I recently came across a Gallup Poll that has surveyed Americans on their views of religion over the decades. While I was not necessarily surprised by some of the results, I was sobered by them.
Of those adults surveyed in 2020, 27 percent indicated that religion was “not very important” in their own lives, 20 percent indicated that they did not identify with any denomination or religion, 64 percent indicated that religion is “losing its influence” on American life and 35 percent indicated that religion is “largely out of date.”
While the reasons for these answers are complex and varied, what are we to make of this data if we follow Jesus Christ?
I think it is time for us to reevaluate our approach to sharing the Gospel.
Before I came to faith, I thought Christians and religious people were weird, but I gathered up the tracts they offered me, trying to make sense of life’s biggest questions — and then one day I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ while eating lunch on the grounds of my high school. I am so grateful to have been mentored by Chuck Smith, who invested in me and took a risk on me when he allowed me to lead a Bible study group when I was just 19 years old. I have been preaching hope ever since.
All around us, people are looking for healing and relief, which is why it is critical we share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. But how we do that is just as important. I would like to offer an acronym to help us share the Gospel with our friends, neighbors, family members, coworkers and everyone else we come in contact with — Jesus style — “B.L.A.S.T.”
Build a bridge.
Throughout his three years of earthly ministry, Jesus overcame man-made religious and cultural barriers in order to reach those who were hurting. He was, in a sense, the ultimate bridge builder.
We are commanded in Scripture to take the Gospel to all people. There is no room for bigotry or prejudice when it comes to sharing hope with others. Moreover, God often calls us to engage with people whom we may not be comfortable with or who may be different from us. But that’s exactly what Jesus did: he was a friend to people he was not “supposed to” be friends with, according to the cultural and religious dictates of his day.
Listen with love.
When engaging others, Jesus used something many Christians in America today seriously lack: tact.
Jesus did not begin conversations with questions like “Are you saved?” or “Did you know you’re going to hell?” That was not Jesus’s style and it should not be ours either.
I have seen Christians armed with memorized Bible verses and clever arguments completely overwhelm a person in a “Gospel barrage.” They might feel as if they have “won” their argument — sharing the Gospel should never be an argument — but they have more than likely turned off the person to whom they were speaking.
We must begin our conversations by listening carefully to the other person and praying to the Lord for his wisdom. Then, we can ask appropriate follow-up questions based on what we have heard.
Adapt to the conversation.
This should go without saying, but since every person is different, there is not a “one size fits all” approach to sharing the Gospel with someone. Jesus never dealt with any two people in exactly the same way.
Just as we change our approach depending on who we may be speaking to in our day-to-day life — a boss, a friend, a child, a parent, a coworker — we have to listen, learn and be willing to adapt if we are trying to engage with another person.
Share your story.
Telling your own salvation story is meaningful and nonthreatening. There is a lot of power in the simplicity of a changed life.
But, as you share, keep in mind the following: Do not glorify or exaggerate your past, do not boast of what you’ve given up for Jesus Christ but of what he gave up for you. And do not be long winded in telling your story.
Tell them how to come to Jesus.
If whomever you are sharing the Gospel with seems open to Jesus, you can gently and respectfully ask them, “Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life right now?” If they say “Yes,” then offer to pray with them or listen as they pray. When they are finished, you can offer to help them get connected to a church family if they are ready.
And if the person you are speaking with is not receptive, that is okay. God will use your conversation as a “seed” in that person’s life.
The key to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is humility. We share our hope because we know who and what we once were — scared, unhappy, lonely, guilty, confused — and how Jesus has transformed our lives.
And remember: We are all works in progress.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pamela D McAdams
Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. His new book Billy Graham: The Man I Knew (Salem Books), released on April 13.