How do I convince someone to follow Christ?
As a committed Christian, it’s natural to search for a bullet-proof method of convincing someone to follow Christ, but the truth is that we cannot convince anyone to follow Christ. Before you freak out, let me explain. It is actually God that grants people repentance (2 Timothy 2:25). Now don’t get the impression that God is an ogre, arbitrarily deciding who will be saved. No, God is very patient with people and wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). But the reality is that God has given us all free will and some people have such a strong commitment to sin and unrighteousness that God will let them die in their sin, rather than lead them to repentance (Romans 1:20-24). As hard as it is to believe, even if you could prove that the God of the Bible exists, some people would still not worship Him, as can be seen from these interviews that Eric Hovind did at the atheists Reason Rally.
While some people have an unwavering commitment to unrighteousness, that does not mean that we have no part to play in leading people to Christ. On the contrary, when God starts drawing a person to Himself, He does it through us (Romans 10:14-15). This takes the pressure off. Our job is not to get heated and fight to convince the unbeliever, but simply to speak the truth in love, pray for them and let God lead them to repentance. But if God is the one who leads people to repentance, how are we supposed to know who to approach with the gospel?
Who Should I Approach with the Gospel?
Well, if you are willing and ready to be used by God to draw others to Himself, then the Holy Spirit will direct you. For me it starts with making a commitment not to be ashamed of God, His Word and the gospel message (Romans 1:16). It’s hard for me to think of anyone that I have spent any time building relationship with that does not know that I’m a Christian. That includes the people I’ve come to know in every area of life, including education, sports, business and even personal services. But I also try not to be weird about it. When a physical therapists asks where it hurts, I don’t say that, “I have a pain in my neck from all those atheists shoving their evolution religion down my throat”. But when we start chatting, I’ll often talk about things that display my faith as they come up naturally in the conversation. If you can’t think of anything that you would say, then I would have to ask you, “what on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake”? Here are the kinds of things that may come up in my conversations:
- “I’m going to a men’s conference at our church this weekend”
- “My daughter goes to a Christian music college in Australia”
- “My son is in a one year post-secondary program at our church”
- “We had a Christmas Concert at our church last week”
- “I lead a class at my church tonight where we talk about creation, evolution and science”
The above examples may not seem like much, but I use those to get a sense of where someone is at. If someone were to respond, “well, I don’t believe in God and I don’t think people should push their religion on others”, then I would know pretty quickly that they are already committed to unrighteousness at the moment and would not waste my time trying to convince them otherwise. This is the time to avoid foolish disputes. In reality, most people who think that way are still inclined to give a much more gracious response that indicates their disinterest (e.g. “How about those Blue Jays”). But then there are those who respond in a way that indicates that they are open to a discussion. Things like, “oh really, what church do you go to”. They don’t have to align with our views, to be teachable and open to a discussion. I once had a person say to me, “I think that we probably all came from a single-celled organism”. Based on what he said and the tone of his voice, he seemed to be open to discussion, so we talked further. I think 2 Timothy 2:23-26 provides a pretty good summary:
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Is the Creation Account a Barrier to Salvation?
Some suggest that it may be better to avoid discussing the creation account when sharing that gospel, as intellectuals may be turned off by a belief that contradicts science. First off, note that the creation account does not contradict science, just evolution, which is not scientific in any way. The creation account provides a history of cosmology, geology, paleontology and biology for which we find real scientific evidence that is observable, testable and repeatable.
Keep in mind that the gospel message is all about Jesus and Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). The truth of the creation account is the same truth of the gospel message (Matthew 12:24-28). In fact, without the creation account, the gospel message does not make any sense.
Misunderstandings about the creation account and the scientific evidence that supports it are actually some of the biggest barriers to belief in God. I have heard many stories of people who committed their life to Christ, directly as a result of a clear presentation of the biblical creation message. Take Marko for example, who wrote me this note:
“Several years ago I was invited to go to church for the first time. I began hearing about some of the wonderful things that Jesus had done and thought that he was a pretty “good guy”. Unfortunately, I started experiencing some difficulty believing a number of the “stories”. I then began to look more closely at my own belief system and it did not line up with what the Bible was teaching. All this produced within me some conflict and I started to wonder whether or not I should just stop going to church.
The book of Genesis clearly described the earth’s creation and that went against everything that I believed. As I continued to hear about some of God’s incredible miracles, I began experiencing more and more unrest within myself. How could I believe in the “Word of God” if I couldn’t even believe in the first few chapters in this book, called The Bible? I shared my concerns with the church pastor and he patiently took time to answer many of my questions. We discussed the creation of the universe, Noah and the flood, where dinosaurs fit into everything, and about God’s great love for me and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Slowly the Holy Spirit softened my heart and I began to accept the biblical view of creation, as well as Jesus’ great love for me. After that, I began to believe God’s Word, including the “stories” and the miracles within them. I could now believe every word in the Bible as being truth.
This pastor didn’t just tell me to have faith and to believe, he explained the Word to me in a way that I could intellectually come to terms with. The society that I grew up in challenged religion and religious beliefs, especially, the beginnings of the universe and life itself. It was because of this man’s ability to share his beliefs and provide some tangible explanations to the questions I had, that I began my journey to the cross. Eventually I was baptized in the river on that church’s property and have been growing in Father’s love for me ever since.
What Can I Do to Prepare for Evangelism?
Remember that for many atheists, evidence is not the issue. If you could prove to their satisfaction that God exists and they still would not worship Him, then you are wasting your time presenting evidence. But if you encounter someone who indicates they would believe if there was evidence, then the Lord may use you to draw them to repentance.
Be prepared to start off by setting the terms of the discussion. Most evolutionists believe that evolution is based on science, whereas creation is just a religious belief. The truth is that we both believe in real observable, testable, repeatable science that advances technology and medicine. The MRI scanner, for example, was invented by a biblical creationist. When it comes to my belief in creation, I will admit that it is based on my biblical worldview. My starting point is God’s Word, which tells me that God created the universe supernaturally about 6,000 years ago. Similarly, a belief in evolution is based on a naturalistic worldview. An evolutionist’s starting point is man’s word, which suggests that the universe must have evolved from natural causes over billions of years. We both start on a level playing field and interpret evidence according to our worldview.
If someone who believes in evolution were to suggest that it is based on science and facts, then there are a whole host of questions they would have trouble answering. For example, here’s a list of 15 Questions for Evolutionists. They are somewhat rhetorical, as they are questions for which we know that evolutionists have no reasonable answer.
Once you are on a level playing field you can use the many resources on this website and at www.creation.com to defend the biblical creation account (1 Peter 3:15). You can provide evidence that clearly supports creation (e.g. fossil graveyards, polystrate fossils, etc.), refute evolution arguments (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) and correct their errors (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
In summary, we need to stand on the authority of God’s Word as our starting point, do everything we can to prepare a ready defense, answer their skeptical questions about creation, point out the fallacies of evolution, point them to the Bible, pray for them and then leave it up to the Holy Spirit to change their starting point, change their heart and change their life. Below are some resources that you can use to continue building your ready defense.