1. Jews see what we're doing immediately, and avoid us like the plague.
Of course, you can't always tell if they're Jewish. But the ones wearing a yarmulke (the skullcap) definitely are. Also, those who wear the distinctive black outer-garments and the tassels of the prayer shawls which signify the Orthodox Hasidim: they're Jewish. Quite a few Jewish students attend classes at the U. of Penn campus where we have an outreach. However, during this past Independence Day outreach in Philadelphia,near the Independence Visitor's Center, a Jewish man came to new faith in Christ. So it does happen!
2. Foreign-born Muslim women do not take religious tracts from men.
They usually wear the burka or the face veil, and their culture is much more patriarchal and family-oriented than mainstream America's. Women raised in that culture do not normally speak to strange men on the street or accept their gifts lest their responses be misinterpreted. In this case, a religious tract could be considered a "gift". And yet, I have had gospel conversations with Saudi and Kuwaiti women who were dressed in traditional Muslim garb. And they took Arabic-language gospel literature from me. Though these were the exceptions, it does happen!
3. Foreign-born Oriental women do not take religious tracts from men.
Same here, especially with the Chinese. Though the taboo is more that of culture and language than of religion, still, traditional or first-generation Oriental women don't usually take gospel tracts from men. That's why it's best to pair a man and woman together when doing street evangelism. Women are more inclined to take a tract from a woman than from a man.
4. Catholics define the "gospel" as the sum of whatever they were supposed to learn in Catholic school.
We ask people if they know what the gospel actually is. Many think we're talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. So we explain we're talking about the message itself, not the books of the Bible. Others think we're talking about the Golden Rule: "Do unto others ... [etc.]". Or again, lots of Catholics think the gospel is something they must've learned somewhere along the line in their religious training. Most Catholics we've spoken to have confused religious duty with religious conversion. (Protestants too, BTW.)
5. Hindu men don't mind discussing matters of religion openly on the street with total strangers.
Apparently, Indian Hindu men do not share the privacy and "personal" taboos that most post-Christian-culture Europeans have towards religious discussion. At CHAIM's Independence Week outreach, I personally spoke with two Hindu fathers, with their families in tow, listening in on the conversations. Other individual Hindus also talked to me. They're not shy about religion. Last year, I was able to share the entire gospel with a Hindu Indian woman, walking by herself. That's rare, however. She also gave me her contact information for "follow-up". What helped, however, was the fact that I had a female volunteer with me that time.
6. Foreign-born Muslims have never heard the gospel, but many want to hear.
That's been our experience at CHAIM Ministry to the Jews: in reaching the Jews, we reach the Muslims in the process. American-born "Black Muslims" are a different case, but foreign-born Muslims have rarely heard an accurate presentation of the gospel. And though they won't likely respond on the first presentation, they're still curious to know what true Christians believe. It also helps if you know a few words of Arabic. One Egyptian Muslim man I spoke to recently was delighted I knew a few Arabic words, and agreed to read my Arabic-language tract.
7. Certain people are glad we're there so they can tell us their whole life story.
Street evangelists get approached by people who like to unburden themselves to anyone lending a listening ear. Often it's a distraction and a waste of your time, but not always. It's often not what you say to them that makes them want to hear your gospel presentation: it's that you're first willing to listen to THEM talk to YOU. At the July 4th "Party on the Parkway", in the midst of masses of people and blaring loud-speakers, I was able to do grief counseling to a young man who recently lost his mother because I was first willing to listen to him without passing judgment.
8. African-American women get a little bit huffy if you ask them if they know what the gospel is: ("Of COURSE I know what the gospel is!")
The church still plays the central role in certain American communities. Gospel music and even music in general had its roots in a shared historical experience, where women historically played a central role in defining moral values for the rest of the family. People dressed up for church and took it seriously. Whether you were a true believer or not, you were expected to attend and expected to know the gospel. But though most African-Americans think that they do, far less actually do. The two "Evangelism Explosion" diagnostic questions help pin-point the problem in street discussions.
9. No one yells, no one argues, no one curses out (mostly).
That's not to say people don't still express offense. I was recently confronted by an Orthodox Jewish man while doing tract distribution at 16th & Chestnut who saw our Jewish-oriented tracts and told me how offended he was. The mixing of Jewish identity with the Christian message is offensive to religious Jews. The "secular" ones don't care as much. At the U. of Penn campus feminists have expressed contempt for the "patriarchal" way the Bible deals with sex values and standards. Others have objected to the absolute and exclusive claims Christ makes about salvation only through Him. But in Philadelphia, I've only had one or two actual arguments. They just express disapproval and move on. Philadelphia's a polite town. It believes in religious "tolerance", even to a fault.
10. Most people we talk to think that if there's a heaven, they'll go there if only they do enough good things and live a good enough life.
That's the response we get 60% of the time. "If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds ..." I've heard it 'till it's almost a cliche. I tell them if that were the case, God wouldn't have offered His innocent Son as a substitute victim and substitute sin-bearer, nor commanded people to repent and come to Him through Christ. Romans 3:10 & Isaiah 64:6 also helps.
11. Most CHURCHED people actually think that! There's is a religion of essentially "What Jesus did for me PLUS my good works".
Roughly half of the churched Protestants we speak to give us the "If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds" rationale, and "Jesus plus my good deeds". And that's after telling us they already know what the gospel is. Last month, a young college-age man said that to me in Center City. I said "If you were wrong, would you even want to know about it? He said "yes", and then stood still long enough to hear the gospel, probably for the first time in his life. Galatians 5:4 helps too, which says that if you believe that, "you have fallen from grace".
12. Lots of people think all religions are basically the same, and that we all worship the same god who's mostly like "The Force" in the movie "Star Wars".
I talk to people who believe in God as Cosmic Consciousness, or God as an impersonal Presence like electricity or gravity, or God as expressing Himself through Yin and Yang, through karma, through the American version of Karma: (i.e. "pay it forward"); or God as Mother Earth. And sin? They think sin is violating Mother Earth with too heavy a "carbon footprint", or from greenhouse emissions or not recycling; or sin as just an existential notion of what you subjectively think it is, vs. what it objectively is; or sin as intolerance and "hate speech", or as traditional, patriarchal values opposing LBGTQ values. I speak to people who believe these things without ever being aware of it. They breathe it in like the air around them: part of the cultural/religious atmosphere of America today. And yet, despite it all, once in a while someone gets saved.
13. Significant numbers of confessing Christians stop to encourage us.
Half the people we talk to tell us they are Christians and then congratulate us for doing this. It's great to be encouraged but I think it works both ways. Sometimes I think God has us out there to encourage those other Christians to do the same. Think of it: where else in the entire world but here can you still stand on a public street-corner and share the gospel without getting arrested or being told to move on? Where else in the world can you speak about the gospel freely to Muslims passing by? In their home country? No way! Stand on the corner of the campus of the U. of Penn and you'll see a flood of humanity: many Muslims, some Jews, and from every nation under heaven. And some of them will stop and listen!