Evangelism as “Breaking a Taboo”

Today, we are reposting from the ‘Connection Points’ blog (http://www.connectionpoints.us/) the teaching ministry of Dr. Randy Newman. Randy is gifted in engaging people’s hearts the way Jesus did. He offers practical advice for helping people see the connections between God and all of life and helping ordinary Christians do the extraordinary work of evangelism.

Originally Posted: October 11, 2018 Evangelism as “Breaking a Taboo”

In a recent blog, I asked for readers to send me questions they get asked by non-Christians.

The first response was:

“I haven’t ever been asked a question!  To me, that is the crux of the problem in apologetics/evangelism. All the books out there assume that Christians are asked questions about their faith. Instead, there is a climate of silence regarding any spiritual discussion; if a Christian penetrates that silence, then there is an atmosphere of condemnation for having broken the “rules of the game.” Persona non grata.”

I’m confident this reader is not alone.

If we always wait for outsiders to bring up the topic of religion, we may wait a very long time before we evangelize. But if we just bring up the topic, we may face negative responses. I can think of at least two strategies to consider.

First, we can broach the topic cautiously. As we get to know someone and ask them where they’re from, what kind of work they do, how they like to spend their free time, what TV shows they watch, which podcasts they listen to, etc., we can throw in something like, “How about spiritual things. Do you ever think much about faith?” or “Does spirituality play a part in your life?”

In some cases, we may be surprised at the level of thought people have been giving to faith, religion, or God. While they may not feel comfortable starting that conversation, their internal rumination may have been going on for quite some time.

A second strategy is to identify the elephant in the room: talking about religion has become taboo. Our culture stays away from such discussions for fear of offending people, or getting into an argument, or because all religious people (especially evangelical Christians) are assumed to be as weird as they’re portrayed in popular media.

One way we can try to counter this current taboo might sound like this: “I realize it’s become unpopular to talk about religion in our day and age. But I wonder if we might approach the topic anyway. I’m curious to hear what you think and I think our relationship could grow if we discussed this.”

We could always insert the caveat: “If you’d rather not, that’s OK.” But I wouldn’t back off too soon. Again, we may be surprised to hear how open people might be to discussing eternally significant issues.

Here’s another way to think about it. Sometimes we need to have a conversation about the conversation. We need to examine why discussions about religion have become unmentionable or uncomfortable or forbidden before having those discussions. We need to ask, “Why do you suppose our culture has become so cautious about these kinds of discussions?” before we say, “Let’s talk about Jesus.” Some of the time (not always!), we need to acknowledge the awkwardness of the conversation before launching the conversation.

To be sure, this approach may not always work. Some closed doors remain closed. But some of the time, the silence is broken, the objections evaporate, and the elephant finds an escape hatch.

Reposted with Permission from the author.


Dr. Randy Newman