Have you had any opportunities recently to lead someone to Christ? I bet you’ve had more than you realize. Probably even today. Most of us have daily opportunities to show the love of Christ with the broadest diversity of people we could imagine.
Where? Social media.
From atheists and agnostics to absolute apostates, social media is a common grace wherein we can dialogue with a far larger scope of worldviews than we could have imagined just a few short years ago.
And in a season like the one we’re in here in the United States (just simmering down from a heated Presidential election), we will have lots of chances to chat with unbelievers of all stripes.
The problem? A lot of us get so emotionally worked up over hot-button issues like abortion and Creation vs. Evolution that we often act nothing like the Jesus we think we’re preaching.
So with that in mind, here are three things you can do to stop being a jerk and more effectively share the gospel.
Learn Their Name
This may sound simplistic, but there have been countless times I’ve had online arguments with unbelievers and hadn’t even taken the time to look at their name. I’m reminded of Jesus calling to Zacchaeus in Luke 19. I think it’s significant that He used his name. He could have just said, “Hey, you! The scumbag tax-collector weirdo in the tree. Get down here.” But instead, He saw him as an image-bearer of God and treated him with dignity.
We so easily treat others on social media as though they were just an opposing idea rather than a person. As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I can tell you this is true. My five-month-old daughter is already responding with sheer joy when I call her name.
What a great—and simple—way to work toward preventing walls and hostility in our conversations!
Look For Glimpses of Truth
All truth is God’s truth. And believe it or not, even those who say there is no God say true things sometimes, as inconsistent as that may seem. As Jeff Durbin often says when dialoguing with atheists, they’re borrowing from our worldview.
Paul did this in Acts 17 when he proclaimed the gospel at Athens. He had gone through their city and seen that they were religious, but were serving many gods rather than the one true God, Yahweh. Something especially struck him: he had seen an inscription, “To the unknown god.” And so Paul rightly capitalized on this opportunity to say, “Yes! There is a God that you have not been serving and worshiping. He is the one true God!”
Likewise, let us look for these glimpses of truth and use them as in-roads to share the gospel.
Don’t Win an Argument
This may sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out. If you’re so dead-set on coming out the victor in a debate, chances are your goal wasn’t to share the gospel but to make yourself look smart.
Sometimes it can be something as simple as, after having done the first two steps above, allowing the other person to have the last word. It will be tempting to react if they post a question or even something accusatory or inflammatory. But remember, if we truly desire that they would come to a knowledge of the truth, we need to set aside our pride and trust that it is the Holy Spirit who will truly affect change in their heart.
Instead of reacting, send them a private message. If they live near you, invite them to dinner or treat them to coffee so you can continue the discussion in a more personal setting. There is no magic word we can say to give that person a heart receptive to the gospel. All we can do is faithfully share the Good News with them and pray that the Holy Spirit would raise them to newness of life.
These are good principles to abide by when having a discussion with unbelievers and fellow Christians alike. We so easily become captivated with “being right,” that oftentimes we de-humanize and see others as mere debate opponents—potential notches in our theological belts—and in so doing turn a great many away by our lack of grace.
And yet, we may have great confidence in knowing that no one can pluck Christ’s sheep from His hand. So if (when?) we fail in being a winsome witness, we must trust that God is much bigger than our mistakes, repent, and ask the Holy Spirit to make us more faithful witnesses.
If you’d like to read an excellent book on evangelism, I highly recommend J. I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.