Just over a month ago marked the final day of our summer street evangelism. The Lord gave me a wonderful gift: a long conversation with a teenager who had taken a break from his skateboarding. He was relaxing in the shade and seemed open to talking. We talked for a long time about a number of things, but I can still remember how we transitioned to talk about spiritual things. You see, though I’m usually very direct from the outset with what I’d like to speak about (Jesus), this time I wasn’t. I just asked him questions about him; first about skateboarding and then, as the conversation took many twists and turns.
Often times people love talking about themselves, so I just kept asking him questions and got to know him pretty quickly. I learned of his passion and love for art. We talked about art for a while. I couldn’t help but ask him about beauty. How is it that we can appreciate it? Where does it come from? So I asked, “Have you ever thought much about where beauty comes from? I’m a Christian and I really appreciate the beauty in our world. I think it reflects the beautiful mind of the One who created it. What do you think?”
He acknowledged a higher power and embraced some elements of a theistic worldview, but his understanding of Jesus was certainly minimal and incorrect. I shared a bunch of Scripture with him and tried to explain the Gospel to him, but as we conversed, I noticed that I kept having to say, “Oh, well let be clear; I’m not sure if I was clear enough earlier, but …” The main truth that he didn’t seem to get was sin. I had been trying to teach him that we are so sinful that we cannot redeem ourselves; that we’re in need of total repair by someone else; that we’re guilty, evil and without hope in the world and in utter need of a Saviour.
He was a very agreeable person. He seemed to agree with everything I said! It’s tough to share the Gospel with people like this (but may God help us!). When I asked him questions to check his comprehension one thing became increasingly clear, he didn’t really agree with me. Maybe I wasn’t clear. Maybe he was distracted. Maybe he’s not a good thinker. Maybe it’s just the blinding effects of sin. Maybe he’s so steeped in relativism that he can agree with the truth and yet disagree at the same time! I don’t know. But the main thing I can remember from that conversation was having to say, “Let me be clear.”
I was deeply impressed by the difficulty of ministering to the Agreeables. They just agree with you. But do they really? I doubt it.
One of the lessons I learned from that conversation, and that I have seen many times in evangelism, is the need to ask repeat direct questions of the people we’ve preached to. For example, you can talk to a guy about righteousness, sin, guilt, judgement and grace and it may seem that he has an understanding of some of these core truths. You can tell him that salvation by works (or even grace + works) is insufficient (and only further condemns!). And he might agree with you. But then ask him, “So, if you were to die today, do you think God will accept you or reject you?” And what will you hear him say? Sadly, and too often, “I think he will accept me.” And you can follow up, “Why?” Sadly, and too often (at least, among the people I speak too), you’ll hear these words, “We’ll, God knows I trying to be a good person, and he’s forgiving.”
May the Spirit give understanding and conviction! And may He give us endurance to keep preaching! God can save Agreeables! But may He give us wisdom to show them what they really don’t agree with. Direct questions (even if repeated many times) can help.