How do I Reach the Typical American for Christ?
According to George Barna, 85% of Americans would consider themselves Christians.
They are the students that you go to school with, the people who you live next to, and the people you work with. In the melting pot of America, they have had their belief system shaped from their religious background, personal friends, educational training, movies, music and a bunch of other things. According to George Barna, 85% would consider themselves Christians. They value tolerance, individualism, self- expression, self-effort and self-gratification. Most believe in God. But often times their version of God is vastly different from the picture that Scripture paints.
Some commonly held beliefs:
Open mindedness and acceptance of others (in spite of their belief systems, sexual preferences, lifestyle, etc.) is the Golden Rule for the typical American.
- There is right and wrong.
- "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil...." Isaiah 5:20
- Some things should not be tolerated.
- "I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil." Psalm 101:3,4
God is love:
The typical American has made a god in his own image. The typical American believes in a god that is a mixture of things that have been gathered from various sources (the Bible, cultural beliefs, movies, personal opinions, etc.). This god is loving and accepting of most everyone. Only those who are really bad deserve hell. Most people will be accepted by this all loving God if they are sincere.
- God is love. "...God is love...." I John 4:16
- God is holy. "...be holy, because I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16
- God is Judge. "...who will judge the living and the dead...." 2 Timothy 4:1
- God is God. "I am God and there is no other: I am God, and there is none like me." Isaiah 46:9
Sincerity is more important than beliefs:
To the typical American it doesn't matter what you believe. It matters that you believe. If you are sincere in your beliefs then you are sure to be going to heaven someday. Whether Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Baptist, or even Wiccan, if you are sincere then you are accepted by an all-loving God.
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
What do they believe?
Most Americans see themselves as sinners in the sense that they know that they have done things wrong. But they don't see themselves as sinners in the sense that they don't see themselves as bad as others. They will often use phrases like "little white lie" to describe deceit. In other words, there is sin and then there is sin. Because of this perspective, many Americans compare themselves with others who, they think, are worse than themselves to make them feel better about their own sin.
Everyone is utterly sinful and deserving of an eternity separated from God in a place called hell. (Romans 3:10-20; 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15.)
About the Trinity?
Depending on their religious background, some Americans believe in the Trinity and some do not. For instance, if a person is protestant or catholic in their background they probably do believe in the Trinity. Others may or may not. For many Americans their version of God is a mixture of Biblical and cultural views. Many do believe in one God but may or may not have thought much about whether there are three Persons in the Godhead.
There is one God and yet three Persons in the Godhead. (Isaiah 45:5; Deuteronomy 6:4; James 2:19)
Some Americans believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Others believe that he was just a good man.
Jesus was more than a good man. He was (and is) the God-man. He is fully God and fully man. If He was not fully God, then He is either a crazed lunatic or a demented liar because He claimed to be God again and again (John 8:57,58; 10:30; 14:9.)
Most Americans believe that going to heaven is by good deeds and sincerity. If a person is sincere in what they believe and a generally good person then they will surely make it to heaven.
Salvation is not achieved by works but received through faith. It is not based on the deeds we do but on the death Christ died (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5.)
About the Bible?
Most Americans believe that the Bible is a good book. They treat it with a certain amount of respect. But most Americans believe that it shouldn't be taken too literally or too seriously. Those who take it literally and seriously are often seen as dangerous extremists. They believe that there are general principles that everyone should live by (the 10 commandments and Golden Rule). But other than that we should kind of pick and choose what applies to us in the pages of the Bible.
"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commandments of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes." Psalm 19: 7,8
How to witness to them:
- Read My Difficult Friend
- Use the four basic questions in the section My Difficult Friend
- Focus on the literal claims of Christ. It is vital that the person you are witnessing to understands that Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be...God in the flesh. He is the only way to heaven according to John 14:6 and Acts 4:12
- Focus on the fact that salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone and not by good deeds. Because most Americans are convinced eternal life in heaven is earned, it is often difficult to convince them that it is a free gift received through faith in the finished work of Jesus
- Various questions to ask the typical American:
- If going to heaven is by being sincere, then will Hitler be in heaven? He was sincere in what he believed
- If going to heaven is by being good, then why does the Bible say it's "not by works" in Ephesians 2:8?
- If God is only a God of love, then why did he mention hell more than heaven?
- True for You, But Not For Me, Paul Copan. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1998.
- The New Tolerance, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1998.
- Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry & Mary, Lee Strobel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.
- Evangelism That Works, George Barna. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1995.