How Do You Convert an Unbeliever?

There are friends that I have in my life who I know aren’t Christians. Maybe you have some of those friends too. I don’t really bring up my faith as much to them. Some don’t even know I’m a Christian, but I do my best to be a positive person in their life. It’s the hope in my doing that that they see Christianity as something positive through the Godly character and attitude I’ve displayed towards them as a Christian. But I’ve been pondering lately the question, “how do you convert an unbeliever?” What does scripture tell us or show us on how we can potentially successfully do that?

Passion

Well, let’s look at the examples of the Apostles. We had the first Christian converts in Acts 2. Now granted, it would be hard for anyone not to believe in God and decide to become saved after the people you see in front of you spoke in a native language of yours that there’s no possible way they could have just learned. But I would suggest to you that it wasn’t just the miracle. Apostle Peter spoke to them passionately about Jesus. You can read the full speech by Peter for yourself in Acts 2, but two particular verses I think are of important note

Act 2:36-37 states, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” I think it’s interesting here where it says they were pierced to the heart after Peter’s passionate plea to them about Jesus. Perhaps that suggests to us part of converting an unbeliever into a believer is appealing to them emotionally. Maybe we can speak to people with genuine passion about the truth of Christ and perhaps impact their hearts. Acts 9:28-29 states of Apostle Paul, “And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.” Hopefully you don’t necessarily have to argue with someone, but it continues with the point of speaking with some passion about Christ to others.

Persuasion and reason

Acts 17:1-4 states “Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.”

Acts 18:4 states “And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”

When you observe Acts you see often Apostle Paul trying to persuade people to the truth of Christ. In a sense one could say that was what Apostle Peter was doing back in those verses we looked at in Acts 2 as well. An important thing to recognize is Apostle Paul was doing his persuading through the scripture. He was reasoning with them based on what scripture said. Perhaps it’s an indication to us that’s the most powerful tool we can use. Scripture has a lot of the answers to the deeper questions a lot of unbelievers (and sometimes believers) have about life, the world, believing in God etc. We just have to study up and learn these answers to help people understand and see that Christ is the way.

Prophesy?

1 Cor 14:24 states, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” As you know, I have my own questions about people who profess to have an ability to perform miraculous gifts. However, anyway God wants to go about someone becoming saved is a great thing. So with this verse I conclude by all means if someone can prophesy to an unbeliever that enters their local assembly, go ahead, and then as the verse states the secret of that person’s heart will be disclosed and turn to worshiping God. That would be welcomed and quite amazing.

Walking away

Acts 18:6 states, “But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Acts 19:8-9 states, “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.”

Acts 28:24-27 states, “Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. 25 And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, 26 saying,

‘Go to this people and say,

“You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;

And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;

27 For the heart of this people has become dull,

And with their ears they scarcely hear,

And they have closed their eyes;

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

And hear with their ears,

And understand with their heart and return,

And I would heal them.”’

As we can see in these verses, Apostle Paul walked away or people walked away at times. You had lots of people speaking out against the Apostles throughout Acts as they were sharing the gospel. It seems pretty harsh to think that you should walk away as if you’re giving up on someone, but it’s not a matter of you giving up on anyone. It’s a matter of ultimately everyone has to decide on their own to obey the gospel after you’ve given them the truth. The simple fact is some unbelievers aren’t going to become believers, and that’s just a reality we have to accept. But hopefully we can help as many as possible choose to become saved.

Conclusion

As I expressed in the beginning of this post, I do my best to be a positive person in every person’s life I encounter. In doing that I hope they can see Christianity as something positive through the Godly character and attitude I’ve displayed towards them as a Christian. Apostle Paul seemed to suggest this way of interaction with others to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Perhaps it’s an example we can all do our best to reflect in an effort to be helpful in the conversion of unbelievers.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”

Peace to all those who are in Christ.

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28 thoughts on “How Do You Convert an Unbeliever?

  1. I think a really important thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t you who are converting them, it is God.

    I forget the verses, but there’s a bit that says that we are in charge of planting the seeds, but we aren’t who makes them grow. We don’t get to always see the work carried through. We are to do all we can to put God at the front of someone’s mind, but we can’t force them to believe. We can just hope that they get enough dots to connect them legibly.

    Prophecy, as in knowing things that you shouldn’t about them, can really piece through the layers of disbelief. If someone I just met while talking to me about God suddenly called me by my childhood nickname I haven’t heard in 15 years, I would put a lot more credence to what they’re saying, as I know then that the God that they are talking about DOES know me.

    Being nice and loving is good and important, “They will know we are Christians by our love,” and all that. But planting the seeds, talking about God and what He’s doing in your life… even if they don’t immediately believe, or even scoff at you, it will plant the seeds. They’ll think about what you said God did in your life when they are facing a similar situation and they’ll stop to think about it.

    I definitely was very similar to you in terms of my nonChristian friends often not even knowing I was Christian. And, in some friendships, I still am. But, I’m actively trying to change, because if we are not even able to stand up for our faith in front of our friends, how can we expect Jesus to defend us once we die?

    But this was a really good read and made me think about what I’m doing right now to push the faith forward!

    • Hi emmilner7r. Thank you for your comment. Yes, God is the one that gave us all the opportunity to be saved and we are helpful in the conversion through our sharing to others about the gift of being saved they can choose to receive. As the verses you reference (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) express, Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul were the servants through whom the church of Corinth believed, but God was the one that caused the growth. We can also be servants through whom others might believe as well. Indeed, once we’ve done all we can through passionate sharing, persuading and reasoning through the Word, prophesy, and maybe sometimes even vigorous discussion as the examples of Apostle Peter and Paul show us, then people have to make their own choices, which we hope and pray they’ll make the right choice.

      Right, in the context of that particular passage, prophesy was revealing the hidden secrets of people’s hearts. I definitely would be convinced of the people I was encountering really knowing God if that happened to me too. 🙂

      Agreed. It’s all of it combined that we can utilize to be servants through whom someone may believe. It’s very important we do our best to exemplify the instructions of good character in the Word towards others so some may come to their senses as Apostle Paul states, that we make efforts to passionately tell people about the Gospel of Christ, we reason and persuade with them through the Word, and prophesy if one can prophesy to someone.

      Indeed, I think we’ve all been and are at times cautious in our friendships with non-Christians, not wanting to offend and push away someone. Though if Apostle Paul was commanding people in the church of Corinth to be so bold as to prophesy to an unbeliever that walked in, maybe that suggests to us our approaches don’t need to be as sensitive as one thinks all the time. At the end of the day, people make their own choices even in the best scenarios, like having Apostle Peter or Paul right in front of their eyes and still not believing the gospel, as was the case with some people who did not choose to believe the gospel in Acts. But we’ll all continue to do better to do our best in sharing the gospel with others, and I’m sure God will appreciate our efforts in the end.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

    • I too used to not let people know, but then I realised that if people don’t know Jesus they cannot believe in Him. The apostles were sent to tell people about Jesus, and I think that is really important. God chose to put the gospel in the hands of humans and it is our privilege to be allowed to partake in it’s spreading.

      • Well said, assuredinchrist. As Romans 10:14-15 puts it, “14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

        Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

    • On the note of God doing the work, I agree and would like to offer a slightly different perspective as to our role. I would like to suggest that our job is not so much to do everything in our power and means to convert the unbeliever but rather everything in our power to remain connected and in step with the Holy Spirit who lives within us. This, I believe, is the pattern we see in the life of Paul and also Peter, who could not do much until the day of Pentecost. It was also Jesus who said, “I only do what I see the Father doing,” and He (I would suggest) is our model. Cultivating a close relationship with the Holy Spirit is both easy and difficult, since it divests us of control, but I have have found it to be the best path to make our effort most effective and bear much fruit. Blessings.

      • Hi Patrick. Thank you for your comment. I agree. Without aligning ourselves with God, we can’t help in accomplishing anything with regards to anyone’s choice to convert to Christianity. Indeed, Holy Spirit authored the Word, and when we utilize the Word and continually operate our lives through the Word we utilize the Holy Spirit. Appreciate your insightful comment.

        Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  2. Dear friend,

    I have a long-year friend who does not really in God. We aleady had thousands of discussion. The point is that you cannot really prove God or deny Him – this is his point and argument as wants proves – surely there are many in books but as long as he does not have any special experience that opens his eyes, it is impossible to convince him of becoming a believer. At the same time it is not a matter of using force to convince him – I think the only thing you can do is to be a living example for him, not just in words but go out in the wide world, help people, who need help, share you income the poor ones and do everything in the right way (for example do not give money to people begging on the street – give them rather some vegetarien, clear food) If your heart becomes pure the perfume of it will linger to your friend too… it is also a matter of patience.

    The other thing is that we have to understand that with our intellect we cannot explain everything – noone can really explain what is love although millions of people have written about it. It is as you read a book dealing about water – but can you squeeze the water out of the book that you have read? So one thing is theory the other thing is practice. Everything what is not explainable – scientist say now that come away from saying this or that is explainable but they say now: it is describable – Science and religions are coming closer now with help of the quantum mechanic as there are also things which cannot be just explained. DNA- researchers have found things within the human DNA that points to an intelligent force behind it – someone has created it…

    Thanks for sharing your words
    All the best
    Didi

    • HI Didi. Thanks for your comment. Indeed, being a living an example can make quite the impression on those around us. Something we can all be more cognizant of. And certainly we don’t have the answers to everything. Perhaps we have all the answers we need maybe. For myself I conclude God has given us the answers we need through the Word, and also that science has been extra helpful in confirming even more what one can already know to be true. I appreciate you sharing your thoughtful perspective.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  3. We are told that each of us needs to search for God. Jesus told his disciples that they should preach the same message as he, that the kingdom of God is near, at hand, in their midst and so forth. So we have an interesting point from Jesus in Matthew 7: 21 to 23 that many would claim to be Christs followers but they were never known to Christ.
    This takes us back a couple of verses to Matthew 7: 15 – 20. It is by their fruits they are identified. Christians open the God’s Word, share the message of hope and salvation, then live up to the obligations they personally take on when they commit themselves as dedicated servants of God. Jesus said that true Christians would disown themselves, and follow him.
    So who does the converting (Romans 12:1, 2) . . .Therefore, I appeal to you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason. 2 And stop being molded by this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, so that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
    It is a voluntary act of conversion therefore the individual working with the knowledge they gain changes their lives. Our role as Christians is to spread the Good News (Gospel) in all the nations.
    Jesus didn’t convert the world in fact only 120 were gathered at Pentecost, so not everyone who hears will accept the invitation, very sadly.
    So we inform, teach, lead by example but the individual working with God to build an approved relationship converts themselves. As the Bard would have said we are bit players.

    • Hi trotter387. Thank you for your comment. Indeed, we share the Gospel message to someone, and it is the person that must make the choice to obey the Gospel and then commit themselves to the lifestyle which God instructs of us to live by through the Word. As you accurately seem to be expressing in your words, conversion doesn’t stop at just choosing to become saved, but being committed to God in obedience to Him. And what you touch on about leading by example is something I think we as Christians aren’t cognizant enough of sometimes. Hopefully we can all strive more to give off a positive reflection of Christianity more through our Godly behavior and attitude.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  4. Thank you for your post and to everybody that contributed to the discussion. It is such an important issue! I thank God for His miracles but also for a coworker, who told me many stories. They brought me back to Jesus. I have learned, that God will knock at our door and that He uses many formats to get our attention, but in the end, it is our own decision. I am extremely grateful for His perseverance and wisdom.

    • Hi Katharina. Thank you for your comment. A very important issue indeed, and that’s wonderful you came back to Jesus with the help of a persistent co-worker. As 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  5. Good read!
    Regarding the situation you are in, I encourage that you let others indeed know about the Lord Jesus not just in deed but also in words (sharing the gospel to them). I believe that we have never truly loved a person until we’ve shared the only message that can save them from eternal hell and make them start a genuine relationship with our Lord Jesus ^_^. Living the Christian life is like an airplane. The right wing is to live the message while the left is to share it. Both will not function well without the other. You will lose friends but you will experience the blessing in obedience to God’s calling in Matthew 28:18-20. You will be like Jesus teaching them the Word and also loving them in God’s way. I learned that we cannot just be a walking Christian, we should also be a talking one if we want them to know about our Lord. I’ve lost close friends after becoming a Christian and it is saddening but you then realize that God will be providing not just friends once you live for Him but also a family. And it will be a blessing if you’ll be used by God to tell unbelievers that they too can partake in the family God has called us to be in. ^_^

    • Hi Peter. Thank you for your comment and also your kind encouragement. I appreciate that :). And I think I would have to agree with the sharing of the Gospel being about the most loving thing you can do next to giving up one’s life for a friend as Jesus once stated. A very effective analogy you used. It’s indeed important that we both show our faith through our deeds and also through our words. As it states in Romans 10:14-15, “14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” As you express, no matter how many people may stop being a part of our life because of our Christian faith, we’ll always have many brothers and sisters in Christ. Hopefully those we share the Gospel with decide to become a part of the family whether through the help of our sharing, or through other events down the line in their life.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  6. I love what Revelation says about being a “witness” for the gospel. “They overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.”

    By demonstration of the power of what Jesus did (blood of the lamb, very similar to how Paul says he came not with talk but with demonstration of power),

    And by their story.

    I think that “conversion” is about living a life that is actively and tangibly connected to God, and sharing that life openly on all levels. Praying for friends, inviting them to enjoy God with you, and just sharing who you are and your story. Allowing the “unbelievers” to discover that according to Jesus they both belong and have an inheritance. Living as an encounter might be another way to say it.

    Thats what I’m about, and I see my friends come to Jesus regularly. The best part is that I’m NEVER trying to convert them. I just want people to enjoy the same incredibly fulfilling friendship with the coolest guy I know that I enjoy. Same reason why I write on my blog. Everyone deserves to enjoy God, because he is really freaking fun. 😄

    • Hi KarstenKaczmar. Thank you for your comment. I think it’s wonderful you’ve been able to help lead a lot of your friends to become Christians. It certainly makes a difference when we exhibit a positive energy about our faith and have a genuine servant’s attitude in being their for others. Hopefully we can all help as many people as possible become saved and get to enjoy God.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  7. I’m chiming in on an old post, hope you don’t mind. It’s striking to me how scripture at least in my mind, always seems to show sharing Jesus with someone who already believes in the divine. The examples are always Jews who are familiar mostly, with the scripture of the Old Testament.

    Obviously this is convenient for us in these times if we are talking to Jews, and may correlate to sharing the gospel with other faiths such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or even Muslims…

    Somehow, though I must step back and evaluate the greater and deeper themes of the Gospel when sharing with someone who doesn’t believe in any God at all.

    I wonder, if this is the hardest conversion for God’s spirit to make, on the heart of someone whose only God is themselves.

    Thank you for this post and for all the thoughtful comments included.

    • Hi edgingdeadness. Thanks for your comment. Indeed, there were a lot of communications with people who had some kind of belief of the divine. I assume perhaps some Gentiles probably didn’t have beliefs in the divine, though I’d have to re-review that. But an interesting thought you bring up with that potentially suggesting having more luck sharing with people of other faiths.

      Peace in Christ.

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