How to Respond When People Say No to Jesus

Getting up the nerve to share Jesus with others around us for many takes all the courage we can muster. We pray and ask God for wisdom, we review what we’ll say in our minds and perhaps a few Bible verses and with palpitations in our chest we begin to share Jesus. For many Christians, it is the hardest thing they do. Sharing Jesus with others puts us at both God’s mercy as well as the mercy of those we share with. One of the most challenging thing in this exercise of faith often comes when the person we are sharing with rejects the good news. A ‘no’ to Jesus can feel like a failure to us, it can call into question whether or not God is with us, leading us, empowering us as we share Jesus. Additionally, for Christians, it is hard to imagine how people could say no to such a great message and promise of forgiveness, love and new life. What we do with a ‘no’ to Jesus is perhaps the most important exercise of faith in our witness. Here are some words of encouragement and guidance on how to respond when people say no

1. Realize your role: Jesus sends us out as His witnesses, to faithfully and powerfully proclaim Him- He does not promise positive results. In fact, rejection ought to be expected as a normal part of faithful witness. We are successful in evangelism if we proclaim lovingly and truthfully the gospel. Success in evangelism isn’t counted by people’s response so a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ is under the control of the person responding-not under our control. To be sure, we can learn to do a better job-to be more prophetic, more pastoral, more accurate, more persuasive, but in the end a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is under the control of the person hearing. Our job is to hold forth Jesus.

2. Reassure the person: Frequently when the person we are sharing with has a relationship with us, the pressure and awkwardness of a religious conversation weighs on them as much as it does on us. When a person ultimately says ‘no’ to Jesus, it can feel like they are saying no to us as well. As we tell our mothers and siblings, life-long friends, co-workers and neighbors about Jesus there will naturally be tension because the relationship has value. Introducing Jesus into any relationship has the potential to forever alter (and sometimes end) that relationship. As people reject Jesus, we often need to reassure them that we will remain committed to them regardless of how they respond. This not only can relieve some of the pressure and awkwardness from our witness but also leave the door open for future opportunities.

3. Reassess to Conversation: Many times, as we explain the gospel and invite people to respond positively to Jesus we have a limited understanding of what is actually going on in people’s heads and hearts. When a person says ‘no’ to Jesus, it should not always immediately end our efforts-we need to stop and reassess the conversation. When people reject the entire message or parts of the message, we need to get into the weeds about what exactly they are responding negatively to. Sometimes what is being rejected is an incorrect understanding of what was presented, sometimes an easily corrected misapplication, and other times a significant block such as a resistance to the Lordship of Jesus or an unwillingness to believe a critical truth aspect of the gospel. Reassessing the tone of the conversation is important as well. Often when sharing Jesus there are many other factors in play outside of the believability of the gospel. For many, a ‘yes’ to Jesus is perceived as a rejection of one’s heritage, a rejection of one’s family, a rejection of a way of life-this is frequently the perception of those coming from other religious backgrounds. Reassessing the content of the conversation and the other social and cultural factors in the conversation is important in processing a response to Jesus with others.

4. Relate to the response: Entering into a person’s concerns and reasons for rejecting Jesus can be powerful where it is appropriate. Frequently, the very reasons why a person would say ‘no’ to Jesus are the same reasons we said no ourselves or represent areas where we continue to struggle in our relationship to God. As we explain the gospel, it is important to stop and check for understanding. Asking questions like, “Am I making sense with this?” or “How is this connecting with you at this point?” give a person the opportunity to absorb and process as well as respond. Often, as a person responds to these kinds of questions we see areas where a ‘no’ to Jesus is rooted. They may express concern over the believability of Jesus’ death for the entirety of the world’s sins or express hesitancy over whether or not Jesus could ever forgive their particular sins. There are countless reasons why people say ‘no’ to Jesus. Relating to these reasons can be powerful and disarming. Saying things like, “Before I received God’s forgiveness, I too felt like I was unforgiveable,” or “I still struggle with how the death of one person could really make a difference for the whole world but I’ve seen personally what a difference Jesus makes in my life and in the life of others around me.” While these are not definitive answers to complex questions, relating to the person’s concerns and hesitancy leaves the door open for reconsideration and correction.

5. Re-Ask: Finally, almost always re-ask for a different response! This is perhaps one of the most difficult but most effective ways to deal with a ‘no’ to the gospel. We don’t like rejection and when we hear ‘no’ to our efforts in witness, the temptation is to begin to back pedal, wind down our efforts and retreat. We feel rejected when people reject Jesus and while sometimes this is the case, most of the time we need to pause, take a breath, and press back in for a different response. Begin by asking, “What is holding you back from receiving God’s love today?” or, “Can you explain what is stopping you from saying yes to Jesus?” Frame the ‘re-ask’ around the positive elements of the good news-this can help people see what they are actually saying no to. The majority of the time I’ve asked for an explanation I’ve found the reasons usually are ones I can deal with. People have said things like, “I think I need to get my act together before I get religious,” “I’m not sure I can live up to God’s standards,” “I just can’t believe that God would judge me when I am basically a good person,” and “I think Christians are really a bunch of hypocrites and I want to be a real person.” These and countless other easily correctible concerns to the gospel have allowed me time and time again to answer a person’s concern and ask for a different response. As I’ve corrected misunderstanding, corrected the person’s attitude about themselves or others, and answered some of their apologetic questions, I always re-ask, “Now that we’ve dealt with that, would you like to say ‘yes’ to Jesus?” Not always, but often a person will then retract their no and say yes to Jesus!

Realizing my role: I recently gave a call to faith at a large student conference I was speaking at. After the call to faith, Todd approached me and said, “I didn’t respond to your invitation to Jesus tonight-I’m just not feeling it.” I smiled at Todd and said, “That’s alright, my job tonight wasn’t to make anyone feel anything-I’m just trying to explain what Jesus said and give people the opportunity to make the right decision-to say ‘yes’ to Jesus!” I did this with a smile and laughing as I punched him lightly in the arm.

Reassuring the person: I continued, “Regardless of your response tonight, I’m glad you are here at a Christian conference. Can I ask what it is that you are hoping for by being here this weekend?” Todd very passionately said, “Well, I want to believe. I want to know God for real-you know!?!? I figure if I am going to be a Christian, I want to be a real Christian-I want to feel it and know it. I don’t want to be religious, I want to know God for real!” I said, “I think that is awesome Todd and I’m sure the people you are here with are excited by your sincerity-I know I am and regardless of what happens this weekend, I’m glad you are here!”

Reassessing the conversation: “You know, your comment makes me wonder,” I continued, “You say you want to know God but what do you mean you say you want to ‘feel it and know it?” Todd explained, “Well, I’ve known Christians my whole life and it just seems that the real ones always have a feeling, they know deep down that God is real and I don’t have that feeling. I guess I am just waiting to feel something that tells me that God is for real. I understand the message and I don’t have a problem with believing it but I want it to be more than just a story-I want to know God is for real and I’m waiting until I can feel that inside me, you know?” Right there, I knew I was on to the kernel of misunderstanding and misapplication in Todd’s spiritual journey so I continued…

Relate to the response: “Todd, I can really relate to that-I dislike false Christians,” I said, “It is obvious you are a person of integrity. You aren’t interested in living a false religious life like many Americans. I think that is commendable but there is a problem with your assumption.” I continued, “You see, feelings are incredibly important-they are connected to our souls and if you have a relationship with Jesus you should feel it. Having said that, however, relationships don’t start with feelings, they cultivate feelings. As you grow to know God and love God, you cultivate feelings and emotions, falling deeper and deeper in love with him but right now, you don’t know him, you haven’t yielded your life to him.”

Re-Ask: Todd said, “That makes sense-I never thought of it that way.” I finished by saying, “Don’t you think it is unreasonable to expect intense feelings before any relationship is established first? Don’t you think the first thing you should do is tell God that you DO believe the message and that you WANT to know him? This is really what I was inviting people to do tonight Todd and from what I’ve heard from you, that is something you ARE ready to do.” Todd agreed and I prayed with him. He prayed these words, “God, I do want to know you. I do believe this message about you and I want you in my life-help

Published on by Cassie Littel.

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Stepping into People’s Story: Joining God in the Regular Stuff of Life

Arms crossed, eyebrows scrunched, customers in the Verizon store stood waiting and watching for their name to come across the ‘next-to-be-served’ screen hanging over head.  Getting a new phone is an exciting day for many Americans and even though the in-store experience is often more like the post office, the DMV or welfare office, we endure the long waits and confusing contracts for the glitzy, buzzy phone we get in the end.  Now, I believe that God is in the small stuff of life-in traffic jams and bad service at restaurants; God is in power outages, basement floods, and emergency trips to the vet for our pets.  God shows up in the mundane and inconvenient places of life.  Don’t get me wrong, God is in the small GOOD stuff of life too-in the smell of elephant ears at amusement parks, in slow strolls on the beach or woods, and definitely in the roar of the crowd at a baseball game-particularly when the Detroit Tigers are winning!  There is something special, however, in the inconvenient places, the frustrating places, the places of furrowed brows.  In these places, if would RAISE our expectations instead of folding our arms with the rest of the world, I believe we would see God at work.  When we have the belief that God is present and working all around us, particularly in the regular stuff of life, we can find ourselves stepping into people’s story and into the very mission of God.

“Moore,” shouted Aaron.  “Here!” I immediately responded, raising my hand like a nervous schoolboy.  My Verizon rep was winsome and talkative and immediately took my mind off of the fact that I had just stood for 30 minutes for my name to come across the screen.  I felt like I was the center of his world in less than 30 seconds.  As we discussed my ‘contractual options’ and my device preferences, Aaron tapped away on his tablet, punching numbers and dates into forms before wizzing his device around for me to sign the next 2 years of my life away with a swipe of my finger.  As we stood setting up my new, shiney buzzy phone, Aaron talked about his live-in girlfriend, their first child which was due in a month, and his apprehension of being a first-time dad-and there it was.  Blinking brighter than my name on the next-to-be-served monitor-God’s open door!  You see, in the regular stuff of life, God almost always makes a clear invitation to us to connect with people where they are at.  People talk about all kinds of things-grandchildren, passions and hobbies, struggles and hopes-these are all touch points where God can work (and almost always does).  The work of evangelism is mostly about recognizing the touch points of people’s lives and having the courage to step into their story with the hope of Jesus.  

Capitalizing on Aaron’s touch point of apprehension and responsibility, I asked one question that took us on a 4 week journey, “So what is it about being a dad that makes you nervous?”  Aaron’s response was surprising.  The floodgates opened as if it was his first time to process this life-transition.  “Well, I don’t know how to be there for my boy like I should; I don’t know how to be there for my girlfriend as she goes through this; I don’t know what is going to have to change and what I’ll need to give up, and; I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”  Aaron’s honesty surprised me but using this open door, I pressed forward, “You know, it is alright not to have all the answers.  Life is complicated and you learn along the way,” continuing, I added, “What I do know, Aaron, is that all the answers you need start with a relationship with God.  Being a father and having right relationships with the important people in your life is possible when you are following God’s direction-does this make sense?” I asked.  Aaron responded with even more surprising honesty.  “It is really funny you came in today.  I haven’t thought about God in years until this week as I’ve been thinking about my baby.  I even prayed and then you came in!”

Aaron represents most people.  I believe that God is at work in people’s lives, using their circumstances to draw them to Himself and into His great mission.  Watching, waiting, listening and then acting with courage to step into people’s story is what evangelism is all about.  Stepping into people’s story starts when we take that first step of courage, capitalizing on the obvious touch points where their lives connect with God’s missional activity.  The invitation is brighter than our names blinking on the ‘next-in-line’ monitor.  When we have an expectation that God is in the small stuff of life, we find that God routinely opens doors for us to step into people’s stories.  Stepping into a person’s story can be life-changing for them and for us.  As Aaron continued to share, I continued to respond-sharing more and more of the gospel story.  The Verizon lobby was fuller than when we began our interaction and the furrowed brows were fixed on Aaron who was obviously getting emotional and taking WAY too long with me.  I ended our initial conversation by saying, “I don’t think it is a coincidence that you prayed and now we’ve met and talked,” I continued, “I think God is calling you today to invite Him into the story of your life.”  Aaron agreed as he stooped behind the counter as I led him in prayer.  I had him pray to invite God into his story, to trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and ask God to begin to lead him in the right direction.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I had multiple conversations with Aaron.  While I don’t believe Aaron is yet fully on board with Jesus or the mission of God, I do believe God is at work in a powerful way in his story.  The last encounter with Aaron convinced me of this when he said, “You know, ever since you came into the store the first time, my life has gotten much worse-I can’t sleep at night, I’m having horrible, vivid dreams, my relationship is on the rocks, and I have even more fear and anxiety about the future.”  I responded, “Great!  Then it’s working!”  Confused, Aaron asked what I meant.  I explained, “You see, when we invite God into our story, things don’t usually get better-they get harder, more painful-more real.  God loves us too much to come into our lives and leave the mess the way we’ve grown accustomed to.  He begins to clean things up, changes things-change us!” I explained how God wanted him to be sexually pure, how God wanted to prepare him to be a man of integrity for his baby, to free him of the bondage he was in to ego and power.  “You see, Aaron,” I continued, “God is at work in powerful ways and while you can’t see the big picture, God does and what He is doing is going to bless you in the end.  You need to commit to your girlfriend, get married, get right with God and prepare for the road ahead.  Those are all scary things but the great news is that God is in it all and I will be here for you too.  You see, God is in the big stuff and the small and He will guide you.”  Aaron agreed.  Committing to more prayer and counsel and committing to reading God’s word, Aaron is on his way to a new story, a better story.  God was always in the small stuff of his life but now God is in the story, working for the good of Aaron, his girlfriend and the precious child that started this new chapter in his life in the first place!

-York Moore

Published on by Cassie Littel.

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