Why do we have to listen to what other people think when Jesus commanded us to ‘tell them’ the good news?
This is a question that I have been asked numerous times by Christians in many parts of the world. Behind this question lies a view that we simply need to tell people the content of the gospel and that will be enough for them to make a decision to follow Jesus Christ.
The reality that many churches are having to get to grips with is that the world is not like it used to be. There was a time when the vast majority of people in the UK saw the world through the lens of a Christian worldview and, as such, there was a good starting point to ‘tell people’ about Jesus.
Today, most people living in the UK have little idea about Jesus and don’t see the world through a Christian lens. I think the words of G.K. Chesterton provide an accurate picture of the reality that we face:
When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in everything.
Just a few days before writing this article I was talking on the streets of Forest Gate with a young man named Ron who had a Catholic background, believed in Jesus and Buddha, had experienced astral projections and didn’t trust organised religion.
To share the truth about Jesus with the millions of people in the UK who, like Ron, ‘believe in everything’, it is critical that we realise that evangelism can’t just be a monologue that anticipates an immediate decision. It must be a dialogue, a conversation where we listen and speak. It will most likely be a series of conversations where over time we are able to disciple a person towards faith in Jesus. A key part of this will be answering their questions.
As we engage in conversations here are a couple of ways that listening to the person can help us to disciple them towards faith in Jesus.
- As we listen to a person and hear what it is they believe, we can then talk about faith in Jesus in a way that may challenge or complement what they believe already.
- We are not alone as we witness. The Holy Spirit is active and it is He who invites us to join Him in what He is doing. As we listen to a person speaking we should listen out for what we sense the Holy Spirit is doing and then trust Him enough to say those things that will help a person to see the truth.
So, to reach people who are beyond the walls of the Church perhaps the thing that we need to say to a friend or neighbour is something rather simple.
We could begin by asking: “How are you?” and then be prepared to listen to what they say.