From my experience of evangelistic conversations and having being involved with several introductory Christian courses, such as Alpha, I’ve come to believe that the most common and perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Christian faith is actually the idea that one needs saving.
Very often I have found that even before folk actively weigh up the evidence for Christian claims or start wrestling with questions, such as the problem of evil and suffering, they will counter with the seemingly instinctive objection to Christ: “But I don’t need saving. I am basically a good person.”
It seems to me, in our privileged, secular culture challenging this prevalent mentality could well be the evangelist’s primary obstacle. After all, no-one is ready to give the Gospel of salvation a fair and attentive hearing, if they are not at least open to the suggestion that they need saving in the first place.
In the face of this objection I have found myself, following in the footsteps of others, referring immediately to Scripture to counter the claim (which, incidentally, is borne of the fallen human condition, but I digress). Romans 3:10-12 seems the perfect tonic –
‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
And V23 – 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Alternatively, we could dive straight into the Beatitudes asking folk to examine just how poor in spirit, pure in heart and merciful they really are. Or we could invoke Ray Comfort’s method and delve straight into the 10 Commandments, asking folk if they have ever told a lie, stolen anything, looked at anyone lustfully, dishonoured their parents or blasphemed etc. etc.
Now all of these and other similar references and responses have their merit and can get through to many hearts. However, they all suffer from the same potential drawback –
They are asking people to trust Scripture… before they actually trust Scripture! Or, as is often alleged within sceptical circles: ‘You are citing the Bible to prove the Bible!’
In other words, the force and power of these citations is, to a certain degree, reliant on the openness of the individual to the words of Scripture in the first place.
Here’s an Alternative –
Ask the person (or group) to think of the best, ‘most good’ person that they know. If they think that they themselves are, then they truly are lost!
Once they have settled on someone (they’ll probably be able to think of several contenders) we can then follow up by pointing out that just by their own human standards, and from a tiny pool of 0.000000001% of the world’s population, they still fall short.
As we allow folk to absorb this realization, the more they are likely to then be open to citations from the Bible to corroborate it. From there, we can finally compound the point with the observation that their own realization – that they don’t measure up very well according to human standards – doesn’t even begin to translate to how we do not measure up to God’s perfect standard. And we could even throw in Mk.10:18 (“No one is good except God alone”) to hammer this last point home!
So next time you’re involved in an Alpha or Christianity Explored course group dynamic, or even in a one-to-one dialogue, give this simple technique a try! God bless!