In Matthew 5:14-16, Christ says that His followers are the light of the world, giving light to all who are in the house. When it comes to sharing the good news of the Gospel toward strangers, is our light on a lampstand or under a basket? This is an important question for each of us to examine given the command from Christ to go and make disciples of all the nations.
Sharing the gospel with strangers—a practice sometimes termed “cold contact evangelism”—is an imperative given to each Christian. Christ’s final command to His disciples in Matthew 28:19 was to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” We also find in Acts 1:8 Christ’s encouragement to His followers saying, “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” It is obvious that the disciples would be proclaiming the message of Christ to strangers. They would be reaching both the familiar in Judea and the unfamiliar in the remotest parts of the earth. Likewise, we are called to bring the gospel to our friends and family as well as the stranger. We have many examples in Scripture of Jesus and His disciples sharing the gospel with strangers: Jesus with the Samaritan woman, Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, Stephen with the Sanhedrin, Peter with Cornelius, and Paul with the Philippian jailer, just to name a few.
Another reason to be sharing the gospel with strangers is because it is the most loving thing to do. It proclaims the hope of salvation amid the impending certain judgment. We hear this so often that we might be calloused to its reality. The gospel is the most important message anyone can receive. It directly addresses the ultimate and eternal reality of how wicked and rebellious man can be reconciled with the holy and just God. Hebrews 9:27 says “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” The brevity and finality of our earthly lives should motivate us to share the good news of the gospel with unbelieving strangers we meet.
What should we prioritize when sharing with strangers? Every circumstance is unique, but often times conversations with strangers will be brief. Therefore, it is important to have a simple and concise version of the gospel on hand.
A simple way to make sure you hit all the main points is to cover these four topics: God, man, Christ, response.
God—is our creator (Gen 1:1), judge (Gen 18:25), holy (Isa 6:1-6) and cannot tolerate sin (Rom 3:23).
Man—we are made in God’s image (Ps 8:5) for the purpose of enjoying and glorifying God, but due to our rebellion, we are dead in our sin (Eph 2:1-3), unable to seek God, or please Him (Rom 3:10 and 8:6).
Christ—is God the Son (John 1:1) who took on flesh (Phil 2:6-7), was without sin (Heb 4:15), and came to be the payment for sin by His death on the Cross (Rom 3:25). He rose from the grave victorious over death (1 Cor 15:1-6) so that all who believe in Him are declared righteous in God’s sight (Rom 3:26) rather than eternally paying the penalty for his or her sins in Hell (Rev 20:12-15).
Response—this message demands a response. Either one repents which is a wholehearted turning from sin to God and believes in Christ’s saving work on the cross (Mark 1:15), or he or she continues in unbelief and rebellion against God.
In addition to speaking a clear and concise gospel message, it is also important to consider other aspects of how we interact with strangers. Paul comments on how he has “become all things to all men, so that [he] may by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22). We should be warm and friendly in our tone, inviting additional conversation. For example, it is often considerate to ask a stranger if they have a moment to talk before just barging forward. That way you can gauge the time and extent you can share in the conversation. It is also important to strive to keep your listener engaged.
Asking questions is a great way to keep people tracking with you. It is very effective to lead off with a question like “I know this question may be out of the ordinary, but what do you think happens to you after you die?” Listen to what they say in response and then transition into sharing the gospel. And make sure that you prioritize sharing the gospel. Talking about the historicity of the Bible, important social issues, evolutionary theory and science, or the existence of God are all significant topics that might quickly arise in your conversations, but it is important to not get derailed from sharing the gospel, which is the only message that has the power to save (Rom 1:16).
Take a moment to reflect on how well you are doing at sharing the gospel with strangers. Each of us has room for improvement. We all neglect this area of our Christian lives at times. What are the roadblocks that make it challenging to be a faithful evangelist?
A major roadblock is fear of man and fear of rejection. There is a wide range of negative responses to the preaching of the gospel to a stranger: apathy, aggression, ridicule, hatred, vileness, disinterest, and even violence. It is just easier not to get involved; we are afraid to share the gospel because of the response we might get. Remember that we do the planting, but God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:5-9). We should see ourselves as seed sowers (Luke 8:5) and not above our Master who was blasphemously called “the head of the house of Beelzebul” (Matt 10:24-25). Scripture forewarns us that the faithful will be maligned and persecuted (Luke 21:17 and 2 Tim 3:12), but to these, Christ promises that He will never leave nor forsake (Matt 28:20).
Another roadblock is our love for comfort and ease. Often times, cold contact evangelism is neither comfortable nor easy. But we should be prepared to endure some discomfort for a short time to love others looking to Christ as the supreme example.
Another roadblock is that we might feel inadequate due to our poor social skills or paltry knowledge of Scripture. This might be so severe that we convince ourselves it is best that someone else do it all together in every circumstance. Paul preached the gospel not in cleverness of speech, but through the simple message of the gospel seen as foolishness to the world (1 Cor 1:17-25).
Many of these roadblocks and more can be overcome by changing the way we prioritize and prepare for cold contact evangelism. Study and memorize Scripture to be prepared to answer questions and show others how Christ is the fulfillment of Scripture (Luke 24:27). First Peter 3:15 says “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Schedule times to share the gospel with strangers. It is best to go with others for support, encouragement, and accountability. Pray regularly for God to be strengthening you and others to be faithful to share the gospel. Ask for God to give the words and wisdom to make the most of every opportunity. Be on the lookout for unexpected opportunities that God might bring into your daily life to share the light and hope of Christ with another.