Saturday, June 18, 2022

Telling Brainiacs About Jesus

“So [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. – Acts 17:17

During my past 28 years in ministry, I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And do you know what I’ve discovered? In my experience, the lower-income families tend to be the most receptive to hearing about Jesus. They tend to open their doors more widely, and their ears are more open to what I have to say. Often, upper-middle-class and upper-class families keep their front doors closed … along with their ears and their minds.

And that’s a shame. More times than not, adults who are highly educated, wealthy and successful don’t want to budge. They like where they are. So, they have no motivation to change, even when they hear the good news of Jesus Christ loud and clear. When it comes to sharing the gospel, wealthy intellectuals are a tough crowd. This was especially true during Paul’s day in the city of Athens, Greece.

In Paul’s day, Athens had a rich history of being the intellectual center of the world. For centuries, Athens was the place where the brainiacs of the world gathered to discuss and debate the latest philosophies. And the city was filled with beautiful buildings, museums and statues—especially of gods and goddesses. When Paul went to Athens, Acts 17:16 tells us, “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” His heart broke for those who were looking for God in all the wrong places.

But his reaction to the city’s idolatry wasn’t just negative. It was also positive and constructive. He “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (v. 17).  He spoke to God-fearing Jews, idol-worshiping pagans, and everyone in between. Some were receptive to his message. Many others weren’t. But Paul kept preaching. He kept teaching. He kept striking up conversations. And it eventually paid off. Paul was invited to share his newfangled philosophy with the best and brightest philosophers in Athens—a group called the Areopagus Council. They were the brainiacs in town, and, like today’s Supreme Court, they handed down verdicts in matters related to judicial and religious issues.

When Paul preached to the council, he began with a compliment: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious” (v. 22). Rather than telling them they were wicked, or misguided, or going to hell, Paul began on common ground. In verse 23, he showed that he had taken time to walk around and examine the Athenians’ objects of worship—and that that he had discovered an altar that was inscribed “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Then Paul made this beautiful segue: “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” He went on to tell them about God the Creator and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul was able to get through most of his message, but some folks in the crowd started heckling (v. 32). Overall, it doesn’t appear that as many people accepted Christ in Athens as Paul had hoped. But a number of men and women did, including an Areopagus member named Dionysius and a woman named Damaris. Winning intellectuals to Christ has never been easy—even for the great Apostle Paul. But here are four tips from Paul’s playbook on sharing Christ with brianiacs:

Tip #1: Do your homework. Familiarize yourself with their home turf. One of the biggest mistakes people can make when they share Jesus is failing to listen or pay attention to the person they’re talking to. Remember the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Before you tell people about Jesus, let them first see Jesus in you. Let them see that you care about them as a person, and what’s important to them is also important to you.

Tip #2: When you start talking, begin with a compliment on common ground. I’ve never been a big fan of many Christians’ picket signs outside sports stadiums and at political rallies. Signs that read “Turn or burn!” or “You’re going to hell” or “God hates sinners!” Was that the approach Jesus took with unchurched people? Was that the approach Paul took with Gentiles? And the answer is … No. The old saying is true: “You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.” So, be kind to those around you who need Christ, and speak kind words, especially at the beginning of your conversation.

Tip #3: No matter where your conversation begins, direct the conversation clearly and convincingly to Jesus. The same should be said about ALL our evangelistic conversations. We don’t want to convince people how great we are. We want them to focus on how great Jesus is. We don’t want people remembering us. We want them remembering Him. We don’t want people asking themselves, “What must I do to be as cool as that guy?” We want them to ask us, “What must I do to be saved?”

Tip #4: Always surrender the results to God. Please never forget this: It’s NOT your job to open a closed mind or soften a hard heart. That’s God’s job. You can’t save a single lost soul. That’s something only God can do. Your job is to speak the truth about Jesus Christ in love and give people an opportunity to respond to that truth. You pray and wait. You wait and pray. And you make yourself available to walk someone through their confession of faith and baptism when they’re ready.

While you wait, you repeat the four steps with others. Others need to hear that they were created by God. That Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so that we could be forgiven and enjoy eternal life. Many people you talk to will refuse to accept this truth. But others will accept it. So, tell them, and surrender the results to God.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit

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