The Gospel Deserves Better
Years ago, in preparation for a short-term mission trip, I was taught basic strategies for sharing the message of the gospel. After much practice, I could explain an evangecube to anybody willing to listen. I could present the gospel through colored beads on a bracelet in my sleep. Even with my limited artistic ability, I could draw and explain the “Bridge to Life” with my eyes closed. Yet with all this knowledge and a variety of tools, I was a terrible evangelist.
Terrible! The people I “witnessed” to were uninterested, bored, ready to move on to whatever they were planning to do before I interrupted their day with my gospel presentation. There I stood—on the sidelines of a soccer game, at a community center, in a restaurant—ready to bombard my momentarily-captive audience with a barrage of pictures, symbols, and words that could change their lives if they would only believe them. But despite my training and practice, they almost invariably shrugged off my presentation and continued on with their lives like they did not just hear the most important news they will ever encounter.
I wrote off these interactions as “planting seeds,” hoping that these individuals would one day remember what I said and take it to heart. But when attempt after attempt yielded nothing, discouragement crept into my mind. Years passed, and my feelings of inadequacy in sharing the gospel manifested in passivity. I reasoned that God had gifted some individuals as evangelists, and I clearly did not belong in that category. Therefore, I considered myself exempt from the God-given mandate to share the message of the gospel with those around me. I resigned myself to living out the gospel in deed only, hoping that a lost friend would be the one to initiate a spiritual conversation with me.
While living the gospel has yielded spiritual conversations, I can only wonder how much greater my impact for the Kingdom would have been in the past if I had combined the message of the gospel in my words with its application in my life. From conversations with many of my Christian friends, I understand that I am not alone in this struggle. But while some of us harbor feelings of inadequacy in sharing the gospel, others continue to pat themselves on the back after fruitless conversations, into which they managed to cram a well-rehearsed gospel presentation to no avail. Each use of an evangecube, diagram, bracelet, confrontational question, or other common method for sharing the gospel is applauded, even if the message is rejected. It is as if their primary goal is to repeat the script to as many people as possible, hoping that by sheer odds, somebody will eventually accept the message being proclaimed. But while many of us are ineffective in our silence, many others are equally ineffective in their speech.
How did the proclamation of the gospel become an arduous effort, or an empty, routine gesture? When did we replace the beauty and magnificence of the intervention of a holy God in the lives of sinful humans with boring scripts and silence? The world around us is not looking for a manicured, staged presentation of a story they do not believe. They are looking for something real. Something powerful. Something that can rescue them from the mundane hum of a meaningless existence. Something worth forsaking everything in light of its surpassing value. What they are looking for, we can offer.
Yet we have traded the wonderful message of God’s sovereign plan to redeem mankind from their sin and misery for rote, unimpactful lectures. Somewhere along the road, we decided the world needed a neatly-packaged, easily repeatable talking point, rendering our presentations akin to hearing an automated phone system. Despite personally encountering the life-changing power of the gospel, we sacrifice the magnitude of the message for the minimum talking points with which we feel comfortable convincing a broken sinner to check a box declaring a decision. We often choose easy and convenient, rather than natural and convincing. We often define success by the quantity of our presentations, rather than by the quality of our conversations.
It has to stop. The gospel deserves better. For every Christ-follower, there was a moment in which we understood our moral depravity—our abject failure to meet God’s standard of perfection. In light of His infinite power and glory, recognition of our fallibility resulted in complete despondency. But into this darkness shone glorious good news—that the God against whom we sinned sent His own Son, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, rescuing us from sin and death. Our eternal state of condemnation became a state of eternal life simply by the grace of God. All of our deeds earned the wrath of God, but Christ’s work on the cross produced the favor of God, freely granted us through faith.
The world is less concerned with what the color red stands for on our bracelets than they are with how the message of the gospel can impact their lives. And what better way to define and describe the power the gospel can have than by telling of its impact on us—how we were raised from death to life, how joy flooded our once unsatisfied hearts, how peace replaced turmoil, how purpose replaced wandering. Every Christ-follower is perfectly equipped to share the message of the gospel because every Christian has personally experienced its impact. Spiritual conversations should not be squandered on a monologue, rehashing the words we think we are supposed to say; rather, we should respond directly to the questions and concerns of the people with whom we are speaking, outlining exactly why the gospel we have encountered matters for their lives.
We have been entrusted with the mission of proclaiming the glorious good news with the world. While many of the common methods for sharing this news can be helpful tools (this was in no way meant to discourage the use of evangecubes or colored beads), the gospel deserves better than tired, standardized performances. It has never been our job to convince somebody to come to saving faith in Jesus; we are simply called to share—not a script, but the story of how God intervened in our lives for His glory. Let us recognize the importance of this calling. Let us trade meaningless lectures for impactful conversations. Above all else, let us take every opportunity to share of the limitless treasure we have found in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.