“If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would go to Heaven?” That question, or some variation, has started thousands of evangelism conversations and is the opening line for many evangelism programs (especially “Evangelism Explosion” started by D. James Kennedy). The conversation then goes on to “how you know,” and it exposes people who trust in their good works, or perhaps are just uncertain, whereupon the evangelist can point to the finished work of Christ and to the free salvation He promises.
Today, though, according to a survey by the Southern Baptist publisher LifeWay, over half of Americans never wonder about that question. A Christianity Today feature calls this “The Evangelistic Question That Died,” but I’m not so sure that the evidence is that people as a whole are no longer concerned about their eternal destiny.
The breakdown of the survey results is telling: 67% of Americans who never attend worship services have never wondered about whether or not they will go to Heaven. (Perhaps the general consensus today is that everyone enters some kind of white-light paradise–or that if we just die, that death isn’t all that bad–so worrying about the prospect of going to Hell is no longer as much of an issue as it once was. Since those who don’t go to church are the main targets for evangelism efforts, maybe the question is not the best evangelism-starter.)