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Receptiveness To The Gospel

The seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
–Luke 8:15

Many Christians have been trained in what has been called confrontational evangelism. I call it dump-truck evangelism. You learn all of these points and a hundred Bible verses, and when you find somebody who is polite enough to listen to you, you dump the whole load on him. In his book “How To Give Away Your Faith,” Paul Little described the futility of that approach. He wrote, “About once every six months the pressure to witness used to reach explosive levels inside me. Not knowing any better, I would suddenly lunge at someone and spout Scripture verses with a sort of glazed stare in my eye. I honestly didn’t expect any response. As soon as my victim indicated lack of interest, I’d begin to edge away with a sigh of relief and breathe the consoling thought, ‘Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12). But duty done, I’d draw back into my martyr’s shell for another six months’ hibernation, until the internal pressure again became intolerable and drove me out. It really shocked me when I finally realized that I, not the cross, was offending people.”

What is wrong with dump-truck evangelism? It does not consider whether a person is ready to receive the gospel. That is a third prerequisite for effectively sharing the gospel of Christ with other people: you must have a conviction of their need for Christ, a confidence in God’s power to save, and a consideration of their interest in the gospel. Remember the parable Jesus told in Luke 8 about seed falling on different types of soil. The seed represented the gospel message, and the four types of soil represented four conditions of the human heart. Look at verse 15: “The seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Only a heart that is open and receptive will respond to the gospel.

Instead of dump-truck evangelism, Michael Simpson encourages what he calls “permission evangelism.” He says that if you are going to share the gospel effectively, you need to gauge the listener’s level of interest. Simpson wrote, “Remember, ‘every communication must be crafted with the goal of ensuring that it’s not the last one.’ The best way to do this is to make sure they know they are in charge of choosing how much information they receive. They must know you honor their choices at their level of willingness to engage, or they will feel pressured and threatened and trust will be broken.” The goal is not to overwhelm the other person with a whole presentation, but to keep the dialogue going until they are ready to trust in Christ as Savior. Consider your listener’s receptiveness to the gospel.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Booting Up For Service” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.

Paul E. Little, “How To Give Away Your Faith” (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2014), 40; Michael L. Simpson, “Permission Evangelism” (Colorado Springs: NexGen, 2003), 89.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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