How exciting to have someone respond to your online Gospel. It may have been awhile if your Church is like most. But, with a Gospel page on your site at least you have provided the Spirit with a tool to use. And, it’s always exciting to be used by the Spirit of God.
What if someone completes your ODC (Online Decision Card) but doesn’t acknowledge putting their faith in Christ…yet. That can be discouraging unless we take the long view and realize that most of us had questions before putting our faith in Christ.
They inform you they have a question about…well, anything. And, this is where a prayerful knowledge of other subjects can come in handy.
I’m not suggesting that knowledge alone is adequate for spiritual combat. But, being informed and able to engage the questioner about issues they might be struggling with can ease their anxiety about eventually putting their faith in Christ and trusting you while not seeing you as a “holy” person and unreachable.
A Small Step of Faith
There really is no such a thing as a “bad” question assuming it’s sincere. At least they’ve shown interest. For most that alone can be very difficult and a real display of faith in you and safety in the Savior we hope they will soon fall in love with.
Their questions could rank in “Gospel relevance” from the obscene and absurd to the erudite and sublime. It’s not a matter of “if” but rather “when” someone writes or asks something offensive, hurtful, rude or even blasphemous. Some will try to “push your buttons” and anger you or cause you to become defensive.
Most will be sincere. Few people would make the effort to dialog with someone for very long in order to insult or offend. They usually move on to those who will engage with them.
The lower relevance question could be a simple question about your Church or the service times or a comment that their aunt use to attend your Church. It could be about anything.
A most relevant question to the Gospel might be “Is Christ really the only way to heaven?”, “How is it possible that good people don’t automatically go to heaven but sometimes bad people do?”
These types of questions mostly require a reasonable understanding and sincere response of Biblical theology along with relevant verses with clear explanations.
A question a step closer to a decision for Christ might be what does your Church believe about…? And, here’s where it can get pretty far down into the weeds.
A Biblical Approach to Guiding the Conversation
As Paul was able to engage pagans on Mars Hill (Acts 17) so we should be able to bridge topics and issues they think are relevant to faith to the Gospel. No one can be an expert on everything or even a few things. Even most “experts” will tell you they don’t know everything about a topic.
Still, are you, or the designated person to do follow up with seekers, able to answer questions about opioids, border crossings, sex outside of marriage, abortion, etc.? People today struggle with issues never dreamed of in the past and it can make a big difference to someone if you have Biblical answers. They may not like your answer but at least you’ve shown you understand.
During seminary I was occasionally a phone counselor for Billy Graham Crusades. We were provided very helpful materials to study to help those seeking answers. We were never expected to give a “canned” answer but to use our knowledge to interact sincerely and helpfully. They have helped shape my life and ministry for decades now.
Of course, the goal is always to gently guide the discussion back to the Gospel. While none of these questions suggest a decision has been made to trust Christ neither can we discount them as off topic. They have shown interest and in similar fashion, it’s how we started our own spiritual journey to salvation.
The enquirer may be testing to see if the response they receive is from someone who seems kind, compassionate and loving or “preachy” and authoritarian. They may have had a bad experience that turned them away from a Church in their past. Of course, we can’t “fix” issues everyone is struggling with but we can show compassion and empathy.
It’s entirely possible they’re looking for a Church home they can be proud to be a part of and attend with their family and make friends. Whatever their motivation at this point at least they haven’t said “No to Christ!”
This is a critical juncture when dealing with someone you’ve never met but only interacted with by phone or email. It’s often more difficult to express warmth For this reason it’s important to have someone “seasoned” and trained in evangelism in your Church. Of course, it may very well be you as Pastor at first. (We’ll talk about building an “in-house evangelism team soon.)
Please REPLY to my email below. I welcome all comments especially those from your own experience and ways you’ve dealt with issues mentioned above. By doing so I assume you are giving permission to share with others.