How to Gain an Audience with Those Who Have Been Hurt by the Church
Whenever I am blessed with the opportunity to provide evangelism training, it’s important for me to thoroughly prepare myself. I will visit a park and walk along the paths to practice with my clipboard in my hand. This can cause people to be naturally curious.
While practicing in Ohio, I met a man named Ed. With a long gray beard and hair tied up in a ponytail, he wore a black t-shirt with a picture of a heavy metal rock and roll band. He was about to walk his old dog when he called out to me, “Hey, what are you doing?”
A bit unnerved, I immediately smiled, thanked the Lord for this opportunity, and asked for his help.
I could tell right away that Ed was a good guy who was naturally curious. He thought I worked for the city and was recording improvements for the park. When I told him that I was partnering with a local church in the area to help with their outreach and evangelism efforts, Ed had a quizzical look on his face. After a pause, he asked, “Can I ask you something? Can a Christian be a Christian and still support a political party that is racist?” For the next fifteen minutes, I listened to Ed vent about Christians.
In today’s world, it’s important for Christians to listen first. People need to vent about what they read, hear, or observe in others who profess their faith in Christ. Listening first helps gain an audience.
I listened to Ed share his anguish about politics and dismay that a TV evangelist would want his followers to purchase a fourth $50 million-dollar private jet.
It saddens me that unbelievers don’t object to the Truth but will reject Christianity because of unscrupulous televangelists or the immoral actions of church leaders that get well-publicized.
After acknowledging his concerns, I asked him to consider that there are a visible few who present a far different gospel than what the Bible teaches. Instead of judging Christianity by the words and actions of a visible few, I asked him to give Jesus a second chance by hearing directly what he has to say through his Words.
This was not an easy step for Ed.
After working for over thirty years in a Jeep plant in Ohio, Ed was now retired. He expressed his love for old rock and roll music and once played in a rock band in the 1960’s. When his children were young, they started going to a children’s program at a large Christian church. One day, his children came back to tell them that the preacher taught that rock and roll music was from the devil. This did not sit well with Ed. The actions and responses of confessing Christians have been barriers that will take effort to peel away so that he may hear the true message of what Christ has already done for him.
Ed allowed me a brief window of opportunity to share with him the good news of the gospel. All of us are sinners and need Jesus’ substitutionary death to redeem us. By trusting in his completed work instead of our works, we receive the promise of eternal life in heaven right now. With Christ as the object of our faith, we receive confidence and assurance that our sins are forgiven right now. “Ed, I believe it is no accident that we met this afternoon. This is a message that God wants you to hear. He wants you to meet him through his Word so that you can receive the Truth of who he is instead of relying on the words and actions of others who severely misrepresent him.”
Ed thanked me for listening to him. He thanked me for an honest and respectful dialogue and headed back to his truck.
I will never know if Ed will ever receive faith. I don’t know how the Lord will use the gospel seed that was planted in his heart, but I do believe in the power of God’s Word.
Providing love and respect to an unbeliever helps furrow the hard-packed soil that has been stomped upon by difficult life circumstances. Listening ears beget listening ears. When Christians take the time to build a bridge before verbally planting the seed of God’s Word, unbelievers will listen more closely to what Christ has to say.
We can pray,
“Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities that you provide for us each day to praise your name and proclaim your mighty works to a world that is longing for answers. Work on my heart and mind so that I can be gospel intentional whenever I go out into the world. Allow me to be willing to pause my busy schedule and be inconvenienced to listen and proclaim. In your name we pray. Amen.”
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