When I first meet someone on the street while I am out sharing my faith I usually ask the same question. Anyone who has been with me while I am sharing my faith will have heard me ask this question. I start with something like “excuse me, would you be the type of person who would be interested in finding out what people from a different background believe about God or the Bible”?
Some of you reading this were stopped by me. Those of you who were stopped by me for one reason or another decided that you were the type of person who was interested in what other people believed. I have to say I’m very happy about that. I don’t mind admiting to you that I tried a number of different questions before I came up with this one as the one that helps me to communicate what I have to say clearly. Think about it?
If you ask someone what type of person they are, some people can react badly to the question. But, I have never had any one be offended. In fact, sometimes, if I have a friend with me, they use the same question and I’ve never seen anyone react badly to any of my friends asking this same question. I think the reason for this is that people understand this question is very genuine. Someone who asks this type of question, has a sincere desire to know the truth about what someone else thinks. I think that’s why this question, in my experience, has (99 per cent of the time), been met with a polite and sincere response.
The second part of my question is about open-mindedness. When I ask whether someone is interested in what other people believe, I normally reveal the level of open-mindedness of that person. Now this is funny. This is where it gets really interesting. You see, a significant number of people say yes. I don’t know the exact percentage. But I would imagine it’s well over 50 per cent. Are you surprised by that? Let me give you another guesstimate. Of the 50 per cent of people who say they are interested, I would guess, about half have a genuine, deep-felt desire to know what other people believe. So that’s about 25 per cent of the total number of people that I stop. They are really interested and want to stay in touch. And that means that if you’re reading this and I stopped you, you’re in that 25 per cent. Again, I am very happy about that!
Some people immediately claim they have the exact same belief as me! I try to respectfully point out that they do not know what I teach. We usually get past this and down to the business of how open they are to a bible study. We quickly look at Galatians 1:6-9 to get to an honest perspective on this issue.
Normally, when I meet someone on the street neither they nor I have the time to sit down and talk at length about what it is that we believe. So obviously we exchange telephone numbers and maybe our e-mails. Now, this is where it gets particularly interesting. Amazingly, of this 25 per cent who say “yes”, at least half (probably more), do not reply to any of my communications. I get a total silence. So that means, that out of every hundred people that I stop, approximately 10 to 15 people tell me that they are interested in knowing what I believe about God and the Bible and give me their phone number or their e-mail so that we can discuss this issue, but then they do not pick up the phone or reply to the email. The strange thing is that most of these e-mails and telephone numbers are authentic.
The phone rings but no one answers.
The e-mail is sent and received but there’s no answer. Except silence. It’s very hard to just make up a real email on the spot. This means that people are giving me their details but are not really interested. You think that’s weird right?
When I first became a Christian I found this very frustrating. Even today, I see young Christians going through the same process. They invite people on the street. They asked sincerely. They ask different questions. It’s not always the same question as me. But they meet people who claim to be open-minded. But then when they try to contact them, they find out that they were not really open-minded. All they find is silence.
Most Christians figure out that this will be their normal experience in evangelism. Indeed, Jesus himself was rejected by a whole generation during his life time. Luke 17:25 says, “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Not only is it normal that Christians will be rejected in this way but it is a fact that people do have the right to remain silent. It is unfortunate for Christians that so many people exercise this right in the way that they do. Nonetheless it is the responsibility of Christians to persevere in these circumstances. There are a few verses of scripture that really helped me to put this experience in perspective. Ezekiel chapter two describes the mission that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel. Here is the full passage.
Eze 2:3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.
I realize from reading this that the response that people give me does not qualify me as the bearer of the message. It is the act of trying to pass on the message that qualifies me. I admit, there are always times that it is difficult to face this kind of rejection. But I have found that to consistently invite people to study the bible I have to let go of all the possible negative reactions to rejection that I might have.
So to my friends who are still interested, I just want to say… I made a decision over a decade ago that I would never throw away the details of a friend who I met who told me they were the kind of person who was interested in finding out about what other people believe from the bible.
And what’s more, I want to ask you again to come along to church and sit down for a coffee and a study in the bible. Go on man, please. You said you would!
I still Love You