I convert from atheism to Christianity my sophomore year at Lawrenceburg High School in Southern Indiana. Being freshly reborn, I was eager to take advantage of any opportunity to preach the gospel to my classmates. Such an opportunity presented itself when I was assigned a report for my English class on Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Writing has never been my forte. I have a form dyslexia that makes it difficult for me to discern differences between words as I write or type. The result is that things I write often don’t make a lick of sense. But talking is different. I’ve always possessed the gift of gab. That is to say, I’m fairly quick on my feet when it comes to verbal exchanges. This assignment was particularly helpful since it not only included a written report but also a short speech that was given to the class in the form of a defense of your thesis or basic conclusion.
This was my moment. I would use my Edwards speech to gain a public pulpit to preach sin and grace to captive audience. Revival would break out. Songs would be written and stories told. It would be awesome or so I thought…
The day finally came. I gave my speech. I did pretty decent job. I focused on how God was just in condemning us to hell for sin and that the only means of salvation was Jesus Christ. I finished by asking if anyone had any questions. Probably ten hands flew up in a class generally packed with apathetic peers.
Move over Whitfield!
I ready myself for cries of “what must we do to be saved?” Instead, I got a punch in the gut.
“What do you think about human cloning? Do clones have souls?”
“Do you think marijuana should be legalized? Genesis say it is okay?”
“Do you believe in alien a life? There are UFOs in Ezekiel, right?
No one had any interest in the central topic (aka the gospel). They only wanted to talk about issues that were at best tangentially connected.
I tried my best to answer the questions but I was new Christian. I stumbled over my words. I contradicted myself. I failed. Ken Jennings I was not. It was very discouraging.
This experience drove me to read up on every hot topic I could find. I gobbled up every apologetics book I could find. I honed my skills by street preaching at Florence Mall or Fountain Square. Never again would I be caught off guard by a question. I would find an answer for every objection.
But this was the wrong lesson to be learned.
It took me four years to figure that out. My problem wasn’t that I was unprepared to answer certain questions. The problem was that I let people draw me away from the gospel into secondary matters. The pagan always prefers a topical wild goose chases over discussing sin and repentance. The want to talk about everything but the gospel. But you can’t let that happen. The gospel is the end all-be all.
The Christian evangelist doesn’t need an answer for everything. Matter of fact, there aren’t even answers for many questions. I haven’t a clue if there is life on some planet in Alpha Centauri. Maybe, maybe not. I doubt it. But I do know that every single man on earth will stand before the judgment throne and they’ll need a Savior. That is a certainty.
Listen up, you don’t need to know everything to evangelize. Theological know-it-all isn’t a perquisite to be an evangelist. That is a myth. You only need to know the gospel. You need to love God. That is it.
Can you explain sin? Can you explain judgment? Can you explain why the cross was necessary? Can you explain the promise of a new life that starts here on earth and continues in a renewed earth?
These are the issues you need to focus on. Most “intellectual” problems are just smoke screens and detours. You want to do your best to answer them. However, the gospel is what we’ve be commission to preach. Evangelism isn’t high octane Jeopardy! where you show your worth by your breadth of knowledge. Evangelism is where you declare a simple message and trust that the Holy Spirit works through the Word preached. Master that.