On a cold, gray afternoon two friends waited together for the bus that would take them home. Daniel had been a faithful Christian since his youth. Alex had lost his faith after his mother’s early death. The young men had built a solid friendship based on honesty, but they had never talked together about the gospel.
While they waited, Alex bought two cups of coffee to warm them up. As they enjoyed their drinks they talked with anticipation about the comforts of home. Their conversation created a warm atmosphere and Daniel felt that it was opening the door to a deep spiritual conversation. He decided to respectfully ask for permission to share what gave meaning to his life, and Alex agreed.
Taking out his phone and opening the GodTools app, Daniel chose the evangelistic tool called THE FOUR. The conversation went well, but when Daniel invited Alex to make a decision to follow Christ, everything changed. Alex said he didn’t believe what Daniel believed about God. He claimed that if God existed, he would be a sadistic being who takes pleasure in human suffering without stepping in to help. He thanked Daniel for his words but rejected the idea of believing in that kind of God.
Daniel was frozen. His fears about sharing the gospel had come true. He didn’t know how to react or what to say. Though he managed to clarify some points before the bus came, he was overwhelmed on the ride home by a mixture of disappointment, guilt and sadness. Thoughts crowded his mind, and doubt invaded him.
Daniel’s story may be similar to something you’ve experienced. Negative responses to evangelism can be discouraging and can undermine your confidence. However, these negative experiences can also become turning points in your spiritual journey, and they can help you find the right focus on God.
So here are five things to remember when your spiritual conversations do not go as planned:
- Let love for God and for your neighbor be your guide.
The main goal of having a conversation about the gospel is not to persuade people to join a specific religion or church. Rather, it’s about loving God by sharing about his love for humanity — love that he expressed through the death and resurrection of his Son. So remember that this conversation is not a debate but an expression of love.
- Be empathetic.
Negative responses to the gospel are often motivated by traumatic life experiences or negative interactions with other Christians. Take the time to listen to what the other person has to say and try to understand their point of view.
- Do not try to win the argument.
You can be tempted to see negative responses as an invitation to argue until the other person is forced to accept your point of view. However, this does not often yield good results. Instead of feeling loved, the other person may feel attacked. Remember that the message of the gospel is a message of love, not a product they need to buy.
- Do not take it personally.
You may think that people take a negative attitude toward the gospel because they hate you or just do not like you. But most of the time, when someone does not accept the message of the gospel, it’s simply because they have chosen not to. It’s not about you but a personal choice they have made.
- Put your thoughts into perspective.
A negative response to what you share about God can shake your confidence. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your inner dialogue. Ask yourself, “How do I feel at the end of this conversation? What thoughts are filling my mind?” Once you answer those questions, you’ll begin seeing ways to improve future conversations. You’ll also spot negative thoughts about your identity that you must surrender to God and throw away.
It’s not easy when a conversation does not go as planned. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain the right focus, remembering why Jesus wants you to have these conversations in the first place.