This blog has been adapted from an article by Randy Newman that first appeared at www.cslewisinstitute.org.
Several people have asked me for ideas about reaching out with the gospel to our non-Christian friends during this time of trial, anxiety, and the unknown. I’m more than happy to offer some help. As a student of C. S. Lewis, I think often about Lewis’s unique ministry over the airwaves of the BBC during World War II. My recollections about those “Broadcast Talks” have encouraged me in the past few weeks. Those radio talks were later put into print as the book Mere Christianity and have been used by God in remarkable ways in countless people’s conversions. So perhaps, the setting and approach for those messages can help us in our attempts to craft messages for our friends who may not know Jesus as we do.
Let’s first remind ourselves that evangelism occurs at the intersection of the natural and the supernatural, the human and the divine. The natural, human side of the equation involves people talking to each other, engaging in stimulating conversation, asking and answering questions and displaying a host of non-verbals that convey concern and empathy. The supernatural, divine side includes God’s drawing people to himself, convicting people of their sin, opening blind eyes, softening hardened hearts, and making his gospel irresistible.
So, let’s spend some of this quarantined time we now have to redouble our efforts to pray for our unsaved friends and neighbors. For some of us, this may mean developing a new discipline. For others it may be re-energizing an old one. Either way, we must “devote ourselves to prayer” (Col. 4:2) and “not lose heart” (Luke 18:1) in this important component of outreach.
Second, let’s acquaint ourselves with some of the backdrop to those Broadcast Talks that Lewis presented and see if there may be some relevance to our current situation. The first radio messages aired in August of 1941, not long after the Battle of Britain when England survived relentless bombing by the Nazis (for 57 consecutive nights!) as well as the astonishing miracle of Dunkirk. A mere glance at history points us toward the conclusion that God was doing something supernatural in preserving the English people against forces of evil.
Third, it is worth noting – almost with amusement – that an Oxford Don, an intellectual professor of old literature, would get a hearing on the radio of 1.2 million people per broadcast. Some have said Lewis’s voice was the second most recognized voice of the day – second only to Winston Churchill. Several people remember hearing one of the broadcasts in a noisy, crowded pub, where the bartender turned up the radio’s volume and told everyone to be quiet and “listen to this bloke!”* I found it almost hysterical to learn that these broadcasts followed the BBC’s fifteen minute bulletin of the news “not in English or even in Welsh but in Norwegian.” If ever Londoners had an excuse to turn off their radios, it was a news broadcast in a foreign language.**
But they didn’t turn off their radios and people did listen! Not just to the 5 presentations that summer but again for five more sessions the next winter, twelve more sessions the following autumn, and a final eleven one year after that.
My point is that, when God chooses to act, his supernatural power cannot be thwarted. And when we engage in evangelistic or pre-evangelistic interactions with people, bathing those efforts in prayer, there’s no telling what God might do.
Now, how might we reach out from our socially-distanced, housebound confinements with the modern wonders of email, Facebook, Zoom, and that antiquated-yet-still-usable device called the telephone? Here are a few suggestions:
After praying and while continuing to pray, the next step is to just reach out. Make the phone calls, set up the zoom sessions, send the emails and ask how people are doing, how you can pray for them (yes, even non-Christians appreciate it when we pray for them), and begin the process of digging deeper. Ask God to give you wisdom about what to say, what to listen for, and where to point people.
Here are three specific strategies to consider:
- Share how God is helping you during this time of trial. He is an anchor, a shield, and a foundation – although I don’t necessarily think those are the words we should begin with. And don’t overdo it by saying that you have no cares, no worries, no anxieties because you have Jesus. Be honest but hopeful. Our friends may need to hear us admit, “I do believe but I ask God to help me with my unbelief.” The Bible doesn’t condemn doubt and struggle. In fact, it models it for us. (Some time in the lament Psalms and the book of Job seems rather appropriate at this time, doesn’t it?)
- Restart unfinished conversations. It may be a long time since you last discussed faith with your friend. Perhaps it was many, many birthdays ago when you sent her a copy of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity or Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Ask where they’re at on that topic. You might say something like, “I know it’s been a while since we talked about faith. But, given the current crisis, I wonder if that topic has made its way to the front burner for you?”
- Find places online to point people. Websites, blog posts, YouTube videos, and other resources might be worth suggesting. You could say something like this: “Hey, I saw this the other day and I found it helpful. I thought you might find some help in there as well.” The Veritas Forum, The Gospel Coalition, Redeemer City to City, and other ministries have posted some very helpful things lately. Did you know that Christianity Explored also has an excellent guest site where you can point non-Christian friends (christianityexplored.org)? We believers need to keep searching for relevant items to suggest to our non-Christian friends.
These are indeed anxious and challenging times. But it has been in just these kinds of settings when God has revitalized his church, drawn people to himself, and worked surprising miracles to save individuals, societies, and cultures for His glory. Let us look to him as our Rock and our Redeemer.
*George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis, Crossway, 1988, 278.
**Justin Phillips, C.S. Lewis in a Time of War, Harper, 2002, 117.
Randy Newman, Ph.D. is an Evangelism Coach for Christianity Explored USA and the Senior Fellow for Apologetics and Evangelism at The C. S. Lewis Institute.