Every believer has a desire to obey the Great Commission, Christ’s command to go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching to obey (Matt. 28:18-20). But what does that look like? More specifically, many of you share how you are able to start conversations with people but don’t know how to turn the conversation toward spiritual topics. How do we get beyond small talk about the weather?
If you are a master of communication, that is an easy task and you can just skip this article. For the rest of us we need tips and encouragement to go for it.
As we embark on a summer of “Life on Mission” together I’d like to offer a few articles to help shift your perspective on evangelism. My goal is to give you a few ways to help shift your mindset to make spiritual conversations more natural for you.
One of the most common reasons people say the don’t share their faith with others is because they feel they aren’t knowledgeable enough of the Bible. They fear that the conversation will introduce a concept that they won’t know how to answer. Perhaps some skeptic will have a silver-bullet type comment that makes us look foolish and we don’t want to fail Jesus, so we avoid such potential failures.
The obvious answer to that concern is simply, read your Bible more to know it better and be more confident in your knowledge (and quite honestly, every skeptic I meet has the same arguments that have been answered over and over). But if you want to be persuasive, you want to know more than simply how to answer a critique of the Bible. You want to have a better response than just resolving an apparent contradiction. You want to be able to show someone how all of history is the work of God’s hand to redeem the world in Christ and fold our lives into his story.
We want more than an extensive biblical knowledge, we want a Gospel Fluency. Gospel fluency refers to a particular understanding of the bible and a sympathy with others that is able to connect every page of Scripture and every experience of a person with Christ. Jesus told his disciples that every Old Testament story was actually about him (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44). Paul went around the Roman Empire preaching the gospel using his Hebrew Bible (Acts 28:23; Cf. Acts 8:35; 17:2; 18:28; 26:22-23). We want to do more than explain the consistency of Scripture, but display how it consistently points us to Jesus.
I recently heard on a radio show on my drive to the office a Q&A with a fairly well-known bible teacher. People wrote in or called with all kinds of questions about the Red Sea crossing, the powerful signs that happened at Jesus’s death, the temple, the nature of our physical and spiritual being, and the proper name of God. The host gave great answers that clarified the Bible for the questioners, but I had wished he would have drawn the answers out to culminate in Christ and the gospel.
One question involved the name of God, YHWH, which doesn’t really appear in our modern translations. He explained, rightly, that every time that name shows up in the Old Testament it is translated as LORD, because the Jews were so afraid to say the name of God for fear of taking his name in vain. When you see “Lord” it is simply a translation of a word that actually means lord, or master.
While this is all correct, Jesus says we should be able to take this information and explain the gospel with it. And the better you get to know your Bible, the easier it is to make these connections. The answer could be drawn out quite extensively, but it climaxes in Philippians 2:6-11 where we hear Paul tell us that Jesus, being God, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross and was raised and exalted above all things to the point of being given the name which is above every name (verse 9). That name is the OT name for God, Yahweh, or LORD (verse 11).
So even with an interesting translation note, we can still bring people to the righteousness of Christ, his crucifixion, and resurrection. This applies to characters in the bible (Adam, Abraham’s seed, David and Solomon, Boaz,…), events (exile from Eden and Jerusalem, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, the Red Sea crossing, David and Goliath’s battle, Jonah in the whale, David taking a census, the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon etc.), or more explicit promises. All of these things have a fulfillment in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
All of these things reflect the human experience in one way or another. If you take time to listen to people’s stories, ask them questions, find out what drives them and concerns them, you will find we are all on the same journey to find meaning, experiencing the same trials that people have experienced throughout history. When you know your Bible well and you listen to people well, it becomes easier to connect their story to the story of the Bible culminating in the gospel.
To give you a sample: If someone is lonely, it is reflective of God’s design to make us in relationship with him and others in a beautiful world (the garden of Eden). There were hints at restoring that world in the tabernacle and temple, but it wasn’t the full expression of it until Jesus (God with us) was forsaken by the Father on the cross in order to reunite us in relationship with him where one day he will dwell with us in a perfect world.
If a friend desires marriage, it points to the original design to create a diversity of humanity united together as one bound by God’s Spirit in us. The world is full of broken marriages and unfulfilled desires for marriage because of our rejection of God, but Christ took the punishment of that rejection in order to re-establish that marriage between God and his people. You can experience the intimacy of a relationship with God and his people whether you are married or not.
If your family is broken through death, divorce, or other curse in the world, you wonder what you have missed out on because you don’t have a father, mother, or siblings (the theme of sonship). But Jesus came that he could adopt us into a new family that will never fall apart. Because he bore that brokenness on the cross, when he rose from the dead he began a new family that will last for eternity for all who trust in him.
If you have a spirit of adventure, conquering, building, it is because God made us to have dominion over this world (Kingship), to build it up into a flourishing community for people to dwell in. But we rejected that and instead chose to build our own kingdoms, not his. But Jesus is the perfect king, who had dominion correctly in building people up into his kingdom, but instead of judging his subjects, he took the judgment upon himself on the cross. When he rose from the dead he put in his followers his ability to reign again as we were designed. Your desire for adventure can be fulfilled in following Christ to have dominion over the ends of the earth!
There are hundreds of ways to do this. It doesn’t just come naturally. It flows from a heart that is saturated in the word, dependent upon the Spirit to illuminate our hearts, eager to see how Christ is highlighted on every page of the Bible, and careful to listen to the people around you.
How will they hear without a preacher who is sent into the world (Romans 10:14-17)? You are all witnesses of Christ called to teach the nations to obey his commands (Matt. 28:20). You are all evangelists whose job it is to open the Scriptures and explain the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). You can’t do this unless you get into the word, look for Jesus on every page, and get into the lives of people who see you living differently.
Open your bible. Find Jesus there. If you need help growing in this understanding of the bible, check out the resources listed below. Listen carefully to the sermons on Sunday and see how your pastors connect OT hopes to fulfillment in Christ applying it to our lives today. Through all of this we are equipping you to handle this powerful sword which cuts to the heart (Heb. 4:12).
Resources for finding Christ in all of Scripture and looking at the world with a biblical lens:
Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology