Ministry Resources

Consider Your Approach

Consider Your Approach

My people have a proverb that says: “With one rod you can look after 100 sheep; but with 100 people, you need 100 rods.”

People are all different. Even within one nation, one tribe, or one family, you cannot treat everyone alike. What is effective in one country may not work in another. Very often we must use several different approaches with one person. When we speak of approaches in personal evangelism, we mean the steps we take to reach a person for Christ.

You may ask what specific method can be used for a certain person. There is no single method that always works. You must keep trying until you find the right approach. Be willing to change your method when necessary, and let the Holy Spirit lead you.

We have just studied how we can overcome some important cultural barriers. Do keep that in mind as you study how to approach people.

Be Natural

If we are to win souls, we need to understand what approaches will help us to share the good news. First, we must let our words and actions be living examples. Then we must be natural, and look for ways to share with people from a point of view they will understand.

Jesus approached the Samaritan woman as a traveler in need of help. Even this sinful woman could be of help to Jesus. He did not think of Himself as too holy to be helped by her. On the contrary, He said, “Give me a drink of water” (John 4:7). In my country this kind of approach is called the stranger or traveler approach.

By using such a natural approach, Jesus was able to meet the innermost need of this woman. He was able to give her living water. We read in the Old Testament that Abraham’s servant used this same approach at the well when he asked Rebecca, “Please give me a drink of water from your jar” (Genesis 24:17).

Wherever I have gone, I have noticed that people like to help others who have needs. If you give them the opportunity to do just a little service for you, they are likely to listen to you as you share the good news.

The apostle Paul used the natural approach. When he went to Athens, he was very sad when he saw that the entire city was full of idols. Yet when he spoke to the people, he used wisdom. He was able to speak to them from their point of view. He said: I see that in every way you Athenians are very religious. For as I walked through your city and looked at the places where you worship, I found an altar on which is written, “To an Unknown God.” That which you worship, then, even though you do not know it, is what I now proclaim to you (Acts 17:22-23).

By this simple method of talking about something in their lives, Paul was able to get their attention. Even though they were idol worshipers, he was able to pass on the good news by making use of their worship of idols. As a result, some of them joined him and believed (Acts 17:34).

Suppose the apostle Paul had said, “You are sinners. You will go to hell. An idol worshiper will never see God.” If he had done this, I believe the response would have been much different. Probably no one would have believed him that day. Remember how someone told you about Jesus. Did they use a natural approach? We cannot win people with a negative approach. We must identify with them by being natural and positive.

One day several years ago I led my blind uncle, a pastor, to a village. I can still remember the way he approached the people. The people in this village made animal sacrifices in hopes that their gods would be pleased with them. My uncle told them that animal sacrifice was not a new thing. He told them that God was pleased with sacrifice, and that at one time He told His people to do this regularly.

Up to this point, the whole village just stood there listening. They had never heard such a thing before. They were used to negative approaches. Then my uncle went on to explain that when the time came, God sent His Son Jesus as a sacrifice. He told them that Jesus died on the cross to save all mankind. And from that time until now, God no longer wants animal sacrifices. Jesus has taken care of it all. We can come to Him, speak to Him, and He will hear us.

My blind uncle used a positive approach to a subject of interest to all the people and was able to draw many of them to Christ. Some of these people are now in their turn spreading the good news about Christ.

Do not Condemn

God has not condemned us. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, God could have destroyed them at once. But He did not do this. He came to them with a pleading voice, calling, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

During the time of King David, the whole world was filled with sin. People of all nations were worshiping idols. Some were sacrificing their children to their gods by putting them into fire (Leviticus 18:21). Even the people of Israel had abandoned their God. They were like other nations. As a matter of fact, King David wrote this: They are all corrupt, and they have done terrible things; there is no one who does what is right, But they have all gone wrong; they are all equally bad. Not one of them does what is right, not a single one (Psalm 14:1,3).

You would think that when God looked upon the world and saw its sin, He would have condemned us and caused His anger to fall upon us. But no, listen to what He says:

The Lord says, “Now, let’s settle the matter. You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as clean as snow. Although your stains are deep red, you will be as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

God is pleading with men. He does hate sin, but He loves the sinner. When He looks down from heaven, He does not just see sinful people. He sees people sitting in darkness, not knowing where to go and what to do. He sees them damaged by sin. He can no longer say that all is good. In spite of all this, we read that He loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son. He did not want to condemn the world, but He wanted to save it (John 3:16-17).

Jesus did not condemn us. It was not part of His mission. When He talked to the Samaritan woman, He knew she was living in sin. He knew that according to the law she should have been stoned to death. But He had compassion, and He offered her eternal, living water. He knew that this living water would draw her to God and away from sin (John 4:10).

We read in the Bible about another woman charged with adultery. There were more than two witnesses against her. No one, not even her husband or the cry of her children, could have saved her from being stoned to death. But Jesus was there. He said, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her” (John 8:7). No one was found without sin to cast the first stone. Jesus alone would have been the one to do it. But He said:

“Is there no one left to condemn you?”

“No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again” (John 8:10-11).

Just try to imagine this woman going back to her home, rejoicing because she had been set free!

Jesus was not sent to condemn but to give life to all those who will believe on Him.

Let us follow our Lord’s example. Our work is to give the message of hope to those whose sins have already condemned them. We must approach them with His love, seeing them through His eyes.

Show Respect

We have already talked about the importance of knowing how to approach those whose age or position are different from yours. We see many examples of this in the Bible.

Look at the way a little Israelite girl approached her mistress. She said, “I wish that my master could go to the prophet who lives in Samaria! He would cure him of his disease” (2 Kings 5:3) There is great wisdom in such an approach. Being young, being a servant, and living in a foreign land, the young girl could only suggest to them what she felt would help. When she did so, the result was positive, and her master, Naaman, went to the prophet.

Again, when the prophet told Naaman to go and wash himself in the River Jordan, he could have made the wrong decision. Because of his position, he did not want to wash himself in the dirty water. He was going to go back home without doing as the prophet said. But his servants approached him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. Now why can’t you just wash yourself, as he said, and be cured?” (2 Kings 5:13).

This careful, positive approach to their master made him willing to humble himself and go down into the muddy waters of the Jordan River. As a result, he was healed completely!

In my country, many villages have been opened to the gospel because the approach was positive. Some are still closed because of a wrong approach, even though the Christian workers had the right intentions.

One day, someone went to King David, sitting on his throne, and said, “Let us go to the Lord’s house.” And King David replied with joy, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the Lord’s house’” (Psalm 122:1). This, too, was a positive approach of a simple, ordinary person to the King of Israel.

There may be times when the right approach is straight and hard. But we must be certain that we are led by the Holy Spirit at all times.

Have Concern

In personal evangelism, more than anywhere else, we should have concern for other people’s needs. As those sent by Christ, we should learn to walk where He walked, and to let our hearts be touched with the needs around us.

Human needs may vary from place to place, but they are basically the same. Jesus was invited to a wedding ceremony. He went, and because He was there, He was able to meet a need. Suppose He had refused the invitation. What would have happened? The joy of the wedding might have turned to sorrow. His disciples might not have believed in Him so soon. We would not have known of his loving care and concern in this situation (John 2:11).

When a woman from Sidon cried out to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who was possessed by devils, He met her need. Though His earthly ministry was limited within the borders of Israel, He did not remain indifferent to her cry. Truly Jesus wept with those who wept, and He rejoiced with those who were happy. You and I have been given the same mission.

During an evangelistic campaign, a deacon and I were going from compound to compound. We were inviting people to our evening service and sharing with them Christ’s good news.

In one compound, we found a woman whose child had just died. Many people were there to comfort her. We talked to the woman and her husband. We shared with them the experience that Eve had when she lost her son, and how God had comforted her by giving her another son (Genesis 4:25). We talked about King David who knew sorrow too, and how God had comforted him.

The hearts of these parents were opened. We could see it. They both asked for our prayers. We asked God to comfort them even as He had done for Eve and others.

One year later, this same woman gave birth to a lovely daughter. She had experienced God’s comfort in a personal way. The only thing these parents regretted was not having met Christ before.

Because we were concerned with their need, God was able to do wonderful things in their lives. Through their testimony, other people in the village have accepted Christ.

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