Lesson Five — Ignorance As An Objection
Sometimes the follower of Christ, while seeking out others to tell of the Gospel, will encounter someone who doesn’t have objections as such, but really does not know or understand a key piece of the Gospel picture. This is in reality more common than most Christians realize. It is not in itself a conscious objection, but it does create a barrier which must be dealt with in pursuit of the Gospel.
Those of us submerged in the Christian culture for any length of time develop an intuitive understanding of the ‘language’ of the Gospel. However, for those outside of the Christian community, this can lead to confusion or apathy. It is important that we address for a moment how to speak with those who are ignorant of all or parts of the Gospel.
It is first important to identify which pieces of ‘information’ are essential for someone to come to a point where they can truly know Jesus. Volumes have been written on this, and make for healthy reading for any believer. For sake of space, let a few essential points suffice. A person must know God is real and involved in the lives of men, and that He cares for them. They must know that all mankind has sinned and become separated from God. They must know that Jesus freely provided himself as the sacrifice to reconcile men to God. And they must know that we need to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness in order to obtain that salvation. These facts make for a good starting place to point someone to Jesus. If understood and believed, a person can truly ask Christ into his or her life.
But what if someone is ignorant of one or more of these points, or of other issues like the Bible and its accuracy and inerrancy? Here are some strategies to deal with a person’s ignorance:
1. Keep it simple. Remember to whom you are speaking. A person with little exposure to the Bible may not know even simple concepts, so don’t try to dazzle them with advanced concepts yet. That will come later, as they mature in the Lord. Do we teach physics to first-graders? No, and there is a reason we don’t! Also, resist the temptation to start in Genesis and work through the whole Bible from the beginning. Use one of the many excellent outlines available to present issues of the Gospel in a simple, direct way, without jumping around.
2. Define the key words used. Do not assume that a non-believer knows what ‘grace’, or ‘faith’, or ‘saved’ means. Again, as we are surrounded by these words and terms, we can take their meanings for granted. But those who are not surrounded by those words often find them confusing, or worse yet think the words mean something else. Asking most non-Christians what ‘faith’ means will in many instances receive ‘blind faith’ as the answer. That is not what faith means, but if we are not careful to define terms, those we communicate with will hear ‘I placed my uneducated assumption backed up with no evidence in Jesus’ instead of ‘I placed my faith in Jesus’.
3. Take care not to use too much ‘Christian-y’ words. When speaking to a non-Christian, try to use words or terms that he or she will not find foreign. Instead of saying we just ‘spent time in the word’, we should say we read from the Bible. Rather than saying we were out ‘witnessing to the lost’, we should say we were talking about Christianity with other people. There are so many words used in the Christian culture that sound strange to those not familiar. Don’t let those words become a barrier. Make a conscious effort not to use them, or change them so others more easily grasp their meaning.
4. Use Scripture whenever possible, but put it in context. Scripture speaks most powerfully for itself. Use it. Keep in mind the above cautions, and carefully and patiently explain what is meant in the passages being read. God will illuminate people’s hearts though His word.
In the face of ignorance, the Christian should always pursue truth. Truth is on our side, and God will use truth to bring people to Jesus. We must remember that ignorance is not necessarily the opponent of truth, but rather the absence of truth. It falls to us to make the truth known to all who would know it.
Questions to Consider:
1. In what ways has ignorance been a barrier in your life? How have you seen it overcome?
2. Talk with five non-believing friends about the words ‘grace’, ‘faith’, and ‘saved’. Ask them what they think those words mean, and write two pages about your findings, including what ways you found useful to help your friends understand the words.