Sharing the Gospel may feel like a laborious task for those of us who find it more comfortable to share it in specific settings/methods that are convenient for us. However, do not fret and take heart for God has given us more than we need when we feel out of our comfort zone.
The Trusty Notepad
When I was in my early teens, whenever I was talking to a guy I liked – I remember typing out everything I wanted to say to him. I would hide behind long hours of text messages. The prospect of a potential phone call with him would onset nausea and sweaty palms. I could acrobatically flip and twirl my way through long paragraphs of digital converse, but as soon as I would meet him face to face my tongue would go into hiding.
Equally when I’m facing the heat of a debate whether, in the context of apologetics or a disagreement, I often find myself reaching for my trusty notepad, again, writing down everything I want to say to them. Spending hours trying to tactfully predict the course of the argument. Slowly turning into a playwright as I marked out every word and response that could be said.
Put in brief terms, writing my thoughts down makes me feel safe when simply entertaining verbal confrontation, without my drafted thoughts, feels like rocking up to a duel with a butter knife in the face of an opponent who has a calibre pistol.
When it comes to sharing the Gospel off cuff, I have felt (and sometimes still do) that same anxiety. That my unplanned words would stifle the glory of the message. That my verbal diarrhoea and best attempts to string words together would never do the beauty of the Gospel justice. When I’m speaking about the Gospel to a stranger or someone I don’t know well, at my best, I’m an awkward fool and at my worst I’m a nervous wreck. Still I do try to do it, but for socially awkward and anxious personality types like myself, I must admit I don’t always enjoy it.
So what’s the remedy for the socially awkward Christian posse in the corner of society’s vibrant party get down, who is often left clutching scraps of pre-written lines when he or she is approached by folks from all walks of life; liberals, conservatives, members of the LGBTQ community, atheists, gnostics, other religious groups, all while sounds from the key of life boom through the speakers?
We Speak God’s Wisdom
First of all, it is helpful to ask yourself questions; Why do you feel this way? How well acquainted are you with the Gospel message and the implications it has for our lives? When explaining this message, why does writing things down feel like an easier, more preferred avenue of sharing than verbal discourse? What axis does the fear and anxiety of sharing it with others rest on? Do these conversations expose your insufficiency relating to knowledge of the matter? Or does it reveal your social anxiety when it comes to sharing a message that most likely will not be received well by those who do not share the same beliefs as you?
Paul speaks profoundly to this matter;
‘Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature but not a wisdom of this age not of the rulers of this who are passing away. Rather we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden which God predetermined before the ages for our glory. This God has revealed to us through the Spirit. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom but with the Spirit describing realities in spiritual terms.’1 Corinthians 2:6-7, 13
At the very heart of Paul’s address to the Corinthians is that our ability to understand and accept the Gospel is inextricably linked to what the Gospel is about in the first place. The only reason we understand these things and accept freely and desire to speak to others about it is because of the fact that God in His great love, through the death of His Son, by the power of the Spirit raised us from our dead-like state where our minds were darkened and only available to futile thinking (Rom 1:21). It was by His saving grace and through the Spirit that He revealed the light of the Gospel to us and the beauty of His wisdom. That tells us two things. That we are unable to convince men with merely our intelligence, fortitude or reasoning and that until God decides in His infinite wisdom to open the hearts of men to the truth, people will continue to consider God’s wisdom and truth concerning salvation as folly, no matter how well put our words are. This should ground us in the reality of knowing that people’s acceptance of the Gospel is a responsibility of the Holy Spirit, He is the One who softens and opens hardened hearts and God is the One sovereign in salvation; not ourselves and should remove the burdens of always needing to have a positive reception from our shoulders. Anticipate disagreement, confusion, scoff and out-right rejection more than eureka, enlightened and epiphany moments. But as you expect the former, yearn and desire for the latter.
Study to Show Yourself Approved
Secondly, we should always be ready to share the Gospel and speak about it. And this includes being well-prepared by studying the Word and learning how the Gospel is presented throughout scripture. Studying the Gospel is not like preparing for a citizenship test. It is not a one-off endeavour or one-stop-shop. The Gospel message weaves into every book of the Bible as God’s purpose and divine plan of salvation slowly unfold throughout. If there are things you don’t fully understand and know seek to understand them well, that you may be able to articulate them to others well.
We must study to show ourselves approved (2 Tim 2:15) In other words we must know what we’re talking about when we share the Gospel, and we must know it well. Read books, articles, sermons – that can inform your understanding and frame your knowledge of the Gospel. Aim to understand the fundamentals then dig deeper. How does the Gospel respond to cultural worldviews? How does the Gospel offer answers to the big philosophical questions of life? You will find that the more you study, the more you will grow in confidence when it comes to articulating the Gospel. This will make speaking and sharing it with those who you know and don’t know, a much comfortable process. The more we allow the Word to readjust our worldview to see life and all its workings through a Gospel centred lens, the more comfortable we will become with sharing our viewpoint on matters while seamlessly sharing the Gospel.
The Spirit’s Counsel and Support
No matter how well you know your stuff, speaking to unbelievers who disagree with our Christian view can still be daunting. The good news is, we have the Holy Spirit, our Counsellor, who is able to guide us and give us counsel on the right thing to say and the right way to say it (1 Cor 2: 1-5), but also He gives us courage and comfort when we know what we should say but feel fearful and aren’t bold enough to say it. At certain times it may seem easier to avoid talking about the Gospel but the Holy Spirit offers support and strength to overcome the temptation to not say anything, and we should rely on Him and seek support through prayer.
Also, both confiding and leaning on fellow Christians, mature Christians in particular, who can guide you can prove to be helpful during times when you feel stuck and reluctant to share the Gospel with others. Practising your approach of sharing the good news with a trusted friend is a great exercise to help you sharpen your interpersonal skills, build your confidence and sharpen your methods as far as speaking to people about the Gospel goes.
The Urgency of Gospel Sharing
Finally, know what works best for you but be open and flexible to alternate methods. You might feel more comfortable in relationships and speaking one on one with someone about the Gospel. Perhaps you prefer to have a conversation over the phone or via text. But be open to the fact that this preferred avenue may not always be available. You might never get a chance to see them again, procrastination might mean you forget to revisit that conversation with your pal. Always be on the lookout for the opportunity that God presents for you to share the Gospel and seize it. After all, it may be the means by which God is drawing that individual unto salvation.
Write down your thoughts if you must, but remember an apt word in season is like honeycomb to someone who needs to hear it, and we all need a sweet dose of the beautiful good news.