Given that most people can't be bothered to take a flyer on the street, let alone stop to answer a survey, you may think it pure folly that Christians in the City are hitting the streets of the Square Mile to ask people what they make of Easter. How are we going to convince complete strangers to give us two minutes of their time? What right do we have to do that?
These were the questions running through my mind the first time I did questionnaires. I was thrust onto the streets with a stack of questionnaires and the following mission: engage people in conversations about Jesus and invite them to lunchtime talks. We were encouraged to do this in pairs so that we might spur each other on to daring feats of surveying, but what if we just scared each other into a nearby coffee shop to hide behind venti caramel lattes?!
One of the things that got me through the questionnaires was some very helpful advice from Andrew Sach, one of the curates at St Helen's. Not only did I survive, but to my great surprise, I also ended up enjoying the experience. So when the City team decided to use questionnaires to raise awareness for the Easter service, I asked Andrew Sach to share some of those words of wisdom with us. Here's my summary of what he had to say on the why and how of doing questionnaires.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes
In his letter to the Romans, Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel because he understands that all of us face a very big problem. None of us are righteous, but God is righteous. We have all rejected God, and for that, we all face his righteous judgment. Everyone is in trouble, and there is nothing anyone can do to get out of it.
But the great news is that God did do something. He sent Jesus, whose death dealt with God's right anger at our rebellion.
That is the good news of the gospel. That is why Paul is not ashamed of it. And if we really believe that everyone is in trouble, and that Jesus is the only way out, then shouldn't we be telling everyone about him?
Be indiscriminate in our evangelism
Friendship evangelism is one way to share the gospel. Indeed, we should share the good news with the people we know best and love most. But what about the people we don't know? The reality is that as we grow older, our pool of gospel opportunities amongst friends and colleagues becomes smaller, not larger. So what do we do then?
Evangelism in the New Testament was indiscriminate. If the disciples of Jesus had limited their evangelism to friends and family, the gospel would not have made it out of Palestine! Our evangelism should be indiscriminate as well. Yes, certainly tell friends and colleagues about Jesus. But be willing to tell strangers as well. Who knows whom God will save?
Questionnaires are an easy way to tell strangers about Jesus
Questionnaires lead naturally to an invite to a gospel talk or a conversation about the gospel. We are genuinely asking what other people think, not using the surveys as a pretext to tell people what we think!
But the questions are also designed to expose inconsistencies or presuppositions in people's answers. At the end of the questionnaire, the best question to ask is, "Why do you think this? On what do you base your views?" Often, the answer is, "I don't know. Not much." And that may lead to a fruitful conversation or an invite to the talk.
Andrew gave us a few practical tips on engaging people in questionnaires:
- Make eye contact and smile! Pouncing on people as they're walking past you will only scare them away.
- Introduce yourself briefly, but clearly. Tell people what you're doing. We are from a local Church of England church, and we want to ask them a few questions about Easter. Once they realize that we're not asking for money or trying to sell them something, people are usually quite happy to tell us what they think.
- Listen and ask follow-up questions as you go. If someone answers, "No one can be raised from the dead. It doesn't matter how many people say they saw it." Then you can ask, "That's interesting. Why do you think it's impossible? What if there were a thousand eyewitnesses?" Or if someone says, "I don't care if Jesus rose from the dead. It doesn't matter to me." Then you could politely ask, "But what if Jesus rose from the dead as proof that he will one day judge the world? Wouldn't that matter to everyone?"
And most importantly, remember that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We are all in trouble, and Jesus is the only way out. So everyone, including strangers, needs to hear about Jesus.
Who knows whom God will save? How amazing would it be if someone we asked to do a questionnaire ended up going to a gospel talk and becoming a Christian? Seeing more people in heaven-that's a good reason to go a little outside of our comfort zone, don't you think?