Every person is unique with an individuality and personality ascribed to him/her. We cannot communicate truth with each person in the same way. There is no formula. And, shoving the Romans road, sin and hell down people’s throat is a formula. An inept one at that (when it is the standard and the only method). In fact, Paul wrote Romans to the Christians so why do we presume to speak Romans to unbelievers? How about following the example of Jesus as He spoke to the lost? Jesus had a personality and so do we, and so did those he witnessed to. Why not consider the importance of our role/personality as we share our faith? Not because we save people, but because we our handling and planting the seed as a person who feels, hurts, loves, and exercises faith.
When Jesus dealt with Nicodemus, he appealed to the intellect and offered a riddle of sorts, “born again.” Nicodemus was confused from an intellectual perspective, and Jesus responded. Nicodemus did not get saved that night because he had to go home and think about it, illustrative of his personality. Contrast this example with the Samaritan woman of John 4. This woman was not an intellectual, but obviously suffered from physical and emotional pain. Jesus appealed to a physical need which was easier for her to relate to. But, he still proposed a sort of riddle, “everlasting water,” a physical need. He unveiled her sin, yes, but not in a confrontational or hostile way. However, it did reveal her insecurities. She could not find happiness, (she was even religious) she was used, misused, and abused, probably judged and neglected. We assume that she was harlot. I am certain that this woman did not wake up one morning and think, I suppose I will get married five times and sexually indulge myself because that is the life I desire. Her promiscuity and poor judgment was not her ambition or dream. We assume too much about sinners. While it may be our decisions that suffer consequence there is normally another party(ies) involved in our sin. She was an outcast without hope. Jesus provided emotional hope, physical hope and security (Not minimizing eternal life, but Jesus met another need first; he accepted her; he spoke to her; he treated her better than others had treated her; He accepted her despite who she was). She responded immediately. She did not have to go home and think about it; she was different than Nicodemus. Jesus offered to meet her needs immediately. Aside from Jesus (because He knows hearts) she is the only one who knew what kind of hurt she was experiencing. In Athens, Paul also exemplifies the method of meeting people where they are. (Acts 17) I suggest that we preach Christ to individuals with personalities living within a particular culture. And as people with personalities and experience trying to understand others. We should elaborate on the wrong or right perception, whatever it might be, but we must preach Christ. John 3.16-18, 36; 2 Corinthians 4.5, Philippians 1.15-18
There are other examples where Christ demonstrates diversified methods of evangelism. I used John 3 and 4 because the events are recorded sequentially, and they make an excellent contrast. I would like to emphasize that both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman were engaged in a different religion than what Christ was preaching. We must not be deterred by the diversity of individuals and religions. I have found (in my limited experience) that despite minor differences, human nature is the same. I really appreciate what Gerald R. Mcdermott writes, “by evangelism I don’t mean proselytizing, which is often coercive, rude and insensitive. No, true evangelism is when we take the time to make a lasting friendship, listen to our friend’s perspective, offer loving help where it is needed, and humbly and respectfully share the gospel when the Spirit opens the door-not before.” (134)
McDermott, Gerald R. The Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions: What Every Christian Needs To Know. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008.