Lately during really good witnessing encounters the question about what to do with someone who appears really remorseful over his or her sin has resurfaced for me. The other person who was witnessing with me took this as an opportunity to try to close the deal. Though this individual thankfully doesn’t subscribe to the sinner’s prayer nonsense, she wanted the person to pray a prayer of salvation from the heart. If the individual hesitated, she attempted to push him or her a little bit to go ahead and make a decision for Christ.
I’ve had trouble putting my finger on why this bothered me. Everything she was saying was technically true. Today is the day of salvation, and anyone can die at any time. However, it seemed she was coming off as a salesperson trying to convince a reluctant prospect.
As always the question to ask in evangelism is: “What did Jesus and the apostles do?”
It seems Jesus never tried to close the deal. He would command people to repent and believe the gospel, or believe in Him, or come to Him, or eat His flesh and drink His blood. He never asked anyone to repeat a prayer after Him. When the rich young ruler walked away (Luke 18), he didn’t chase after Him. He trusted the message to do its work, along with the Holy Spirit, even if it meant he would never repent.
Maybe the clearest example is Acts 10 when Peter went to Cornelius and his family to give them the gospel: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44). He never had to close the deal or get them to make a commitment of some sort. God saved them while he was busy talking.
So what should we do when someone appears broken by the message? Exactly what Jesus and the apostles did. Deliver the message faithfully, and trust the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to push the individual for a decision or commitment of any kind. Maybe God is saving the person as we speak.