One of the best ice-breaking methods to start a conversation when evangelizing is to ask…
“Are you a good person?”
This allows the evangelist to guide the hearer into facing who they really are… a sinner.
In most cases, the person being evangelized answers, “Yeah, I’m a good person!” But then, the unbeliever offers some sort of justification for saying so. The evangelist usually then offers the person being evangelized the opportunity to take a test, to actually find out if they are a good person or not. They do this by asking the unbeliever a series of questions, such as:
Have you ever told a lie?
Have you ever stolen anything?
Have you ever looked upon another person with lust?
…And, so on. The responses given are almost always answered in the affirmative.
The next step is to then ask them what they would call someone who lies, steals, lusts, etc. Again, the answers are typically pretty standard: “a liar”, “a thief”, “an adulterer”, etc. The point of this line of questioning, again, is to expose the hearer’s true self to them, in order to show them that they are in fact NOT a “good” person.
After a little self evaluation, the unbeliever usually agrees that they are in fact a liar, a thief, or an adulterer, etc., to some degree.
All good stuff, and very important.
It is then usually explained to the one being evangelized, that it is the Ten Commandments from which these questions originate.
(The questions above, for example, are based on three of the Ten Commandments: #9 lying, #8 stealing, and #7 adultery.)
Then, the one being evangelized is also typically told that the Ten Commandments is God’s standard for judgement, and they are then warned that a judgement day is coming at some point in the future, either when they die, or when Christ returns, whichever comes first. The Gospel is given, and the hearer is then urged to repent and to also put their trust in Christ. It’s fairly straightforward, and remarkably effective. This is evangelism 101.
Those who are evangelized this way are usually, at the very least, given pause. Meaning, they walk away with something to consider, which they may have never even considered before… their salvation. Which, is more important than anything else, frankly; coming to terms with one’s “salvific” reality.
So, I have a question. How would you answer this rebuttal from an unbeliever?
“But… I’m not an Old Covenant Jew!”
Now, this may not seem that significant on face value, but it actually nullifies the justification of the standard used in the test demonstrated above… the Decalogue.
Because, the Ten Commandments were given to Old Covenant Jews… EXCLUSIVELY.
The Ten Commandments were not given directly to anyone alive today. They were given to a specific group of people, at a specific time and place in history, for a specific purpose, as the stipulations for a specific covenant, through a specifically appointed man, Moses (Acts 7:36-38). In other words, the people we (Christians) evangelize are not subject to the requirements of a covenant that they are not a part of. To offer questions from that standpoint is therefore, not appropriate. It’s like informing someone in New York, that they are doing something wrong according to California Law.
It’s a category error.
Now… let’s make something perfectly clear. There is NOTHING wrong with using these questions when evangelizing. In fact, they are as helpful as ever, and I would recommend using them when witnessing. What is questionable here, however, is the grounding for said line of questioning. To challenge a non-Old Covenant Jew with the requirements of Old Covenant Law, would be inappropriate, no?
So, what is the proper grounding?
We know that Romans 2:15-16 (ESV), which refers to everyone, declares this…
“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
So then, why not instead ground the questions in Christ Himself?
Here’s what I’m getting at…
After breaking the ice by asking the unbeliever whether or not they are a good person, we should then immediately inform them that God judges us by Christ Jesus. Yes, ask them if they had ever told a lie, or stole, or looked upon another person with lust, etc. But then, explain to them that Christ is not a liar, Christ is not a thief, Christ is not an adulterer, and so on. Explain that He is the standard by which God judges all people, so repent (change your mind in regards to who you are) in light of how you compare to Him, and also trust in Him to do the heavy lifting that you cannot do which God requires. It is by Christ which we are all evaluated. Christ, God Himself, is the standard which determines whether a person is good or not.
May our evangelistic methods be grounded in Christ…
Acts 17:30-31 (ESV)
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Just something to consider.
Godspeed, to the brethren!