A Key to Evangelism—Know Your Audience

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Evangelist Ray Comfort runs into two types of “fish.” Based on the apostle Paul’s example, he believes we should identify both types and respond accordingly.

Years ago, somebody sent me a video of well-known atheist magician Penn Jillette. In the video he described an intellectual quandary. He was marveling that some of his friends, who were savvy people, could believe the foolish stories in the book of Genesis. He particularly marveled that they embraced the silly story of Noah’s Ark and the Genesis Flood.

I watched a few other videos to understand what motivated atheists like Penn so I could better reach them with the gospel. It was evident that he really hated the thought of God. Rumor has it that he even crosses out “In God We Trust” from every dollar bill that passes his way.

In one video, Penn twisted a verse to say something it didn’t, and then showed his disdain for the whole Bible by kicking one and then throwing others over his shoulder. He had questions, but he wasn’t humbly seeking answers. So what do we do with people like this?

The Breaking Point

This popular despiser of Christianity was left marveling why intelligent people believe the foolish stories in Genesis. That’s a clue.

I give Penn credit. He asked, “Am I missing something?” He certainly is missing something, but it is doubtful he would listen if anyone declared it to him.

Such marveling “despisers” are addressed in Scripture. When Paul preached the gospel in the pagan city of Antioch, full of intellectual Greeks, he quoted the Old Testament prophets and warned, “Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you” (Acts 13:41, quoting Habakkuk 1:5, NKJV).

Notice that despisers will “by no means believe” what God has done, even if it is declared to them.

The proud are often offended when told they need to “believe.” They think faith is intellectually beneath them. In their pride, they ignore that all healthy relationships, all businesses, and political dealings among nations rest on the foundation of faith. If there’s no trust, there is no healthy relationship among people. If I don’t believe you, I must believe you’re a liar. That’s not a good basis for any relationship, including a relationship with God.

The Real Need

The Bible says that God has chosen “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” He deliberately puts statements and incidents in his Word that offend the proud mind.

Who in his right mind would ever be so childish as to believe that Noah built a literal Ark, and that all those animals came in two by two? Anyone with any intellectual dignity, with any pride of heart, would never stoop to believe such childish nonsense.

Such is the manifold wisdom of God. He has chosen “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” . . . to leave them in a quandary (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Jesus warned that the door to eternal salvation is very low. To be saved, we must become as little children and simply believe the gospel, offensive though that may be to the human ego.

In Noah’s day, those who didn’t believe were shut out of the Ark. And today those who refuse to believe the gospel will be shut out of the Kingdom of God. They will be left marveling, and will perish in their sins. They will “marvel and perish.”

The irony is that the book of Genesis is a glistening goldmine for intellectual scrutiny. If anyone with a humble heart studies the case in favor of the Noahic Flood, they will find powerful evidence for a literal worldwide catastrophe.

The problem is not with evidence but with the proud hearts that attack Genesis with an army of straw-man arguments. If one crumbles for lack of credibility, many more arise in its place. Atheists keep fighting, not because they are seeking the truth but because they want to justify their own love for sin. People love darkness more than light (John 3:19).

Fish for Humility

So when I fish for men, I’m looking for those who are humble, and I test the waters with three questions. First, “Do you think there’s an afterlife?” Second, “Do you think you’re a good person?” Third, “Are you afraid of dying?”

The way they answer these questions lets me know if they are humble or proud. A proud person will usually say that there’s no afterlife. He says that nobody knows, but it’s obvious he thinks he knows. And he will rarely admit he’s a bad person or fearful of death.

And then I cut my cloth to fit. Scripture tells us that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So I do the same. The proud hear a warning about the moral Law and God’s wrath, and the humble hear about the mercy of the gospel.

In the process, the humble will listen to how Genesis uniquely addresses the big questions about our origins. And they will listen to its lessons about our ultimate purpose; the reality of evil; the cause of human suffering, disease, and death; and God’s gracious promise of life through Jesus Christ alone.

Ray Comfort, the founder and CEO of Living Waters Publications, is an internationally recognized evangelist and author. For years, Ray co-hosted (with Kirk Cameron) the award-winning Way of the Master television program and radio program. He is a best-selling author of over 80 books.

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