For several weeks, master’s student Ricardo Devine has partnered with other Southwestern Seminary students to evangelize at a nearby apartment complex. In many of his evangelism encounters, Devine has observed that many people, in spite of their religious background or familiarity with Christian beliefs, have either never heard the Gospel or have a faulty view of the Gospel. These encounters, Devine says, reflect not necessarily a willful defiance, but bad teaching that lacked truth.

“I believe that bad theology and doctrine play a major role in this issue,” Devine says, explaining that this often influences his evangelism approach. “When individuals claim to be Christian, I then ask them to pretend that I am lost and share with me what Scripture says it means to be saved. Many will share with me that they don’t know how to do that.”

During a recent visit to the apartment complex, Devine met one of its residents, Austin, while playing basketball. They talked about life and eventually discussed each other’s faith backgrounds. Austin explained that he had attended church as a child, but other than a vague belief in Jesus, he never gave much thought to God or what he believed.

“I then explained to him that many people believe but don’t confess that He is Lord and Savior,” Devine says. “I shared with him Romans 10:9. I asked him if he had ever heard of this. He looked at me with despair and told me that if what I shared is true, he is not saved.” 

Devine then shared more about the story of creation, concluding with the story of Christ. Austin replied through tears that he had never heard the Gospel articulated that way. As more seminary students surrounded him and began to pray, Austin confessed that he desired to be saved, and he made a profession of faith in Christ.

Not long after this encounter with Austin, two younger students joined Devine on the basketball court. But before they started playing, Devine said, “I would like to share with you something that is so precious to me.”

Unlike Austin, these students had never heard about Jesus. After sharing what impact the Gospel could have in their lives, Devine asked the teenagers what was holding them back from receiving Christ as their Savior.

They replied that nothing was holding them back, each confessing that they had “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” They then repented of their sins and made professions of faith.

The following day, Devine was out for ice cream with a friend, with whom he spoke about these three salvations. He then noticed Justin, a homeless man sitting outside the shop, and he was convicted that he needed to share the Gospel with him, too.

In their discussion, Justin related the hardships he has endured in his life. “Through that conversation, we were able to ask him what is giving him hope in this tough situation,” Devine says. “He explained to us that nothing is.”

Devine knew where the only source of true hope could be found and asked the man if he had ever heard the story of Jesus Christ from the Bible. Justin simply replied, “Who hasn’t?”

But as Devine began to elaborate, Justin had a concerning realization. Justin looked at Devine with a startled expression and said, “No, I have never heard that. I have to repent and confess that Jesus is Lord.”

Devine offered an invitation to pray to receive Christ. Justin responded, “I want that hope you speak about in the Bible.”

Following these four salvations in just one weekend, Devine says there are many lessons to be gleaned. Most importantly, he says, is the urgency he has to get the Gospel message to people who have lived their lives deceived by lies disguised as the truth.

“The biggest lesson I have learned in going out recently is how desperate people are to hear the truth,” Devine says. “Many people have heard bits and pieces of the Gospel but no one has ever walked through Scripture with them. We, as evangelists and lay people in the church, need to take the Word of God seriously, because if we just teach half-truths, people will be led astray.”