START WHERE THEY ARE: THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Starting where they are means that you are going to start at a different place with different people based on their previous knowledge of God. This does not mean that you change the message. This does mean that each person is an individual case and may need to start at a different point. This was common in the book of Acts; when evangelizing the Jews, they would start in the Old Testament showing Christ out of the law of Moses and the prophets (Acts 26:22; 28:23). When they were evangelizing the Gentiles, they instead started with creation (Acts 14:15; 17:24). Therefore, do not expect every one to be on the same page. For example, an atheist from China is not on the same page as a Roman Catholic. A Roman Catholic already believes in Jesus and the Bible, but the atheist from China doesn’t believe in a Creator God or the Bible. Here are a few examples of how real people that I have witnessed to responded. You can see each person was at a different starting point.
Eric – Chinese – Atheist – 23
-He acted like he sort of understand the concept of what I was saying but didn’t believe there was a God yet so it was hard for him to apply to his life. I showed him God through creation. He is still searching.
Jerry – Chinese – Planted – 22
-It was basically like picking fruit from a tree, there already was much planting done and watering and he knew he was a sinner on his way to hell and wanted a way out.
Teenager – Iraqi – Muslim – Teenager
-He was very resistant and said that God was the same over all. I explained the difference of Jesus Christ and he was under conviction and became very closed minded saying Mohammad did the same thing.
Zhen – Chinese – Atheist – 21
-He listened but just wasn’t really interested and didn’t act like it was the major worry in his life.
So how does this play out practically? Here are three things to remember:
You need to constantly be reading and studying your Bible so that you will be able to start at different points (Colossian 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15).
A person needs to understand enough to believe, and therefore, it may take a long period of time for that person to make a profession of faith—don’t seek quick decisions (Romans 10:13-15; Luke 14:28-35).
Every person, no matter where their starting point is, needs to be taken through the Law of God–to see the condemnation of their sin, the Gospel of Jesus Christ–to see the forgiveness of their sin, and then brought to a crisis point–to accept or reject the forgiveness of their sin (Acts 20:25-27).