Whenever we answer a NeedHim phone call, our first “job” is to determine whether that caller is already saved. Most of the people who call in are already saved. They often remember a phone number (like 1-888-NeedHim) without necessarily remembering the reason for the phone number.
If they are saved, we don’t want to re-lead them through that process, otherwise, they might think they have to get re-saved every time something goes wrong in their life.
Some callers know they’re saved, and will tell you right off the bat. Others have totally forgotten what it means to be saved, and can’t tell you at all about their conversion. Some have truly gotten it settled, but need assurance or further explanation. And a few can tell you the whole Gospel but have never really gotten it settled with God. So the key issue here isn’t just what they know – it’s what they’re trusting in for their eternal relationship with God.
However, we need to begin with what they know. So we ask them, “What do you think it takes to begin a relationship with God?” Now keep in mind, of course, that most callers aren’t really thinking about that when they call in. So we might have to give them a couple of tries. What we’re looking for is the three basic elements of the Gospel presentation – Sin, Substitution, and Faith. Not necessarily with those words, and not necessarily in that order. They need to say something about the barrier between them and God, something about what God has done to fix that barrier, and that they’re willing to trust Him completely in this regard.
If they don’t seem to hit correctly on one of those points, I might ask them another question to help draw the information out of them, but without giving them the answer in the process. I might ask, “Is there something that prevents you from having the relationship with God that He wants to have with you?” Or, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” If they give me a works-related answer, as they frequently will, I usually ask them, “How much?” (Like: How much do you have to pray? How much do you have to go to church? How much do you have to love God and other people?) Then I ask, “Do you know for certain that heaven is your eternal home?” Hopefully, I’m helping them realize that if they have to trust their own efforts, they will be disappointed every time. Rather, they need to trust Christ’s completed work on the cross and trust Him alone.
Sometimes, with some callers, these questions just aren’t helping to determine whether they’re already saved, so I take a different approach. I’ll read Romans 6:23 for them. (“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”) Then I’ll say, “There are two sides to this verse. The first side talks about sin. (The wages of sin is death.) The second side talks about eternal life. (The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.)” Then I’ll ask them, “To the best of your understanding, which side of this verse do you think your life is on right now?” Regardless of what they say, I’ll ask, “Why do you think so?” Eventually, I’ll say, “God tells us we all start life on the wrong side of that verse. He also tells us that He wants to carry us to the right side of that verse, where He talks about His gift of eternal life.” I may then ask, “Was there ever a time in your life when God gave you His gift of eternal life?” If they say yes, I ask them to tell me about it.
Another familiar question we frequently use really helps determine whether or not they’ve gotten this matter settled with God. “If you met God at the threshold of heaven and He asked you why He should let you in, what would you say?” If they’re not sure, I drive home the point by saying, “Would God allow you into heaven?” I can then read 1st John 5:11-13 where it says that you can “know that you have eternal life.” Do they have that confidence?
I personally believe that everyone who has gotten this matter settled with God will remember where they were when it happened. So I’ll ask them to tell me about it. If they can’t tell me about the situation for sure, then there’s a good chance they really don’t have it settled.
A good rule of thumb, of course, is when in doubt, share the Gospel! In some cases, you have to go through the whole Outline before it clicks with them and they say, “Oh yeah, I’ve gone through that before!” It’s unfortunate that sometimes you have to pull and pull to get the Gospel out of someone, but maybe that’ll help them share it more freely in the future, and we really do want to be careful about not re-leading someone to Christ if they already belong to Him.
Again, the biggest matter is not what do they know, but Whom do they trust? If you can help them ascertain that one point in their life, they asked God to save them and truly believed He would because of Christ and Christ alone, then God saved them, and they’re still saved. If that’s the case, you need to encourage them to continue in that trust and believe that because God meant it the first time, he intends to follow through with it in the future. We can, and must, trust God alone for our eternal salvation in Christ.
Example from Need Him: https://needhim.org