Imagine a young, cocky freshman goes off to college hoping to "score" a girlfriend. Now imagine our freshman--let's call him Billy Bob--decides on a fool-proof strategy: He will ask any moderately attractive woman on campus out on a date. If she refuses, he will try again. And again. And again. His thinking is that, sooner or later, someone will say yes. And after all, what does it hurt to ask? The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?
Well, I think we can all imagine what will happen to Billy Bob. Instead of becoming Big Man on Campus, he will become widely known as The Creepy Guy. Instead of finding true love, he will find himself the proud recipient of dozens of restrainment orders. And that's IF he's not dumb enough to try his strategy on the girlfriend of the middle linebacker...in that case, he could wind up in a full body cast. Ultimately, Billy Bob's strategy will backfire in every way; not only will he not get a date, he'll quickly disqualify himself in the eyes of every young woman on the campus.
I know this is a bad analogy--and no, Mr. Smarty Pants, this isn't some thinly veiled piece of autobiography. Billy Bob and his strategy are totally hypothetical. I promise--But it is not dissimilar to the way Christians have approached sharing their faith. For years, we've learned witnessing methods that embrace the cold-call sales approach..."Give me five minutes, and I'll change your eternity!" Of course, most of us don't feel comfortable with that style. And in recent years, most unbelievers don't respond well, either. Some might say, "But what does it hurt to ask? Even if we're rejected every time, haven't we done the right thing?" Well, just ask Billy Bob. Like him, if we approach unbelievers without respecting them, without understanding that we have to gain their trust and understand their viewpoint before we can hope to persuade them to change their lives, then we won't just be rejected. We'll innoculate them and everyone they know against the Gospel.
In our current series, "How to Win Your Friends...Naturally," we're talking about biblical ways to share our faith without feeling like a phony...and without turning off the very people Jesus wants to save. This week, we'll look at how Paul approached a very skeptical, intellectual crowd at Athens in Acts 17.