get the answer for him? The book is a reason for a return visit later with another Christian worker who is more qualified to deal with the particular difficulties.
The second point where a negative response could occur is at the question whether or not the person is ready to obey Godís command to repent and trust Christ. If one reaches this point, it is not likely that the person has rationalistic or skeptical difficulties, but he may still have moral difficulties and answer, No, he may be asked first, "Have you been wondering if God will really meet your needs, if you repent and trust Christ?" If he responds, Yes, the worker may ask him if he had anything particular in mind. Then, after the response, he could give the general answer described earlier and prepare for further contact with a hook. If on the other hand, the person answers, No, to the question, he should be asked what seems to be standing in his way. There are only a few things that he could answer. (1) If he doesnít sense the need and feels satisfied, this is the same as the moral difficulties above and should be handled in the same way. (2) If he says that he is already religious ó already a church member or sincere in his own religion ó there will probably be a need for further contacts, because it often takes time to overcome the effects of previous religious conceptions. In the case of those who claim Christianity, it must be pointed out that apart from the Bible whatever is called Christianity comes from the same source as rationalism; they must look only to the Bible to know the truth about Christ and God. In the case of those adhering to non-Christian religions, it must be pointed out that the difference between other religions and Christianity is that only Christianity gives a solution to the sin problem. How are they going to get rid of their sins? Then preparations should be made for further contacts. (3) If the person says that there is nothing he can do, that he tried before and failed, and that he is afraid he is a hopeless case; then it should be pointed out that he must understand and meet Godís conditions, and that he must trust God that He is working within him when he does that. The worker should go back over Godís requirements and then come to the call again, he should remind him that God is not asking him to do something on his own decision, but that He is commanding him to repent and trust Christ, and point out how that makes a great deal of difference. If he still does not respond, then preparations should be taken for further contacts. (4) If the person says that he is afraid of the consequences of becoming a Christian (sacrifice, persecution, etc.), he should be reminded that his accomplishments in the world do not give true satisfaction and they are only temporary, but God furthermore has not given man a choice when He has commanded him to repent and trust Christ. The non-Christian should consider and weigh all the consequences, not just the immediate ones. He should be reminded that there is no companionship when God punishes man for his sin: he will he in torment and will have no freedom whatever (Luke 16:19-31). If he thinks that there are hypocrites in the church, it should he pointed out that hypocrites will not escape, and anyone who does not obey God and who is not changed within will he punished along with them: "(The Son of man) shall cut him off, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," Jesus said (Matt. 24:51). But why should he let some wicked person keep him from that, so that he is punished along with him?
The third point at which a negative response could occur is at the prayer of commitment to Christ. The Christian worker will be able to judge if there is an extreme oral handicap that would keep the person from carrying this out in the normal way. In all but extreme cases, however, a prayer of commitment, in which one expresses faith to Christ, is a Biblical essential for salvation. It must be made clear that it is not prayer that saves; it is the faith-commitment, in whatever way it is expressed, that counts. Open, oral prayer is called for simply because of the warrant given for it in Scripture and the need for the Christian worker to know how to proceed with the person. If it were not for this and certain dangers, the prayer could be silent, as in the very rare cases of speech handicap.
For these rare cases, the following might be suitable:
This is admittedly a compromise with what was said before about not putting words in a personís mouth. Of course, it is not exactly the same. The person does not orally say the words, and he is not allowed to think that the outward act of prayer saves him. The main reason for enumerating the items while the other person is praying is to be able to ask afterward if he included all those elements in his prayer.
The vocal person who will not pray, may simply be unprepared. He may be asked whether his difficulty is fear that he will forget Godís requirements as he prays. The worker might continue ó
If he says, Yes, then the worker can ask him what things the person will want to say, before he prays clarify them further for him, and then try again. If he says, No, then he should be asked what the difficulty seems to be. Is there something that isnít quite clear yet? He can be helped, if this is the case. If he says that everything is clear but that he just canít do it, then make the suggestion that he read a book that the worker gives him, telling more, so that he can come to a conclusion on the matter.
The fourth point at which a negative response could occur is at the time the person is asked to follow-through with a commitment to engage in the study of the Biblical story of salvation, in preparation for baptism. If this occurs, the worker should open the Bible to Matt. 28:18-20 and ask the person to read the Scripture. The worker might then continue as follows:
At this point, the worker should be ready to point out that he is not asking the person to join a church. But he should also be ready to go back over the difference between faith and works, and he should be ready to discuss the difference between a commitment to Christ and a commitment to particular acts of discipleship. He should point out that there is no such thing as a Christian who is basically disobedient: that a Christian may become confused or be drawn off by sin; but that when his mind is clear, he will do what Christ asks him to do. If he has really trusted Christ, he can trust him in the matter of the commands that Christ gives him, provided he understands them. If this doesnít bring the person to respond favorably, the Christian should recognize that the commitment was probably spurious and that he must take immediate steps to prepare for future contacts. He might continue with ó
The Christian should assume that God may be working in the personís life, but that he is not yet ready to respond.
The last point at which a negative response could occur is at the prayer of thanksgiving, at the end. The problem may be that the person merely has great difficulty expressing himself orally, but the Christian worker should be able to tell from his previous conversation the likelihood that this is the reason. It may indicate a deeper problem of unbelief and a recognition on the part of the person that he didnít really mean what he said earlier. Or, the problem may be one of understanding about how God works, but this should have been taken care of in the immediately preceding conversation. The worker might continue with ó
If, Yes, then the worker tries to clear up the difficulty. If, No, he continues with ó
Depending on the response, the worker may ask if perhaps the person is thinking that he is not ready after all to repent and trust Christ. In that case, he should read a book that the Christian leaves with him. Preparations are made for further contact.
The general method used here to prepare for further contact is to leave a book with the unprepared person, which can be used later as a reason for another visit. In addition to this, the person may be asked if he would be interested in a study group with others to study the Bible or talk about basic religious questions. Next, the Christian needs to switch subjects. For many, the best method is to prepare ahead for the eventuality by working out things that he could say on a topic of nearly universal interest, e.g., war and peace, or what might happen, etc., especially in relation to current affairs and personalities. For those who are able to converse on many subjects, one should be chosen that is in line with the other personís interests but of fairly high "significance." The transition to the final subject of conversation might go something like what follows. If the person did not listen to the presentation of the message one might say ó
If the person did listen to the presentation but did not respond to the Gospel call, one might say ó
The second visitor can be of help at this point by contributing something if there is no ready response from the person being visited.
After an appropriate amount of time, the visit should be ended. If the visit was made through a church visitation program, it might be handled similar to the following:
If asked if it is necessary, the answer might be, Yes, that the visitors are supposed to meet after their visiting at their church, or, Yes, they are to make another visit yet.
Other things may be said as appropriate: How glad he is to have meet him, etc. Postpone the next step of giving the book until just before leaving.
If there was a specific need, the worker should add immediately ó
The second visitor can be of help by being prepared to inject himself in at this point to say how happy he is to have met the person, etc., so that the lead-visitor can get out the door. Then he should immediately turn and go also. This is done to make sure the person gets the book and doesnít return it before the visitors leave.
DEALING WITH REJECTION
The Christian has a responsibility to those who have a clear understanding of the message and reject it outright. God makes clear that his declared will for man is to repent and trust Christ. There is no excuse for those who reject and donít receive the message. The Christian still has a responsibility, however, because there is something more that he must say to the person. His job in delivering the message may be finished, but Godís work with the person may not be finished.
The Christian must distinguish rejectors from others, however. He has no right to make up his own mind that a person has totally rejected the message. God may be working in a person that many Christians would classify as hopeless. It is a sin against people to prejudge them by any other than the conditions that God Himself determines. Wrong criteria for judging include the following: A person does not reject the message when he has not heard it delivered faithfully; antagonistic people have often rejected a caricature of the message, not the message itself. A person does not reject the message when he rejects the authority of the Bible; before men are regenerated, they cannot be expected to accept God or His Word for what it is. A person does not reject the message when he hears the presentation but does not respond to the Gospel call; the Christian has no way of knowing whether the person has truly understood the message or not. This is why an effort should be made to make a follow-up contact on those who do not respond. It may be that they have difficulties which kept them from hearing it. A person does not reject the message when he has been approached by a Christian in a fleshly way and his antagonism has been aroused so that he denounces it; a non-Christian cannot be expected to react in any other way to bad treatment.
Christians who "shake the dust off their feet" and call those who do the things mentioned above "rejectors" are arrogant themselves. The world is filled with Christian arrogance. When others have difficulties that they donít understand, they without shame dismiss them to hell with a flippant air! The lack of concern and lack of love is astounding! This attitude today is one of the reasons that God does not work in their midst. Many Christians need to repent and get right with God themselves before they can ever be used by God to bring blessing to many others. Furthermore, the superficial ideas that many Christians hold about the world and science so repulse thinking people that those Christians can never be used to bring them the message. Christians must learn that they are not the measure of Godís working. They must talk to non-Christians only on things which God may use to prepare them for a hearing of the message.
The criteria that Christians must use to distinguish real rejectors from others are, on the one hand, a refusal to explore or discuss the message any further after hearing the presentation and, on the other hand, a willingness to explore and discuss endlessly when there is a clear understanding of the message, the person has been faced with a clear Biblical apologetic, and yet he does not respond when the Gospel call is given. During the work of personal evangelism, a Christian can come across only rejectors of the first type. The second criterion applies only to those who have been approached in follow-up evangelism.
Some Christians may wonder about these criteria. The criteria mean that the terminal point of evangelism has not been reached until there has been "rejection." Christians may, however, feel that non-Christians are being given too much benefit of the doubt, because it seems to them that those who appear "willing" but do not respond are not worth spending more time on in comparison to the many people who have not heard any presentation at all. Their motto is, "Donít spend time on anyone a second time, until everyone has had an opportunity to hear once." There is no Biblical warrant for this, however, and Biblical examples indicate the opposite. The Apostle Paul, for example, disputed in one synagogue with the same people for three months straight (Acts 19:8). Christians must learn to take care that the message has been presented clearly, and not give up on people merely because they have difficulties.
The basic approach of a Christian worker to a rejector is to bring him to see the possibility of Godís hand on him in the future to bring him to obey Christ. This is Biblical because God may bring things into the lives of non-Christians to stop them short in their mad rush to destruction. When brought to a crisis point in their lives, people often do reflect and contemplate where their lives are going. Suppose the non-Christian is given an understanding that God may do this very thing ó bring adversity or disaster -- to break down his haughty spirit. He might think much differently when it comes than he would if he were not made aware of how God can work.
Many non-Christians curse God when things donít go their way or there is a disaster in their lives. They do this because they have no understanding of God and His ways. They have been thinking entirely in terms of their efforts to do "good," which is self-serving evil, though they have deluded themselves so that they honestly believe the contrary. If God stops them, they rise in "righteous" indignation against God. What did they do to deserve this? But God sets up and puts down at His pleasure. Wicked men who refuse to recognize or honor God will be held accountable for the curses that they bring against Him for stopping them from their evil.
If God brings into a non-Christianís life adversity and disaster so that he is stopped short, and he reflects and remembers what a Christian said earlier about God doing such a thing, to bring him down so that he will repent and trust Christ, his attitude can be entirely different. God may bring that remembrance to bear on him in His process of drawing him (John 6:44). Instead of cursing God, he may think, "What if it is God who has done this, to bring me to Christ instead of suffering eternally in hell?" He is not likely to curse God for "trying" to keep him out of hell. He would have to look on what has happened as a demonstration of Godís love to him. In this way, the things that He brings into the lives of a man ó Godís providence ó may be a means by which he may be led to heed the message of salvation. God may open the ear of a man by holding him in cords of affliction long enough so that he will listen (Job 38:8-10).
John Flavel in his The Mystery of Providence points out that Godís providence can bring this about when a person knows about God. Many Christians can look back and see the door of escape Providence has opened. There were dark clouds rising over them, judgment at the door, even threatening their lives. Or it may have threatened their financial state, their work, or their property. Or it may have taken their dearest relatives in whom their lives were bound up. Then it was that they were brought very low and guilt stirred up fears of Godís hand on them. They turned to the Lord in that distress, and He made a way of escape and delivered them from all their fears (Psalm 34:4).
The Christian can be used by God to make men aware of His hand on them by preparing them in advance for such an eventuality, if God may be merciful to them. And he should do this because he ought to assume that God is using him for the salvation of those he may meet, until God takes them away and he knows differently. So, he might speak to a rejector who wonít talk further in a way similar to what follows:
If the person didnít listen to the presentation but doesnít think he is rejecting Christ by not considering the message further with the Christian, it should be pointed out that according to the Bible Christians are sent by God to make His way clear, and he has already demonstrated that he had it wrong by answering the way he did when he was asked how God accepts a person. Therefore, he has no way of finding out, because he should not expect God to allow him to see the way in the Bible, when he rejects the Christian messenger that God has sent him. Furthermore, God may harden men in permanent unbelief when they reject His way.
For a person who listened to the presentation but doesnít think he is rejecting Christ by not considering the message further, a similar reply can be given. It should be pointed out that according to the Bible, God has sent Christians to make Godís way clear; and when the person rejects them, he cannot expect God to allow him to see his way clear to come to Christ. On the other hand, he may not realize how desperate his case is. God may have to bring things into his life to break down the hardness of his heart.
To close the conversation and visit, the Christian might offer to leave a book, as with those who are unprepared. He ought to assure the person that it is not his thought to pressure him against what he knows is right, but that he hopes the other person doesnít let things drift. In addition, he can thank the person for letting him come in and visit, and hope that they can part as friends even if they canít agree on the matter of Christ and the Bible.