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Author: Ron Graham


The Unsettling
—The fourth step in outreach

The fourth step in the outreach process is the unsettling. This step is where a person is brought face to face with his own error, disobedience, neglect, or need. In this step, people are caused to recognize and confront what God requires of them. Their conscience is awakened. Their honesty is tested. This is a critical moment.

It is never pleasant to be unsettled. The outcome can be unpredictable. But with care and understanding, these problems can be managed in a positive way.

There are three things to consider about the unsettling.

1 Not "One With the Lot"

A person should not be faced with all his faults at once. Show him one false belief he needs to change, or one commandment of God he has disobeyed. That's enough for the moment.

You are not trying to blow him into the stratosphere. You are merely seeking to unsettle him. Enough to hurt and awaken the conscience, but not so much as to maim or kill. Be patient in teaching God's word progressively, as a person is able to receive it. Teach with longsuffering (2Timothy 4:2).

"Line upon line,
Precept upon precept,
Here a little,
There a little"
(Ecclesiastes 28:13)

2 Raising the Real Issue

Look at how Peter unsettled his audience (Acts 2:22-23). I'm sure those Jews had a thousand faults. But Peter confronted them with the main one: they were responsible for the crucifixion of their true Messiah.

Ananias came to the point with Saul (Acts 22:16). The point was, "Why do you tarry? Arise and obey!" That was not a catalogue of sins. Just the one that was up front at the time. The Lord, earlier, had also unsettled Saul on one significant point: "Why do you persecute me?"

Jesus came to the point with the woman at the well. "Bring your husband here!" Ah! He knew she was living an immoral life. It was time to confront her on the issue, because it was the significant issue in her case.

3 Raising a Minor Issue

There is one exception to unsettling a person on the major issue. That is when the teacher remains uncertain that the time for unsettling has come. So the teacher puts a toe in the water so to speak. He confronts the person with a minor issue as a test of where the person is.

This is a try out for the real unsettling. Rather than confront a person immediately with the major problem, it may be wise sometimes to lead up to the bombshell with something a little less earth shattering.

When that exception is employed, it must be done with skill. The minor matter must still be a relevant one, not something trivial or distracting from the main issue. It should be, as we said, something that leads up to the big issue, and serves as a preparation for the major unsettling.

4 Let Unsettling Run its Course

At times, the moment of unsettling can be a very long and awkward one.

The teacher tries to avoid embarrassment. He or she often can effect the unsettling without causing the rocks to be rent, the sun to be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. Indeed, only the teacher and the pupil may be aware that it is happening.

At times, as we said, the unsettling is not a smooth transition. It may be visible to all, and the unsettled person may show signs of severe stress.


The person may sit in silence looking at the passage he has been asked to read, struggling in his innermost being with the word that convicts his soul of sin. He may even tremble. He may even shed tears. Just let it be. Don't interrupt. Be silent, be still. As the Lord says, "Be still, and know that I am God!" (Psalm 46:10).

For goodness sake, don't pipe up and say, "Anyone for coffee?"

Leave it for the teacher, or for the one he or she is dealing with, to bring the unsettling to an end. It should never be aborted.

It may well be that a soul is in the process of being born again. Let the birthpangs be endured. After that there will be joy.


Here is another literary gem for you, since you enjoyed the one about Jennifer and Norman so much! Use this story to help you consider the outreach process that we have been learning about. Discuss whether Dick did well or made mistakes.

Dick and Molly

Dick had been studying the Bible with cousin Molly. The topic was "righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come".

Molly was scared by what the Bible said about the judgment. She knew she was very short on righteousness and temperance, yet, with the right changes and commitment, she could receive forgiveness and hope from Jesus instead of condemnation. She was deep in thought when suddenly she began to cry.

Dick spluttered, "Oh! sorry Molly, I didn't mean to upset you! We'll study this another time".

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