Religious people are often some of the most difficult to reach. On the one hand they are close to God. They delight in being recognized as "Christians." On the other hand, they are far from Him. Having never trusted Christ, they are as separated from God as a person who has never heard His name.
So what is helpful in reaching them?
1. Compliment them for their God-fearing spirit. After all, even though they don't know God, neither do they deny his existence.
2. Ask the right question. Avoid "Are you a Christian?” As they say, “Yes,” (which they will) how do you proceed? To go any further, makes it appear that you doubt their word. Instead ask, "Have you come to a point in your life where you know beyond any doubt if you die today, you would go to heaven?" Even religious people often admit that they do not have that assurance.
3. Make good use of John 19:30 where Christ said, "It is finished." The word finished means "paid in full." Help them understand that Christ made the full payment, not the down payment for their sin. We are saved on the basis of Christ period, not Christ plus anything else (church attendance, good deeds, etc.).
4. Use "we" abundantly. That is important in talking to all lost people, but especially religious lost people who often have difficulty seeing themselves as sinners. They need to hear you saying, "We are sinners,” not, "You are a sinner."
5. As you explain Christ's substitutionary death, explain that for as it is used in Romans 5:8 means that Christ died in our place, as our substitute. He did not die to show us how to die—as a good example—He died in our place.
6. Explain carefully that believe as it is used in verses like John 3:16 means three things: (1.) we understand we are sinners, (2.) we realize Christ died as our substitute and rose again, and (3.) we trust in Christ alone to save us. Many religious people have made some kind of public profession, but never trusted Christ alone to save them.
Everyone needs a clear presentation of the gospel. But particularly, religious people who may know the language, but not the Lord. As you speak the gospel clearly and patiently, God may use you to show them the difference between knowing about God and knowing Him personally.
(Note: This article originally appeared in EvanTell's 2012 Spring issue of Toolbox. View our Toolbox archives!)