Humans naturally gravitate towards others with shared experiences and mutual connections. We feel most comfortable in conversations with people who live in the same geographical area, have similar backgrounds, enjoy the same foods, watch the same sports, listen to the same genre of music, agree on political views….you name it. We’re even known to find subconscious comfort around people with physical features like our own.
If it’s true that the human tendency is to gravitate towards like-minded people, why does talking about our faith with people “close to home” seem like a greater challenge than evangelizing halfway across the globe? Why is sharing God’s Word in North America so intimidating?
Besides the obvious fears of embarrassment or rejection, a recent testimony from Brad Wilson, sheds light on another substantial reason as to why North Americans may find it frightening to evangelize domestically.
Brad regularly helps organize outreach events in rural Orangeville, Ontario. Lately, he’s observed that his faith discussions with seekers have shown interesting similarities.
“About nine out of ten people agree they are sinners. I hold my hand way up in the air and say, ‘Perfection is way up here—that’s God.’ Then I put my hand way down to the ground and say, ‘I’m way down here, near the ground. But you’re probably up here, a lot closer to God.’ They usually laugh and respond, ‘No, no—I’m down there with you, Brad.”
You might be thinking, isn’t this perfect? If seekers in North America already recognize they fall short, this should inevitably create the ideal opportunity to evangelize! It seems this way, yes. Yet, as Brad explains, there’s more to consider about the challenges of outreach in North America.
“Conversely, if you ask those people, ‘Do you think you are going to heaven?’ most people will quickly answer, ‘Absolutely! I’m a good person; I try to live a moral life!’ Those same people who admit they are sinners, will also say their good conduct will bring them to heaven."
Society seems convinced that after our earthly bodies die, everyone will go to some kind of heaven, regardless of their religious faith. This skewed relativistic mindset allows the devil to keep us in self-righteous, unbelieving ways—feeling a false sense of security.
This would seem like a plausible worldview to someone who doesn’t know God’s almighty redemptive power. Yet, Jesus asks us to convince people otherwise! How could a loving Christ possibly ask us to shake up comfortable people, telling them that unless they confess their sin and receive Jesus as their personal Saviour, their soul will be lost forever? That seems like an unbelievably harsh wake-up call.
There’s no quick answer to the spiritual dilemma of speaking the truth in love. It’s a struggle to know how to respond to people who believe they are going to heaven but don’t believe Jesus Christ is Lord.
One method is to create a safe space for people to share what they believe. When people feel heard (rather than condemned) they will listen to your thoughts in return. Even if someone doesn’t change their mind after one spiritual conversation, a seed is planted. God has begun (or has continued) to reveal Himself within that individual’s heart.
Brad concluded his thoughts on local evangelism with these inspiring words.
“Most people spend more time planning their next vacation than planning for eternity. Evangelism is about challenging people to think. It’s about sowing a seed of faith so people begin to understand who Christ really is.’’
Awareness of the spiritual warfare tied up in evangelism doesn’t automatically make sharing God’s Word in North America easier, but it does cause you to reflect on how Christ calls us to break the pattern of this seemingly positive, yet dangerous mentality. Ask the Lord for His guidance when reaching people in your neighborhood, at your workplace, or even family members. And remember—regardless of how daunting a spiritual conversation may seem, if you are willing to let God speak through you, He will make His holy presence known.