In earlier decades most families went to church on Sunday morning. They may not have always lived out their faith during the week, but at least on Sunday they tried to act “Christian.” Because so many people went to church back then, they had a general knowledge of God. That general knowledge of God made it easy for evangelical Christians to talk to non-Christians about the things of God. As our nation has moved farther and farther from our Christian heritage, fewer people now attend church on a regular basis. While there are many societal impacts that flow out of a lower church attendance, one of them is that fewer people are fluent in what the Bible actually says. It has become more complicated to share our faith with our friends because our friends often don’t know enough about the Bible to follow our conversation intelligently. Many of the “old methods” have lost their effectiveness. We must discover new methods of sharing the timeless story of Jesus with our friends.
This is especially true for young people who are growing up in an increasingly postmodern world. For those who might not be familiar with the term “postmodern,” it basically refers to a way of thinking that says that each person decides for themselves what “truth” is and no one can “judge” another person’s version of the truth. Evangelical Christians know that there is a real TRUTH out there, and His name is Jesus! Christians face the challenge of trying to show people who do not believe in any objective truth that there are things that are actually true regardless of whether people believe in them or not.
This is why a number of popular witnessing plans from the past are less effective than they once were. Many of the past witnessing methods rely on learning a pre-written script and memorizing the verses that go along with that script. Most of these plans assume that the individual being witnessed to has a general belief in God, a general belief in heaven and/or hell, and accepts the Bible as being true. Few postmodern young people accept any of those assumptions. Witnessing to postmodern young people is complicated, but it can be successful.
When witnessing to postmodern young people, keep these points in mind:
1. See witnessing as a process. You may only be able to share small portions of the Gospel at any one time. It may take several witnessing encounters with a friend for you to present the entire Gospel. Learn to be patient and let God guide this process. Your job is to share what you believe; it is God’s job to call a person to repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. If you keep sharing seeds of the Gospel, your sharing will eventually culminate in an opportunity to ask the person to make a decision. It is going to take a lot of work to get to that moment, but it will be worth it.
2. Use a version of the Bible that people can actually understand. We all have our favorite versions. But the goal is for us to communicate truth to the other person. Today’s young people have a very low understanding of the Bible and using a version they cannot understand only complicates the situation even more. Understand that even though they may not accept the Bible as true, there is power in the Word. But it takes time for that Word to sink into their hearts. Sometimes it is better to share only one or two verses than to share a large number of verses. This is because if they do not accept the Bible as truth, then simply giving a non-Christian additional verses is not going to convince them either. Share a verse or two and then let those verses sink into the person’s heart for a few days. Then continue the conversation.
3. Learn to ask open ended questions of the person you are sharing your faith with. Open ended questions are ones that cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” Open ended questions invite discussion. When we ask questions that have a “yes” or “no” answer, we tend to lapse into our “presentation” mode, which is often perceived as non-authentic by our friends. When we fall into “presentation” mode, we tend to answer questions they are friends not asking and miss the questions they really want to ask.
4. Be prepared to admit that you don’t know all the answers. The person to whom you are witnessing may ask complex questions. These will often be based on a negative experience they have had or some evil they have seen in the world around them. You may not know the answer. There may not be an answer. It is better to admit that you are still looking for answers to those questions yourself, but that you are trusting Christ to show you those answers as you grow in your faith. As a matter of fact, sharing that you trust Christ even when you DON’T know the answer is a powerful testimony of your faith.
5. Share how you came to understand the truth of Christ in your own life. Share how Christ has changed your life. Share a story of how your faith in Christ helped you overcome a significant challenge or difficulty. Use one powerful Bible verse that helped you in your time of need so that they can see how the Bible impacts your daily life.
6. Realize that the results of our witnessing will depend on the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we push too hard because we think we are the one responsible for the other person’s soul. We are responsible for sharing the Gospel, not for the results. We need to do our job and let God do His!