Christopher Chelpka

Why People Resist the Gospel

Resistance to the gospel is like resistance to poetry. So is this strategy for overcoming it.

As a missionary, I talk to people all the time about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of these conversations are pleasant and engaging, but I often meet resistance to the gospel.

Over time I’ve come to realize that there are different reasons for this. Some people resist the gospel because they know it and they hate it. Other times, however, people resist the gospel (and the church which preaches it) for another reason: ignorance and bad associations.

Surprisingly, my work as an evangelist may not be that different from the work of a poet laureate. In an in interview in Teachers & Writers with Susan Karwoska, Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, said this:

“People have resistance to poetry for good reason. They have a lot of associations with that word, some of which are true and some of which are not. One association is that poetry is too difficult or unreadable or it’s a kind of private language, which it is in some ways. Another association is with sentimentality, and a kind of drippy, bluebirds and bonnets school of thought.”

The same thing can be said of orthodox Christianity. People think the church/Bible/theology is either as intimidating as graduate school or as lame as a 99 cent greeting card.

Unfortunately, there’s good reason for this: the church is intimidating, lame, or both. Billy Collins puts it better:

“SK: Why do you say the “83 percent” [of American poetry] is not worth reading?”

“BC: Well, because it’s either emotionally presumptuous or incomprehensible. And sometimes both.”

So what’s the solution? One answer is exposure. Again, Billy Collins:

“So there is a lot of reasonable resistance to poetry. I wouldn’t try to talk a high school student into poetry. What I would do — what I did, really, by starting Poetry 180 — is just to expose them to poems.”

Just as you probably can’t talk a high schooler into poetry, a thirty minute conversation about the necessity and importance of church probably won’t do it either (though God is known to use less). When it comes to the gospel, people need to be exposed to lots of the good stuff—namely, winsome, biblical preaching that genuinely offers to the listener the deep grace of God, as found only in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you’ve never given Christianity a chance, please, get yourself to a church that cares more about feeding you than coddling you, or, making themselves feel big. Listen to the preaching. Meet some fellow sinners. Take the membership class. And maybe instead of resisting grace, you’ll receive it instead.


Here’s the link to the whole article: Susan Karwoska, “Driving a Wedge Into the Prejudice Against Poetry: An Interview with Billy Collins,“ Teachers & Writers 38, no. 4 (2007): 3-5.

Photo Credit: Chris Court