Selective Evangelism… Would you, Could you, Should you?

QUESTION:  If your church could reach more people for Christ by focusing on one “people group” in your community, would you do so?

Charles Arn writes:  Certain people around your church are more receptive to the Gospel than others.  I suggest that good stewardship of your church’s human and fiscal resources calls you to find and focus on these receptive people.  They are the “fertile soil” (see Mt. 13:1-23) who are “ripe unto harvest” (Jn. 4:35).  And your successful evangelistic results will be praised by the Master with the same words heard by those who returned more talents than they had been given: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (see Mt. 25:14-30).

The “Receptivity-Resistance Axis” below illustrates a person’s openness to becoming a new creation in Christ.  Every non-Christian is somewhere on this Axis.


Some people are open and responsive to the Good News—the “good soil,” as Christ described them in the Parable of the Sower.  Others are resistant to the Gospel—the rocky soil.  When Jesus concluded this parable with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” I believe he was suggesting that the Good News we proclaim will not be received with equal receptivity.  And we are called to identify those who will hear, listen, and respond.

It is also important to note that people are always moving on this Receptivity-Resistance Axis; some are moving toward greater receptivity, others toward greater resistance.

A key question I hope you’re asking is: “How do we identify the receptive people in our community?”

So… how are YOU identifying people in your community?



Read more from Charles here…



  • pietrosquared May 22, 2013 Reply

    Wow… I pity those poor unreceptive people… I guess results matter that much…

    • davepatchin May 22, 2013 Reply

      Pietro, you may be a wee bit too sarcastic in this response. Jesus was pretty clear that his followers should focus on those that were open and responsive (Mt. 10:14) and even called the leaving to focus on the more receptive people a “testimony against” the unresponsive (Luke 9:5, Acts 13:51).

  • I think Arn’s comments reflect the nature of evangelism as a process or journey.

    Many writers, myself included, recognize the reality that some people are open and seeking, others are curious, and others still are downright hostile to faith.

    The question is:

    Are we being results oriented if we focus only on the open, or are we cooperating with the work of the Spirit who is opening hearts?

    Do we try to force open the closed heart of the unreceptive, or spend our time with those who are actively seeking?

    For me, I prefer to spend time with those who are seeking. I’ll continue to pray for those who are hostile and closed, that they would open their hearts to God’s drawing.

    Spiritual thirst is a key for me.


  • Robert Barnes May 22, 2013 Reply

    Seems to be a look at evangelism through the analysis of who is receptive– “And we are called to identify those who will hear, listen, and respond.”

    But since we cannot see the heart, and we cannot know the sovereign hand of God who converts and hardens as he wills, I find evangelism strategies like this flawed.

    Sure we can establish a profile of someone who who is likely to convert. I’ll bet I could go into hospitals, find people who are about to have life-threatening surgeries, and pray with them to receive Jesus as their Savior all day and all night long, 90% success rate.

    But is that what God has called us to do–to find those who susceptible due to personality or circumstances or culture, and present the gospel in a program/logical/evidential way to them?

    I seriously doubt it.

  • Mark Wilson May 22, 2013 Reply

    I understand about receptivity, but as a pastor in a very small town, I can’t afford to be picky. If you’re breathing, you’re a target!

  • If we follow the parable carefuly we should note that our call is to spread the seed everywhere, not to choose the soil.

  • Trapper May 22, 2013 Reply

    Ah…bit of a difference between the headline and the body and bulk of the article!

    The theme of the “read more….” is “target people at their most vulnerable and weakest moments.” Knowing that I came to Christ at the strongest point of my life (it’s all been downhill from there…ha!), I have to disagree and state that people CAN consider the claims of Christ at ANY point and in ANY situation in life!

    Furthermore, such a plan perpetuates the stereotypes that, again, Christians target people at their weakest and that only the weak accept Christ. If anything, we need to more often target people at their strongest and at their peaks in life, not their valleys!

    I’m all for “selective evangelism” if it means a church targets those most compatible with or attracted to its DNA…the article’s definition, though, no.

  • Karl May 22, 2013 Reply

    If the local church has a passion for a certain group…immigrants, ex-cons, druggies, single moms, federal employees, business men (and women), college students… then I’m all in favor of ‘selective evangelism’: resources and efforts pointed in that direction.
    When it turns into we welcome anyone who walks through the door and looks like us, then someone has totally missed the point.

    Evangelism should be a lifestyle, and as individuals we should always be ready,’in or out of season’ to share the gospel, or as Peter suggests ‘give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for our hope’,
    As a church we can focus our efforts, and disciple people who will in turn pass on what they have learned to those within their own circle of influence.

  • Stephen Canfield May 24, 2013 Reply

    My strategy is to pick the people who are least receptive and give them a tract. I don’t waste my time with people who are receptive, that’s way too easy. If its not impossible, its not a genuine conversion.

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