Assessing Gospel Receptivity – Taking Spiritual Temperature

An unbelieving friend, co-worker or family member just asked you a question, and you don’t know how to answer. You’ve been preparing to share the Gospel with this person and now this question. What do you do? Walk away, change the subject, confess you have no answer and give up? No, you don’t. You want to share the gospel, but you think you’re stuck. You’re not stuck; you just need a different approach! Jesus did this many times when he answered a question with another question. Read Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees or the rich young ruler or the Samaritan woman. I’ll demonstrate with a dialogue.

An Unbeliever asks (UB): “Where did Cain get his wife?”

You respond: (Don’t try to answer their question. Start with another question.) Option1: “Why did you ask me that question?” Option 2: “Why do you want to know that?” Option 3: “Why is that important to you?”

We are working to discern the person’s reason for asking the question. His or her response will help us to know what approach we should take in answering their question. We are getting them to tell us the foundations of their beliefs. You’re discerning: What’s their starting point for this question? What’s their real motivation? What’s their worldview? How does it intersect our Christian worldview? If you answer their question, will it make any impact on them? Here are some possible answers you’ll get.

UB: “I heard this question couldn’t be answered by Christians, so I thought I’d stump you.”

UB: “Someone told me Cain’s wife came from …”

UB: “I’m really interested to know how you would answer that question.”

You: “Why?”

UB: “It’s one of the things that keep me from considering becoming a Christian” or “It’s the only thing that keeps me from considering becoming a Christian.”

With this dialogue, you discern one’s spiritual temperature. Are they cold, lukewarm or hot to hear the gospel?

Are they cold? They don’t have any real interest in the gospel or even a real satisfactory answer to their question. (In my book I discuss my being cold when a high school friend shared his testimony 15 years BEFORE I became a Christian. That seed bore fruit.) You’ll probably conclude that no answer would really change their relationship to Christ. So you jump right to your testimony. Don’t stumble on the question.

Are they lukewarm? If you have judged them lukewarm, they are interested in Christianity but don’t appear ready to believe. A good answer may push them further in the direction of the gospel. Jump to your testimony and then come back to their question.

Are they hot? You’ve taken their temperature and they are ready to respond to the gospel. Go directly to the gospel. You may start by saying something like: “Before I answer your question, let me share how I got good answers to my questions after I developed a relationship with God.” Introduce them to Jesus!  In all cases, cold, lukewarm or hot you have shared the gospel, either with your testimony or directly without getting stumped by “that question.”

This Blog is excerpted from my book “Always Be Ready to Give an Answer!” In it I spend time on taking spiritual temperature and sharing the gospel. Available at

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