Getting someone to believe in Jesus
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Description: This is a loaded statement with only one certainty. Yet it’s not the whole story. The biggest clue is that Christians follow Christ.
How to get someone to believe in Jesus is a tricky question; bit like the rich young man asking Jesus, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luke 18.18).
The rich young man’s story appears in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) but – for our purposes – the key point is that the man’s question centred entirely on himself and what he might do by himself. Similarly, there’s a trap in thinking that getting someone to believe in Jesus is entirely up to us: what we say, how much effort we put in, and so on. God absolutely has a role and the trap is sprung if we forget it.
The real answer?
So the real answer to getting someone to believe is: we can’t; God does it, but – and it’s a vital but – he works through us.
Things on the don't-do list
So off we go then, full of zeal and determined to install belief no matter what. Well, not exactly.
Here are a few things we definitely shouldn’t do:
choose a noisy public place with loads of people around to make the person feel uncomfortable
start by telling the person that you can’t understand why they don’t believe
say that if they don’t listen they’ll be heading for eternal hellfire
choose a time when they’re tired and/or worried or when they’re desperate to get somewhere else
make assumptions about anything (while remembering that they are probably making assumptions about you, your intentions, and Christianity itself)
over-complicate the message (becoming a Christian starts by putting faith in Jesus Christ).
The list could go on and on, so to cut it short: simply put yourself in the person’s situation and be sensitive. Also, it’s clearly helpful to have some kind of positive relationship with the person involved, especially since Christianity is about relationships.
Some long-established Christian's can remember the exact day and often the time when they received Jesus and their lives changed. For others it’s a slow train ride to Jesus, maybe taking many years. We’re unlikely to know in advance how any approach we make will go – something dramatic may happen or it may not. Either way, if we feel the need to speak to someone about Jesus, we should be prepared. So how do we prepare?
Prayer comes first
First we must pray, remembering that we are trying to do what God wants. We’re not out to pursue our own agenda. It may be that God has been working on someone’s heart and will suggest that we approach them. If so, our approach may well be received positively, but not all reactions will be positive. If they’re not, we mustn’t let things deteriorate into an endurance test set on wearing down our ‘opponent’. We’ve tried and we can always make a point of leaving the door open for another day.
People are individuals
Needless to say, it’s not possible to be prescriptive about exactly what we should say. Every individual is just that and every situation is different. Some people accept Christ in a very public forum and walk through hundreds (if not thousands) of people in affirmation. With others, the subject may simply crop up in ‘casual conversation’ and develop from there. However, it goes, it will go the way God wants it to.
It may be helpful to reflect on God’s character. He’s loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, faithful (to mention just a few qualities) and he doesn’t want anyone to miss out on a relationship with him. Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we too need to be loving, compassionate, forgiving, faithful and generally show by word and deed that we share a relationship with God and care about other people.
God within us
If we do this – as has often been observed – our faces will express an inner warmth and radiance. Maybe this in itself is a big step towards getting someone else to believe. They will sense Christ within us. In the end, though, we should remember that everyone has free will. If someone chooses not to accept God’s invitation, God is not going to be the one to force them. And neither will he force us beyond our limits. Nonetheless, we are called to bear witness and all of us have stories to tell of God’s love and grace to us personally. Telling these stories can’t really be challenged because they are our own stories – and God will always be with us if there needs to be another step.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.