Is this the best approach to use? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Let’s get something clear at the start with a title like this. No. I am not saying let’s stop asking in the general sense such as if a doctrine like soul sleep is true or not or where we go when we die such as is asked at a funeral. I’m talking about when we’re doing evangelism. It seems to be the most common questions preachers and evangelists ask, and I hate hearing it every time.
Suppose you approach someone who is a teenager or in their early 20’s and you want to convince them to follow Jesus and your question is “What happens to you when you die?” Most of us when we are young, and I know I certainly was like this, thought that somehow our generation would be the one to bypass death. If you do think about it, you think it is a long way off in the future.
Statistically, you’re right.
Now I understand tragedies can happen. I graduated from high school in 1999 and we have already talked about people from our class that we have lost. Just earlier this month, we lost someone to cancer. We have had one at least die in a car accident. These things can happen.
But we all know that they are the exception, and not the rule.
So when we approach someone young, we are telling them ultimately that Christianity ultimately matters for when they die. That’s not the most important need in their life right now, at least from their perspective. Now we can say all we want that people should think about that more, but does that really work? We all know many things that we should think about more, but we don’t.
If you’re doing evangelism, you don’t start with what you think is good for the person. You start with where the person is. What are their goals and dreams? You need to somehow show them Christianity is good for them and you don’t do that by appealing to what they aren’t concerned about.
Besides that, when we do this, we are also saying the only time Christianity matters is when we die. Why are you a Christian? Is it just because you want that nice bonus of Heaven when you die? It’s too often when we do talk about Heaven, we treat God as if He’s irrelevant to it. “Oh yes. You get to live forever and the streets are gold and you see your loved ones again and have a mansion, and by the way, God is there too if you’re into that kind of thing.”
I am not saying Heaven doesn’t matter. I am saying we have treated Heaven as if it is all that matters. I get concerned when I hear people saying about the lost that if they don’t repent then they won’t go to Heaven.
One gift Christianity does give is forgiveness of sins, but that is also something that is not always a selling point today. Even in the Roman Empire, they had ways of dealing with sins. Jews also had ways of dealing with sins. Not only that, but in today’s culture, many people don’t think they have any sins to deal with.
So where do I go?
I start with the importance of Jesus and the uniqueness of His life. When I give the gospel, I always point to that Jesus is king right now. If He is, then you need to be on His side regardless. Of course, I have to convince them that Jesus is king first.
By the way, if someone is in a place of pain or wanting forgiveness already, then by all means, start there. If they are not, then go with the uniqueness of Jesus and get them to realize the need of following Him. Too often, we go with what we thin is important and what we think the other person needs and go from there. If they agreed with us, they would already be Christians.
Either way, let’s please stop talking about something that the world isn’t thinking about. I am not saying change the gospel at all, but we do have to present it in a way that gets them to see why they should believe it and become Christians. We need an approach that says Christianity isn’t just relevant for when you die, but is relevant for all of life.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)