Thoughts on Sharing the Gospel

Every now and then, I get a phone call with a strange area code. I know it’s probably a scamming telemarketer, but I often pick up anyway.

They go through their speech, in a monotone voice, before I inevitably say, “Bye.”

They usually offer free cruises or $2 million in another country’s currency. But imagine that they actually had something real and good to offer. Imagine that they actually have something worth buying, but because they don’t actually talk to me because they have to get through their speech, I never hear it.

The question for us is whether or not our approach to evangelism too closely resembles that of a telemarketer. Certainly we want to share the gospel, and we want to see people come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. But how do we do that in an effective, meaningful, God-honoring way?

I have taken several classes over the last few years emphasizing evangelism and disciple-making. These are well and good, and we’ve discussed different approaches to evangelism. One of the ways we’ve discussed is the use of tracts. Tracts, for those of you who don’t know, are small booklets that often contain the gospel message and the right response to that message.

Tracts are extraordinarily helpful. They clarify and simplify the message of the gospel. They offer the Christian a guide to walk through in evangelism, and lays out, for the non-believer, a way to be saved.

Here’s where those tracts, and tools like them, can go wrong, though: When we are so focused on “getting to the gospel,” that is, getting the person we’re talking to to “make a decision,” that we fail to be genuine and to listen to our audience…we will lose our audience. Every single time, we will lose our audience.

Imagine if someone came up to you and offered a way to be free from all diseases and debt (don’t worry, I’m not preaching the prosperity gospel). You would have some questions, right? I know I would have not only questions, but concerns about what it will cost me. I’d want to know why their plan is better than my plan for lifelong health and financial stability.

Now imagine if that person never stopped talking, and rushed you into signing a piece of paper to receive this “plan.” What are the odds you would sign that piece of paper? Next to none, right? Even if it’s a fantastic plan, because you were treated like a project, not a person, you have no interest, right?

We can do the same with the gospel. We can be so focused on “obeying Jesus,” that we rush to get people to respond to the gospel that they still don’t understand. They have questions, but we are so focused on our answer that we blow right by them.

The way we treat people when we share the gospel is just as important as the act of actually sharing the gospel. Because if we don’t take time to listen, to care, and to respond to people’s questions and concerns, even if we do get to share the gospel with them, it will be ineffective at best, and an act of hardening to the gospel at worst.

Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, once said that we don’t have to get to the gospel every time. While that is certainly the goal, we want, at the very least, to “put a rock in their shoe.” Say something that will make the other person think about God, about salvation, about eternity, etc. There will be times where we have a chance to just open up about sin and forgiveness, and we must be ready for those opportunities (1 Pet. 3:15), but often, we may find ourselves having a spiritual conversation with someone, who just simply wants to be heard and maybe have some questions answered.

During my time at my previous job, I was blessed with multiple opportunities to talk about my faith. On several occasions, I got to the gospel, and invited my friend to respond to Jesus. I would often say something to the effect of, “Being a Christian means this…,” or “I encourage you to consider Jesus.” I never asked them to pray a prayer, and never felt the push to ask them to become a Christian on the spot, because no one was ready. I made sure they understood what it meant to be a Christian and how they could become one, but I left it at that. What I was able to do was to answer questions, to be humble and to listen to other viewpoints. Sometimes, the conversation lasted five minutes, and other times, it last two hours.

Bottom line: I engaged in conversation and found that people were more willing to have a second, third or even fourth conversation if I didn’t push for a response they weren’t ready to give.

There is a time to push for a response, absolutely. If the person you’re talking to is stalling, and you know they are fully aware of the gospel truth, push for a response. But we cannot push for a response while someone is asking questions, or asking us to listen to their point of view.

When we get so focused on getting people to “make decisions” that we forget that we’re talking to real people with real concerns, our evangelism becomes ineffective.

Another reason we cannot blow past the person’s questions and concerns is because the gospel and our response to it is so important, we cannot afford to rush into it.

The gospel calls a person to commit his or her life to Jesus, to trust completely in Him, and to live a new life based on who He is. Because it is the most important message, we cannot rush people to respond to it until we are sure they understand what it is, what it means, and what it costs.

The gospel is the “power of God for salvation” to people made in His image. People who are worthy of our time and respect. We have good intentions in rushing to the gospel, but if people don’t understand what they’re doing when they “become a Christian,” it’s possible that we aren’t making disciples of Christ at all.

I once saw a family member take 24 hours to decide what kind of refrigerator he was going to buy. A refrigerator. The thing that keeps cold stuff cold was worthy of a 24 hour response window. If something that, in the light of eternity, seems so trivial, is worth such heavy thought before a response is made, surely we must not rush people to make a response to the gospel without considering the impact of that response.

Jesus demands our full attention, and so we cannot present the gospel as a speech we have to get through, as a petition we desperately want signed; no, we must lovingly listen to the people whose eternal destiny will be decided by the gospel, and we must answer their questions, respond to their concerns, and call them to consider Jesus, and all that a response to Him entails.

We must be urgent, not sloppy, in our evangelism. We must be intentional, not insincere, in our relationships with others. The gospel calls us to nothing less.

Lord, may we remember that we share the gospel with people made in your image. May we not forget to speak the truth in love and answer questions. May we take the gospel seriously, and encourage others to do the same. May we not take for granted the great task you’ve given us to make disciples.

God bless,

Neal E.

Church, Government and the Great Commission

There’s a lot of things wrong in our country. We legalize the murder of innocent children; we condone sexual immorality; we are power hungry; we lie, and we still think it’s okay to judge others by the color of their skin or ethnic background.

Granted, not every American is like that, but there’s no denying that those problems exist.

And we all have the same question: Why is it this way? Why is my country this way?

I’m afraid that the church can often point the finger at society and non-Christians for the problems. There’s a picture that makes annual rounds on Facebook that asks basically the same question, and it responds to it by saying “We need prayer in schools. We need God back in America. We need Christian leaders in government,” and so on and so forth.

But how do we get prayer back in schools? How do we get God back in America? Is that even possible? And do we really need Christian leaders in government?

You see, a few decades ago, the Moral Majority movement attempted to give Christians power in government to pass “Christian” laws, based on biblical ethics. This was, in so many eyes, a fantastic movement that would bring a great revival in our country. The “religious right” became a powerful political influence, and while leaders of that movement and other Christians continued to personally share the gospel, the overarching belief seemed to be that this movement would be the movement that brought about a great spiritual revival.

Unfortunately, the moral majority is gone, and our country is worse now than ever before.

Why? Because you cannot legislate the human heart. Because the government cannot make disciples.

I believe our country is the way it is because of sin. And I believe sin has a foothold in our country because the church has failed to make disciples the way God has called us to. We have gotten so caught up in the next election that we have failed to carry out our God-given mandate. We have thought that the government should “allow” prayer and “allow” God to work in our country, failing to remember that God Himself indwells each and every believer, and thus, we are divinely equipped to make a difference regardless of what the government is doing.

Don’t get me wrong….I will vote in November, and as both a concerned citizen and a journalist, I keep up with politics and care, probably more than the average person. However, to put all of our hope in what a politician can do, rather than it what the Lord Jesus can do, is foolish.

I care about this country. I care about its future. I care enough to vote for leaders whom I feel will make our country better than it is now. But there’s a difference in wanting good, wise leadership to make some temporary changes and thinking that a politician, a sinner like the rest of us, will “fix” everything wrong in our country.

There is one man who can and will fix what’s wrong with this world. But He is not an American citizen, and He will not be on your ballot November 8. I hope our next president does a great job. But if he or she doesn’t, fine.   know that one day, the King of Kings will put everything right. And I know that the church’s role, and my role, regardless of what happens in a few months, will be the same as it has been for 2,000 years: make disciples.

In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter tells the church that it is time for judgment. You can imagine the church is excited, thinking that those pagans are going to get it. But, surprise, Peter says that judgment will “start at the house of God.”

When God judges our nation, He will judge the Christian church first. And we will be judged for thinking that our government can do our job for us. We will be judged for all the times we have thought that if only Washington would fix this place, if only Washington would outlaw this and outlaw that. We will be judged for seeking to change laws instead of preaching the gospel to change hearts.

We must speak out about what God’s Word says to our culture. We must be loud and clear about what is right and wrong. But we must also remember that the gospel, not the law, changes hearts. People whose hearts are not committed to the Lordship of Christ and haven’t been changed by His grace will not live holy lives. They may be religious, but they won’t be saved. They’ll still go to hell, they’ll just look cleaner on the way.

The church must make making disciples its primary goal. Each Christian must make making disciples his or her primary goal. We must get back to preaching the good news that someone has died for us and can save us when we cannot save ourselves. We must preach Christ as Lord, and call people to trust Him and repent.

Another note needs to be made here: It’s very easy for my generation (age 18-35) to criticize the previous generation for things like the moral majority. And while we may not be wrong in pointing the finger, the whole point of what I’ve just written is for everyone to point the finger at themselves and think about whether or not disciple-making is really top priority.

If the previous generation’s biggest crime is seeking revival through the moral majority and “Christian” government, all while forgetting to preach the gospel and focus on the human heart, my generation’s biggest crime is wasting time blaming the previous generation.

If I blame my grandparents’ generation for not making disciples, does that help make disciples? Obviously not. There’s a time for figuring out where we went wrong. But when we do that, it’s time to start going the other way. I just moved to a new area, so that makes a lot of literal sense for me. I have found where I have gone wrong on many different roads. But I’m learning to go the right way now, and not wind up lost…again. But if we keep focusing on the wrong way, we don’t ever go the right way.

Bottom line: We know what we need to do. We’ve known for 2,000 years. God isn’t updating the handbook.

So let’s make disciples. Meet people. Share life with them. Tell them about Jesus. Teach them to tell people about Jesus. And keep making disciples.

Lord, may we make disciples. May we not forget that your commands are not complicated and you have given us the Spirit. May we be who you have called us to be.

God bless,

Neal E.