Evangelizing a Crowd                       

Posted by on May 17, 2017
Evangelizing a Crowd                       

 

A friend asked me how she should have responded when her non-Christian coworkers “all ganged up” on her at a recent after-work dinner party. She wondered if she could have done things better. One person began with, “You’re a Christian, right? What kind of Christian?” Another one chimed in with, “You’re not one of those intolerant Christians, are you?” A third friend piled on with, “Or homophobic!” (with added emphasis to make sure it was heard as a judgmental condemnation, not a sincere inquiry).

What had been several separate conversations all stirring around the table now unified into six staring faces in one direction. My friend found the whole experience overwhelming.

I first tried to reassure her that those kinds of situations or notoriously difficult. And unfair. And often insincere. But not too difficult for God to handle. I wasn’t sure how to respond to her – just as she wasn’t sure how to respond to her co-workers. After a lot of thought, I’ve come up with five ideas for facing “Crowd Evangelism.”

First, acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation. A comment like, “Well, hasn’t this lovely party taken an unexpected turn!” can lower the temperature and ease the tension. It also takes the focus off you, the lone Christian, and puts it on the whole group.

Second, check the sincerity level. It’s worth finding out if these questions are for real. I don’t think it’s bad to say something like, “Do you guys really want to talk about this here and now? I’m willing to. But I want to make sure before we dive into the deep end of the pool.” You’re probably only going to have a short amount of time, in a crowded restaurant or bar, to make a few points. You want to make the most of the situation.

Third, ask for “buy in.” Find out if everyone wants to discuss something so serious. Again, acknowledge that you’re up for it but you don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. It would not be bad if you deferred to a later time for several individual conversations. One-on-one evangelism usually goes better than one-on-six.

Fourth, separate the issues. Do they want to talk about what kind of Christian you are or why some Christians are intolerant or the psychological roots of homophobia or something else? Lumping numerous topics together rarely leads to clarity. I’d try to select the most important topic, what it means to be a Christian, to take center stage. I’d word it like this, “You’ve raised a whole bunch of issues. I can’t tackle them all at once. Let me try to start with what I think it means to be a Christian.”

Finally, pave the way for future installments. It would be amazing if you could proclaim the entire gospel, share your testimony, ask for responses, and baptize a few new converts right there and then. (Waiters are often willing to provide water). But, realistically, you might be able to share only a few starter points. If you say, “Well, obviously, there’s a lot more to this topic,” you keep the door open for more discussion at a later time, where there are fewer distractions.

It would not be bad to reopen the discussion later with, “You know, when you asked me those questions the other night, I wasn’t ready for them. I’ve given it some more thought and I wonder if we could restart that conversation.”

In an odd way, attempting less (in the pressured situation) might actually accomplish more (in the long run).

2 Comments

  1. Vera Likhonin
    May 31, 2017

    Thank you! This is very helpful!

    Reply
  2. kim
    June 29, 2017

    Ummm, I wouldn’t do any of those things! I would start by looking for God’s perspective on a situation like that…

    As believers, we *want* these conversations, don’t we? If our sister was the only one there, then she, and she alone, has a voice with the coworkers–and for a glimmer of time, she had their full attention from the sounds of it! Wow! Not saying that we look for that, but if it’s delivered into your lap… = )

    It’s tempting to feel “ganged up on”in moments like those–but if we shift our perspective from being “outnumbered” to “having an opportunity with the spiritual immature”… Well, then it’s like being asked some random question by a table full of 5-year-olds, right?

    It’s endearing, a window into a soul–not bullying.

    Laugh gently, nod with understanding or whatever is natural for you and say something like, “Well, I believe in Jesus for sure, but it sounds like you’re talking about something different! What happened?”

    And if there’s hostility, there’s hurt behind it, or a cultivated distrust, at best. That’s a situation to be winsome and gentle, not defensive. “Man, sounds like you had a lousy experience! What happened?”

    It’s a dinner party. Keep the conversation rolling. Ask questions, invite them to tell their story, tell stories about your own experience if you’re comfortable doing that. The quieter ones will know you can be trusted and might talk to you later. The hostile ones will move on to a more interesting topic. Everyone gets heard–and you, my sister, have a front seat into an open soul. That’s amazing!

    Reply

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