Most Christians know that they ought to be sharing their faith. I mean, there is the whole “make disciples of all nations” thing that Jesus said. (Matthew 28:19) But knowing and doing end up being two different things for many believers. When Christians hear the word evangelism, there’s a sense of anxiety that springs up for many.
Asking a friend “hey buddy, do you know Jesus?” can be an awkward thing. It’s only more awkward to spring that question on a total stranger. There’s a certain yuck factor, as you don’t want to come across overly salesy or be lumped in with some cult.
Our society is growing increasingly secular. We have to be aware of the cultural background in which we’re preaching. I’m sure in some cases that if you ask if someone knows Jesus, you might get the reply that they used to play soccer with him. We may want to consider backing up a little bit. Instead of going right for the “do you know Jesus?” we should ask some worldview questions.
A worldview is how one interprets the world around them, like their philosophical lenses. In other words, how they answer some of the big questions in life – origins, morality, meaning and the like. The nice thing about worldview questions is it helps us to locate someone. It gives you a starting point that becomes a more natural transition to the gospel. You’ll see as I provide some examples.
Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite “launch pads” into gospel conversations. I’ve included short videos with more in-depth explanations if this is new to you:
1. Are there moral facts? Does real right and wrong exist?
Everyone – and I mean everyone – has a moral opinion about something. Just sign into Twitter for like 2 seconds to see this in action. You’ll see what I mean. We live in an age of moral outrage. The words homophobe, misogynist, racist and bigot are thrown around like confetti. Tolerance and acceptance are the highest virtues according to many in our society.
These are often the same people who say that no culture is better than another. But if a culture practices terrible things – say female circumcision – then I think we recognize that we’re right to condemn such practices. No one is a consistent moral relativist. Certain things, like female genital mutilation, are wrong.
The heart of the gospel is that we’ve sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) That we recognize there are moral facts and we all fall short of them cries out for an explanation.
2. Is everything ultimately material in nature?
I like this question because if they say no, they’re at least open to spiritual things. If they answer with a yes, now you can follow up with some questions that should make them think.
We already talked about morality. Moral facts aren’t physical facts, because if all that exists is unintended nature, then there’s no way things should be. People hurt, main and torture each other. It is that way. But there is no way things should be. But surely that’s counterintuitive. Why should we doubt our moral experience any more than we doubt our other sense-experiences?
But there are further problems for the materialist worldview. If everything is matter, then our beliefs are all the product of natural processes that are beyond our control. Thinking that matter is all there is then is a just a product of a deterministic system. If the thorough-going materialist is right, it’s only by accident, not some intellectual virtue. In other words, materialism destroys knowledge.
But if thoughts, knowledge, and reason aren’t material things, then the idea of the spirit or soul comes into play.
3. What would you do if you had a week to live? And what do you think happens to us after we die?
OK, so the last two questions were super-philosophical. This one shoots straight for the heart. I like asking what they’d do if they found out that they had a week to live because now you’re going to see what’s important to them.
So many of us would put the smartphone down, spend time with our families, mend any fences that need mending and do something meaningful with our short time left. Life is fleeting. Blaise Pascal said:
“Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of others those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition.”
In our modern world, everything is so sanitized. We live in denial of death and waste our time on the trivial. Once we’ve asked this question, maybe they’ll be open to sharing their thoughts on life after death. This can turn into a golden opportunity to share the gospel with them.
4. Is there any single ‘true’ religion?
It’s a popular thing to say that there is no one true religion, that they’re all basically saying the same thing. This is called religious pluralism. It the tolerant thing to say in our politically correct world. It’s also what makes Christianity not so PC.
But various religions aren’t teaching the same thing. Christianity says Jesus was God. Islam says he’s a prophet. Judaism says he was badly mistaken or a deceiver. Many Buddhists say there’s no god at all. Hinduism says there are many gods. Clearly, they’re not all teaching the same things!
The other knock on this view is that it’s just as dogmatic as the dogma it opposes. The pluralist implicitly suggests that their view is privileged, that they can see what others are blind to – namely, there is no one true religion! This is the kind of person that needs to hear the uniqueness of Christian truth claims. That leads me to my next question:
5. What is Jesus of Nazareth doing right now?
I borrowed this one from Pastor J.A. Medders. I love it because it gets straight to the crux of the matter. This is where the rubber meets the road. Notice that we’re not asking them if they know Jesus. We’re just asking them what they think Jesus is doing right now. They might think he’s dead. They might think he’s living on the ‘other side’ with all the other great religious teachers. Or they might say that he’s seated at the right hand of God interceding for his church.
This is the time to be able to share with them the amazing evidence that we have for the resurrection. This is what we see the early apostles preaching. (Acts 3:15, Acts 4:2, Acts 25:19) No matter what a person thinks about hell, or why God supposedly allows bad things to happen, or things they don’t like in the Bible, it all has to go back to this one single issue. As Pastor Tim Keller said in his book The Reason for God:
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
6. What qualifies someone for heaven or hell?
Do good people go to heaven? Do bad people go to hell? Pelagianism is still very much alive and well in our times. For those of you know don’t know, Pelagius was a heretical monk who lived in Rome in the 5th century. He caused quite a stir by saying that human beings are born untainted from sin and have perfect freedom to choose between good and evil. A moral life was rewarded with heaven, while bad people go to hell.
Jesus taught something much more radical than that. He said he came to give his life for a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) He condemned the self-righteous and was merciful to those who cried for mercy. (See Luke 18:9-14, Luke 15-11-32)
The Bible teaches that we’re dead in sin and in need of a Savior and none of our good works can earn salvation – it’s a free gift that we receive. (Romans 5:19, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9).
Wrapping it up
I hope these worldview questions give you some ideas on how to overcome awkwardness and start with a simple question. To keep it even less awkward, I recommend asking them like you’d ask your waiter for more water. “Excuse me, I hate to bug you but I have kind of a deep question. I’ve been surveying people for my own personal study and I would be curious to get your take…” I think you’ll find people are way more open to share their views than you’d imagine.
As you can see, all of these questions require a little bit of insight into Christian apologetics. If some of these things are new to you, start with the questions that appeal to you and study up as you go along, or just start with the one question you’re comfortable with now.
Also, remember that none of these questions are to start a debate with the notion of winning the argument. You just wanna get the person thinking and let God do the work. Everyone can plant a seed!
Erik is a former atheist turned Christian after an experience with the Holy Spirit. He’s a former freelance baseball writer and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about the intersection of evangelism and apologetics.