Sharing the message of Christ can be one of the most difficult and intimidating aspects of the Christian life. Here’s the good news: Jesus has already won the war because He indeed rose from the grave and we are charged with sharing that story, not with conversion. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit through the message of Christ. Until that truth finally registered with me, I was fearful beyond measure to engage in personal evangelism. However, the realization that the Holy Spirit is in charge of conversion was truly life-changing.
Many times, Christians are fearful of sharing the gospel message because of the fear of rejection or of saying something wrong. That fear usually is multiplied when standing face to face with a member of another faith tradition. Fear not! When you present the gospel message and the unbeliever does not convert, the evangelist is not being rejected. Jesus is being rejected because of the unbeliever’s sin.
When you present the gospel message and stick to the text of the New Testament, you cannot say anything wrong because you are quoting God Himself. We never go wrong by using the fully authoritative, completely inerrant, totally infallible, wholly sufficient Word of God!
For many Christians, especially in the United States, the unbelievers we see most often and recognize, due simply to numbers and visibility, are usually young men, in pairs, riding bicycles, and wearing suits. They are friendly, offer a message of hope, and speak with compassion. They usually come from the U.S. Mountain West, are part of a large family, and are looking forward to the day they enter college. These 18-20 year olds are missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and there are nearly 100,000 of them around the world. There is no need for fear or trepidation when encountering Latter-day Saints (LDS), whether they are missionaries or average LDS Church members. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when sharing Christ with Latter-day Saints.
1. Understand that Mormonism is as much (or more) a sociological construct as it is a religious system. When sharing Christ with a Latter-day Saint, the Christian needs to understand that there is “more at stake” than religious conversion. Yes, eternity is the most important issue, and there is no higher concern, but we must take human issues into consideration. The Latter-day Saint could lose family, friends, employment – indeed, his/her entire way of life – if conversion from Mormonism to Christianity takes place. Hesitancy on the part of the Latter-day Saint is not only normal but should be expected. With this in mind, the gospel presentation must be filled with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
2. Do not miss the forest because of the trees. In my now 25 years of working with Mormons and helping Christians reach their Mormon neighbors, I have experienced many well-meaning Christians majoring on the minors. Far too often, Christians focus on plural marriage or modern-day prophets or temple garments or injunctions against coffee and tea. Put differently, when sharing Christ with a Mormon, keep in mind there are major areas of doctrine that are dramatically different from biblical Christianity and focus your attention there. The four most significant are the doctrines of God, Christ, salvation, and scripture. Those four doctrinal areas plainly illustrate that the two groups do not hold the same worldview and are not similar doctrinally. With this in mind, the gospel presentation must be filled with the truths of scripture related to God, Christ, the sufficiency of scripture and biblical salvation. Passages like John 4:24; John 1:1-18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; and Romans 10:9-10 can be helpful.
3. Keep two specific Latter-day Saint beliefs in mind in order to contextualize the gospel effectively as it is presented. Latter-day Saints believe in the necessity of modern-day temples and prophets for the purpose of salvation and the organization of the true church. It can be helpful for the Christian evangelist to point to passages like 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Timothy 2:5, and Hebrews 1:1-4 to show there is no longer a need for physical temples or a physical, human priest. Christ is the only mediator between humanity and God, and Christ is the final prophet, priest and king.
In the end, take your stand on the old, old story of the gospel of Christ, and know that Romans 3:23, 6:2, 5:8 and 10:9-10 can save any sinner from hell. The battle belongs to the Lord.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Travis S. Kerns is associate professor of apologetics and world religions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is adapted from an article that appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Southwestern News.)