four steps to share the gospel in a post-Christian culture

"Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread." -- D.T. Niles

People say sharing the gospel is hard. I used to believe them, but then I realized it was because they weren't sharing it, but rather confronting with it.  Most people turn the good news of the gospel into bad news, confronting the other person until they became defensive. "No wonder nobody ever shares the gospel," I'd always think, "This is uncomfortable!"

But as I went through my twenties, just through meeting new people, I stumbled upon some simple steps that make it easy to share the gospel with anyone, even post-churched young people. I’ve found that when I share the gospel through this approach, many people actually thank me for talking to them! Kind of crazy, but it just shows how deep down everyone’s attracted to grace.

First, though, two general thoughts towards my approach:

  • I’m just sowing seeds: I’m never trying to force someone to make a decision for Jesus, but rather see most initial evangelism as a time to build a friendship and sow seeds.

  • I never force the conversation: when you use this approach, lots of people will talk about religious things. But even then, occasionally someone won’t, so if I sense they’re not comfortable, I never force anything. I just change the subject and move on.

Having said those things, here are four steps to help you share the gospel with anyone. The goal with these steps is to create a spiritual conversation where you can talk about grace.

1. identify with Christianity

Most people struggle to share the gospel because they can never create a spiritual conversation. It can be difficult to move from everyday subjects to spiritual ones, which is why it’s import for you to figure out how to bring up your faith in everyday conversation. Here are just a few examples of how to identify with Christianity:

  • What did you do this weekend? (Oh I went to church and then hung out with some friends…)

  • How did you meet your friend/roommate/etc.? (I met him at church... )

  • Where you went to college? (a small Christian school...)

  • What you did you do after work last night?  (I went to a community group, it’s like a Bible study...)

There are plenty of others, but the key is to let the other person understand you’re a Christian. People are always surprised, since they didn’t assume a normal person like you (you are normal, right?) would be a Christian, and often ask a follow-up question. Here’s the key difference from classic evangelism: after you’ve answered their question, don’t bring up your faith. Instead, move to step 2.

2. ask if they have any religious/spiritual background

This question allows you to get to know what they believe, and, if they’ve asked you a question, it’s actually just polite to do the same. So I always ask, “Do you have any religious background? (If they seem more of a spiritual type I’ll use that word, and may even say experiences rather than background).

I’ve found that people actually love to answer this question. Why? Because we all love talking about ourselves! People will share all kinds of things about themselves, including their family religion, their own experiences with religion, and things they find hard/confusing about religion. I just let them talk, occasionally asking a clarifying question. It’s important to note, this question works for me because I love meeting people and am curious about them. I don’t think it would if they thought I was setting them up to bash them with some Christianity, which I’m not.

3. share the gospel about yourself

As they talk about their background or experience with religion, they’ll be sharing pain points, difficulties, or misconceptions they have about religion in general or Christianity. I’ll try to pick one of these that I can identify with, and then show how the gospel solves that problem in my own life.

This is another key difference: I never share the gospel about someone else’s life, but only about my own. Why? This lets them understand the story of the gospel without putting them on the defensive. When you share the gospel about yourself, you get to speak strongly about sin (yours), while keeping them engaged to the end of the story (grace). If you try to share the gospel while applying it to someone’s life when they don’t understand it, you’ll always get stuck on, “Why are you saying I’m such a bad person?”

I always try to share about my brokenness in things that I’m guessing the other person will relate to. Old-school evangelism always fished for the “worst” sins they could find (are you sleeping with your girlfriend?), but I always look for sins we probably have in common. Here’s an example:

Guy (sharing about his religious background): It just seems like religion is full of a bunch of hypocrites trying to fake like they’re perfect.

Me: Yeah, that’s definitely hard…I think we all do that because we naturally want other people to think we’re better than we are. That’s one thing I find different about true Christianity, is that I don’t have to fake it anymore. On the inside I know I’m messed up and I know I’m not the person I should be. I mean, you think you’re a good person and then some girl breaks up with you...that shows you really quickly you’re not as nice as you think. But that’s the thing about Christianity. It’s actually not about trying to be perfect, but rather accepting that Jesus lived a perfect life in place of me. It sets you free from trying to fake it.

Them: Hmm, I’ve never thought about it like that before.

Every person has had rejection and not handled it well; it’s universal. So find sin in your life that you think the other person will relate to, and then show what the gospel does with that sin. Sharing the gospel about yourself lets you talk seriously about sin (your own), but also gives them low-pressure space to work through the gospel.

3b. emphasize grace

Whatever happens in step 3, the main thing is to explain grace, in normal, everyday language. Everybody in the world thinks Christianity is about being a good person so that God will let you into heaven, so your main goal is to get them to understand grace, how Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t to restore our relationship to God, and now gives us salvation as a free gift. When you explain grace people can start to look at you quizzically, since it’s so different than anything they’ve ever heard. And just like in the Bible, people are always attracted to grace.

4. acknowledge you’re just there to help

As we finish talking, I always tell them some variation of: “Hey, it’s been great talking, if you ever have any questions just let me know...I just enjoy helping people think through the big questions of life.” I want them to know that I’m just a friend who wants to help them, not a cult leader trying to recruit more members to his group. At this point, people always are really thankful for our conversation, since they’ve gotten a new perspective on Christianity/religion to think about.

Final thoughts: Can you imagine that, post-Christian young people, not only not offended, but actually thanking you for sharing the gospel with them! That is the power of being friendly, open with your own failures, sharing about grace, and rooting for the other person. Young people are still hungry for help with the spiritual questions of life, and they appreciate when someone can give them a little bit of help.

I don’t have any instant conversion stories to share, but that’s not what I’m after. With more and more young people knowing nothing about Christianity, the first step these people need is to meet a normal Christian and understand grace a little bit better. Becoming a Christian is a process, and God is the one orchestrating all of the little conversations to accomplish His ends. I’m not perfect, and I don’t share the gospel nearly as often as I could, but I hope this approach helps you see how you can scatter the seeds of the gospel in a non-threatening way.

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