You have probably tried and tried to reach a particular person through evangelism. The more you try, though, the less responsive they are. In some way or another, they have made it quite clear that spiritual things are not on their agenda right now. Maybe you’ve even wondered if you’re doing more harm than good. Maybe you’ve asked yourself, “Should I just back off for a while?”
The answer is yes. There are times when you just need to give a particular person space after failed evangelism attempts. Before you accept that advice, I want to add several thoughts.
First, you may need to back off in talking to them about God but you never back off in talking to God about them. They can discourage and even prevent you from talking to them, but they cannot discourage or prevent you from talking to God about them. As you pray, ask God to open their hearts to the gospel and cause them to see their need. Be keenly aware that the person who has no interest in talking this week may be very open next week. God has all kinds of ways of getting through to people! If all of a sudden they suffer hardship or are diagnosed with a fatal disease, they may be more interested in spiritual matters than they were in the past.
Second, not only pray for an opportunity at a later time but ask God to send an additional witness. On more than one occasion, I have seen God bring some other person to give the same message that the previous believer was giving. The two did not even know that the other existed, and the unbeliever knew that. Because another person brought up the same subject, though, the unbeliever got the impression that God was trying to tell him something.
Third, realize that a limited period of time for distance does not mean a permanent time. After taking a break from the gospel conversation, you might find them more interested than they were previously.
Lastly, remember that we are talking about a particular person—not everyone. Why do I mention that? Sometimes a believer so concentrates on reaching one particular individual that he almost loses sight of everybody else. Sometimes Satan causes us to so concentrate on one person to the extent that we miss the neighbor next door, a relative we are about to visit, a stranger we meet as we travel, or an employee at work. Don’t concentrate on one person so much that you miss another.
There are times for distance, but only when done with prayerful discernment.