As you begin to share the gospel regularly with friends, family and strangers, there are several predictable responses you will receive to your efforts. Three of these responses can be seen in scripture. Let’s look at Acts 17:32-34.
They heard Paul talk about the dead being raised. Some of them made fun of this idea. But others said, “We want to hear you speak about this again.” So Paul left the meeting of the Areopagus. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed in Jesus.
While Paul has just finished sharing with a large group of intellectuals, politicians and philosophers in Athens, the response that the message receives will be much the same regardless of the audience.
Some wanted to learn more.
Some repented and believed.
There is a fourth response that you might also run into - you’ll share with someone who already is a follower of Jesus. Outside of that, not much has changed in the 2,000 years since Paul shared in the Areopagus. The responses Paul got in Acts 17 are the same sorts of responses that we will get when we share the gospel today. If we get out into the harvest and share the gospel abundantly, some will reject the message, some will be curious to learn more and some will repent and believe - Jesus said that the harvest was plentiful after all.
That the harvest is plentiful was and is a statement of fact.
The Stoplight Tool
A helpful way to think about these four response is to think about a stop light with its red, yellow and green lights. This is a tool that comes out of the No Place Left Coalition and is helpfully articulated by Troy Cooper in the video below.
A red light is when the person you are trying to connect with simply says no. They may say it with a door closed in your face. They may yell at you. Most often they politely let you know that they aren’t interested in where the conversation is going. Of the hundreds of doors I have knocked on to offer prayer and look for opportunities to share the gospel, I have never been yelled at, never been beaten up and, as of yet, I’ve never been stabbed. Most red lights have been pretty gentle. They have been red, but they have been civil.
A yellow light is when you begin to share with someone who is interested. Something you’ve said or done has struck a chord. They recognize some need they have but they just aren’t sure or they’re just not ready to jump into giving Jesus lordship over their lives. They often welcome prayer and are encouraged by scripture and if you ask, they’ll be more than willing to have you stop back by again. They haven’t said yes to Jesus, but they haven’t said no either.
A green light is when God leads you to someone who He has prepared to hear the gospel. In John 6:44 Jesus tells his disciples that no one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. This person has been drawn by God to Jesus and when you share the gospel with them, they say yes.
The final person you’ll run into as you share the gospel is the follower of Jesus. They are already a Christian and are trusting in Jesus for their salvation.
While it is helpful to understand the four main responses to a gospel presentation, what is more helpful is to know how we can respond to those responses.
Red Light Response
So the person you are talking with makes it known that they really aren’t interested in hearing about the good news of Jesus. They shut the conversation down. They close the door.
Move on. Say a prayer of blessing as you leave, and move on. The God prepared person is out there and so we keep moving, keep proclaiming, keep offering prayers, keep searching for the person who God is calling to Jesus.
If this is a person from your relational network - a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker - then you begin to pray every day for them and you wait for the Holy Spirit to move. As much as you might want to “shake the dust from your shoes”, God has placed you in their lives for a reason and your only response can be patient, persevering love and prayer.
Yellow Light Response
Most of the people you interact with will most likely exhibit yellow light responses. They won’t say no. They have some interest - perhaps in the message, perhaps just in you. And so if you’ve ministered to someone in prayer and in sharing the gospel, ask if you can stop back by their house in a week to visit some more. You may ask them if they would be willing to get their friends and family together to discover what the Bible has to say about living a life of purpose, peace and joy.
I rarely ask anyone to come to church. Most won’t. But many are open to studying the Bible in their own homes. Start a discovery Bible study using a series of stories that leads them from Creation to Christ or perhaps helps them discover Jesus in the scriptures.
Most of our new far from God friends have not rejected Jesus. They’ve rejected an idea they have created in their minds about what a Christian is. Most of us would reject that idea too! By taking them to the stories of Jesus we allow them to discover Jesus for themselves. Discovery Bible Study allows you to do this and is a great way to respond to our yellow light friends.
Green Light Response
Sometimes we’ll begin sharing and discover that the person is immediately ready to put their faith in Jesus. It’s as if they’ve been waiting for someone to share with them! [Watch an Example]
If you have the privilege and joy to be used by God to help someone step into a new life in Christ your job is to immediately begin to train them to be a disciple of Jesus. First train them how to share with their friends and family. Then set a regular time to begin to walk with them through a short term discipleship plan. If they are ready and you have freedom, baptize them immediately like we see in scripture. It is your job to help them become a disciple who has the tools to grow into maturity and to help others do the same.
I’m A Christian
When you find yourself sharing with someone who is a Christian, take them to Matthew 28:18-20 to cast vision for disciple making and then invite them into the harvest. First train them how to share with their friends and family. Then set a regular time to begin to walk with them through a short term discipleship plan so that they will be able to walk those they lead to faith through the same plan.
These are the four responses we’ll see as we share the gospel and the four ways in which we can respond.
Now get out into the harvest and put this tool into practice.
The E2E Community