How to Reach Religious People with the Gospel
Reaching religious people with the gospel has both a comfort and a challenge behind it.
The comfort is that you are usually talking to a God-fearing person. Even though they may differ with you on who God is, there is normally a reverence about them that contributes to their interest in spiritual things. This can serve as a bridge into the gospel.
The challenge is that sometimes their mentality may be, “My mind is made up.”
How then do you people with other religious convictions? Seven thoughts, each biblically based, may be of help to you. In some ways, each one builds upon the other.
Respect them as someone made in the image of God
You may not appreciate their thoughts or beliefs, but you must respect that they are a person created in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26 applies to them as much as it does to you. “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Because they are a person with their own thoughts and feelings as they were created in His image, you do not have to respect their belief, but you must respect their freedom to believe it. They, with as good a mind as you have, have arrived at where they are in their thoughts and feelings and must be respected for that.
Learn the value and power of a compliment
One would do well to follow the example of Paul, the apostle. Acts 17:22-23 tells us, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Aeropagus and said, ‘Men of Athens. I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.’” Athens was a city filled with idols, but Paul complimented them that they were religious.
Compliments have a way of tearing down defenses, makes them more approachable, and demonstrates that you respect them as person.
Look behind the person to the problem
It is not the human spirit that brings people to Christ; it is the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 explains, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
Until the Holy Spirit works, nothing you say will make any sense to them. Religious people have something in common with every person you talk to. You can only bring Christ to them; God has to bring them to Christ. Only God can change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.
Talk to God the same time you are talking to them
Your prayers are as important as your proclamation. And the exciting thing about evangelism is that you can talk to two people at the same time – the God you are speaking about and the person you are speaking to. So, as you talk to them, whisper a prayer to God that says, “Lord, help them understand. Remove their spiritual blindness.”
Take comfort in Philippians 4:16, noting the words “nothing” and “everything.” “But be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Always respond with a humble attitude, not a hostile argument
2 Timothy 2:22-23 is too often overlooked in evangelism. “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they many know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
If they get upset with you and you get upset with them, only Satan wins. The Truth is authoritative enough; it does not need your emotion attached. I once led a Jehovah’s Witness couple to Christ, and they explained why they listened to me. They said, “You sat there and very calmly explained what you believed and why. Our family members can never explain what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe without getting mad about it. We have always wondered, if it is the truth, why do you have to get mad about it to try and convince us?”
Your goal is to bring them one step closer to the cross
You, of course, want to see them come to Christ now! That is admirable. Nobody is promised tomorrow. At the same time, if they are steeped in what they believe, sometimes you are going to be one of many people God uses to bring them to the Savior. You may be used to simply “unsettle” them in their thinking and cause them to question what they have always been told and believed.
John 4:37-38 reminds is, “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
Even if you are not the one that sees them cross the line of faith, you may be mightily used of God in bringing them closer to that decision.
Make the gospel crystal clear!
Unless they understand Christ’s substitutionary death, they many go from trusting their religious efforts to trusting Christ and their religious efforts. One is never saved until he/she is trusting Christ alone to save him.
One of the most helpful verses in the entire Bible in reaching religious people is John 19:30 where Christ exclaimed, “It is finished.” The word “finished” means “paid in full.” As you explain the gospel, explain that Christ did not make the down payment for our sins, He made the full payment.
There is an advantage in sharing the gospel with religious people. They often have a certain amount of reverence for spiritual things. They can also be a challenge. That is why, as with all unbelievers, only God can bring them to Christ. The above ideas will hopefully be of help to you so that as they listen to you, God might use you in such a way that the Savior becomes their Savior.
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