How Do You Preach to Those Who Don’t Know Christ?

This is the second post of a five-part series based on Pastor Daniel Im’s book, The Discipleship Opportunity: Leading a Great-Commission Church in a Post-Everything World. In his first post, Daniel explained each of the four types of people in your church. In this post, Daniel will talk about “sleepers”—people who aren’t Christians and aren’t particularly interested anything spiritual.

Do you know anyone (friends, family, neighbors) with an attitude of complete disregard and disinterest toward Jesus and the church? Anyone who has placed someone or something—other than King Jesus—on the throne of their lives?

If so, do you believe that God can awaken them out of their spiritual slumber? To new life in Christ? To a vibrant and living relationship with Him as a disciple of—and a disciplemaker for—Jesus?

I’m not referring to those people who used to come to your church pre-pandemic but drifted away and never came back after you went exclusively online.

I’m referring to those people you know who would never step foot in a church or have a spiritual conversation with you. And those people who believe that they’re living their best lives and pride themselves on their self-sufficiency. And also that person who was hurt so deeply by the church, or by someone who claimed to be Christian, that they’re living with a huge grudge. Do you believe that God can awaken all these people out of their spiritual slumber?

This was the same sort of question that God asked Ezekiel when He showed him a vision of dry bones. God was asking Ezekiel whether he had faith in His ability to awaken.

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by his Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry. Then he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

EZEKIEL 37:1-3
What a horrid picture. Just imagine walking through a vast valley filled with dry bones. Bones everywhere—bones on top of bones. The fact that these bones were “very dry” suggests that they had been out in the elements for a long period of time. And since the bones were spread out on the ground, this means that the corpses hadn’t been buried. Over time, birds and other animals had likely eaten the flesh off the bones.

In the midst of this stark picture of death, God asks Ezekiel a straightforward question: “Can these bones live?” As a priest, Ezekiel is likely very familiar with the Scriptures. Ezekiel knows that with God, all things are possible. He knows that God is in control of life and death. And he knows that God is the one who awakens and stirs people to action. So for all these reasons, Ezekiel replies, “Lord God, only you know” (Ezekiel 37:3). He understands that if anyone can awaken these dry bones, it’s God!

What happens next is breathtaking—or perhaps the more accurate term to use is breathgiving—since God awakens these dry bones through His word and His Spirit.

He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Lord God says to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you, and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I looked, tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man. Say to it: This is what the Lord God says: Breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so that they may live!” So I prophesied as he commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Look how they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.’ Therefore, prophesy and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, my people, and lead you into the land of Israel. You will know that I am the Lord, my people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord. I have spoken, and I will do it. This is the declaration of the Lord.’”

EZEKIEL 37:4-14
Just like God created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them through His word, He is re-creating or awakening these dry bones through the power of His word.

When God breathed into these dry bones, He was awakening them through His Holy Spirit. He was redeeming these dry bones—redeeming what was lost, redeeming what was asleep, and redeeming what was dead. In the same way, when God awakens the sleepers around you, He will do so through His word and Spirit. But He won’t do it alone—not because He can’t, but because He wants to do it together with you and me!

Isn’t that incredible? While God didn’t need Ezekiel to awaken the dry bones—just like He didn’t need any help to create the heavens, the earth, and everything in them—He invited Ezekiel to partner with Him. Throughout this passage, we see that God wanted to do this together with Ezekiel because that’s who God is, and that’s how God works! Just like God invited Ezekiel to partner with Him in awakening those dry bones, He is inviting us to partner with Him to awaken the sleepers around us.

When we say yes to God like Ezekiel did in the valley of dry bones, not only will our faith deepen, but we will also get to experience the excitement of partnering with God and joining Him in His mission. And honestly, there’s nothing more meaningful and life-giving—on this side of eternity—than partnering with God to awaken those around you.


Just as the plan and pathway to reach the sleepers are both indirect, so should be your preaching. Instead of trying to stir up interest in the hearts and minds of the uninterested sleepers who may be listening to you preach (but probably aren’t), focus on the interested instead!

In the next post, we are going to be talking about seekers and ways to preach to interested non-Christians, but for this post, it’s short and simple. Don’t preach to the sleepers—the uninterested non-Christians. Stop trying to get them into your services. And even if they’re there because someone “forced” them to come, don’t worry about what they need to hear. Because while they may be there physically, they aren’t there spiritually. It’s not their time yet.

Instead, equip the disciples in your church to build friendships with the sleepers in their lives. And since evangelism is most effective when done in community, encourage them to do it together in a radically ordinary way. Pray that God will awaken the sleepers in your community to Himself. Trust the Holy Spirit to awaken their dry bones in His perfect timing and with His perfect methods. And when you preach, focus on the interested, not the uninterested.


Friends, these bones can live! These bleached, dry bones spread out in every direction—everywhere you look— can live. God wants to breathe His breath of life into the sleepers like Darien in your community. He wants to awaken them to Himself, and He is going to do it in partnership with you and me—with His disciples. So just like Ezekiel did, may we say yes to God. May every disciple in your church say yes. May we believe in the power of God’s word and Spirit to awaken the spiritually sleeping to Himself. And may we trust in His divine timing and method to do so.

In the next post, you’ll read how to walk alongside those who don’t know Christ and are curious about learning more (the seekers).

Daniel Im is a pastor, Bible teacher, writer, and podcast host with a passion for the local church. He is the lead pastor of Beulah Alliance Church and the author of No Silver Bullets,Planning Missional Churches, and You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta with his wife Christina and their three children. For more information, visit and connect with him on social media @danielsangi.

Want to share this with members of your church? The Disciplemaker blog from NavPress has published a series of articles from Daniel Im, written for your church members. Read How Do You Disciple Those Who Don’t Know Christ? now.