What does your evangelism tend to focus on?
I don’t mean whether it emphasises the cross or the resurrection. I’m not talking about whether it majors on personal sin and repentance or the work of Christ on our behalf. I would hope all these things are in the mix somewhere. I mean, what does your evangelism focus on for those to whom you are talking?
Many of us focus on the ‘what happens when you die?’ question. Again, don’t get me wrong, that is a question we need to ask. Where are you going to spend eternity is a question that matters. It is hard not to ask it if you get hit with a diagnosis of incurable cancer, or you are facing up to the realities of life at a funeral, the truth is you’re going to ask that question. Maybe not in exactly that form, but ‘What happens when I die?’ suddenly seems very important.
And so a lot of our evangelism can focus on that. We talk about the problem of sin and how it impacts us before God, particularly on the day of judgement. We speak about how we will ultimately make it to Heaven. We talk about having confidence when we meet our maker. Which, again, is true and does matter. But I suspect is not the burning issue for most people to whom we might talk.
For a lot of people, that’s pie in the sky when you die stuff. They just aren’t thinking end of life plans. Maybe they should and perhaps we’re right to make them think about it. But at the end of the day, we can’t get upset when they don’t. If it’s not the big issue for them today, we might need to speak into what is concerning them now. Which leads me to think we need less pie in the sky and more steak on the plate while you wait.
Once again (and I can’t labour this enough), I’m not suggesting what happens when you die isn’t a question we should ask and answer. But I am suggesting that for a lot of people – whether they should be thinking about that question – doesn’t change the fact that many aren’t. Confronting them with it and forcing them to think about it doesn’t always yield great results either. It still remains a decision many (rightly or wrongly) believe they can put off for another day. A bit like writing your will. You just don’t find many 21 year olds doing that because it’s something, as far as they’re concerned, for another time at a later date.
Which means we have to address the realities of what Jesus does for us now, rather than all the benefits of following Christ being loaded onto the afterlife like some sort of life insurance policy. If people have views of the world as it is today, we can speak into that with what the Bible says about it and why, what Jesus offers, is greater than the other solutions people cling onto. If there are issues with matters of everyday life, speak into those things and share how Jesus has worked in your own life regarding those things. Whatever people’s concerns and hang ups, whatever issues people are thinking about, we have to speak to those and not just the ones we reckon they should be thinking about but aren’t.
The Apostles did this themselves. They did not only ever talk about what happens when we die. They did speak about such things, but it wasn’t all they mentioned. They talked about relationship with God, spiritual blessing, morals and ethics, motivation, reasons to get out of bed in the morning, reasons to rejoice, what to do when we’re sad, what to do when we’re suffering, and in all these things, what Jesus says to them and why it is better than any alternative answer.
It’s not much good asking people where they will spend eternity when the most pressing question for them is why their life is in the toilet. If people are most concerned with the path to happiness, that’s the thing we ought to speak into. What happens when we die will potentially feature, but it might not be the main concern for the people we’re speaking with today. What we need to present to them is the Christ who connects with their situation and offers a better answer than whatever it is they are relying upon at the moment.
‘Where will you go when you die?’ may be important, but it is a limited question that might not even seem all that relevant to the person we’re asking. But ‘whose saviour is best, yours or mine?’ (and we all have one) is a better question. Whether you’re looking for salvation in this life or the next, whether you want resolution to a problem you face or you want purpose to your life, we all have issues we need to address. Our saviour is either ourselves or its something or someone we rely on outside of ourselves. The more pressing question for most people is whether Jesus is, indeed, the greater saviour who answers the actual questions they’re asking. Or, as Alan Partridge might ask: Who’s the best Lord?