By Jerry McCorkle
There has been much debate and discussion in past years about the effectiveness of what we will term as “cold turkey” evangelism—sharing the Gospel with a complete stranger. Maybe we encounter someone when we knock on their door, or maybe we approach them in a public place like a coffee shop or park.
In this blog, I am not going to come to any conclusion on that debate over cold turkey evangelism. Instead, I’m going to share with you one place I have found that cold turkey evangelism can be effective: on the college campus. Through many years of ministering to and interacting with this age group, I have found the majority of university students to be very open to spiritual discussions.
Starting a Converstaion
Over the years, I have used various surveys and questionnaires to try to engage students in conversation. After much trial and error, I feel like this approach has worked best:
“Hi, I am Jerry McCorkle. I don’t want to take much of your time. But I am out today asking college students to give me their opinion about four questions that I think everyone has asked themselves or will ask themselves sometime in their life. Do you mind taking a few minutes to give me your thoughts on these questions?
- When you look at the beautiful world around us – maybe think of the most beautiful place you have ever been – how do you think it all began?
- Everyday we hear of awful things happening in our world – school shootings, bombings, political unrest, refugee crisis, disease, etc. In your opinion, what is wrong with our world? In a world that is seemingly unraveling, do you think there is any hope?
- Although, we don’t like to think about this, one day we each are going to have a funeral. What do you think will happen to you when this life as you know it is over?”
Wrapping Up with Gratitude
After I have listened to their answer to these questions – through their body language, eye contact, and most importantly the prompting of the Holy Spirit – I end the conversation in one of these ways:
- “Thank you so much for your time and kindness to answer these questions. I really appreciate it!”
- “Thank you so much for your time in answering these questions. I would love to leave you a booklet (The Story) that I believe answers these four questions."
- “I know I asked for just a few minutes of your time, but would have a few more minutes for me to share with you what I believe is the answer to those four questions?”
Why This Approach?
Ultimately, it's God's help that opens our eyes to salvation. But there can also be more and less helpful ways of sharing the gospel. Here are some things I have observed that shape how I share the gospel:
- Do more listening than speaking.
You have asked for their opinion, so make sure you listen to their opinion instead of giving yours.
- Encourage students to think through life’s big questions.
Although college is an academic setting, most college students have not taken the time to digest their answer to these questions.
- Ask for a discussion.
In the age of relativity when all truth is considered equal, many college students may not agree with the truths of the Bible. However, that relativity also means that they are usually willing and even eager to discuss spiritual matters.
- Plant seeds.
If evangelism is a process of steps, this simple survey may be a means of planting a seed in a student’s heart. Often, I have heard a student say something along this line: “Growing up, I went to church every Sunday” or “My grandma loves God and prays that I will one day” or “I just had a friend that died, and my roommates and I were talking just talking about what happens after we die.”
If you live near an university campus, take an evening to knock on some apartments doors or meander around the student center and plant some gospel seeds in a life of a young person. You will never know until eternity how God may have used a simple questionnaire.