I am convinced the world needs Jesus today more than ever. Just a quick scroll through the latest news feed reveals a world gripped by pain, conflict and increasing chaos.
And yet, growing numbers of Christians feel uncomfortable with evangelism and sharing their faith according to a recent Barna study. Barna found that “the decline of religion in America, a spreading apathy toward spiritual matters and a growing cultural suspicion of people of faith” are curbing Christians’ willingness to engage in conversations about faith and the gospel.
What about you?
What feelings well up inside when you hear phrases like gospel, good news, evangelism and sharing your faith?
Excitement? Anticipation? Dread? Fear? Avoidance?
For me, it’s a combination of excitement commingled with a bit of fear.
I’m amazed God uses simple, frail and even fearful people like me and other followers of Jesus to communicate the message of his love and grace to people. In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he reminds us and exhorts us with the fact that God uses us—you and me—to reconcile the world to himself as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:16–21).
Wow! God’s duly appointed personal representative—that’s what it means to be an ambassador for Christ. Again, a sense of excitement and fear begins to well up inside—excitement to see God work in someone’s life mixed with some fear to take the first step.
To help me move through hesitancy and build excitement and anticipation in sharing the good news of Jesus with others, there’s a simple framework I follow to help guide my mindset and actions—live out loud, make it plain and keep praying.
Live Out Loud
Communicating the gospel and letting others know about Jesus’ power to transform and renew lives begins with how I live my life. I deeply yearn for people to see Jesus in who I am and how I live my life. My faith in Jesus not only informs and shapes what I believe, but also molds my values and practices. In other words, my whole life needs to resonate with and reflect the good news of God’s love, grace and forgiveness.
One way I’ve sought to do this is to live my life “out loud.” Not in an obnoxious, loud, bullhorn kind of way, but rather I try to integrate my faith into my day-to-day living. In a practical way, I want people to see into my life and how I live with Jesus at the center.
The Dutch have a beautiful tradition whereby most homes have a large picture glass window into their living room. Lovely window displays with flowers, candles and other decorations frame the window, but these large glass panes offer an intimate view into personal space, where residents are gathered in conversation, at meals around the table or simply engaged in the mundane aspects of life, like doing chores.
In North America, most folks cover their windows with curtains or shades. But my wife and I have adopted the Dutch custom with large, open windows into our home and hopefully into our lives allowing others to see the good and the mundane and even the messy at times. But most of all, with the hope people would see Jesus.
We’ve also taken this idea of living our lives “out loud” one step further. We want our neighbors to see Jesus in us. So, we intentionally do a lot in our front yard. In fact, at one house we lived in, the front yard was bigger and better than the back yard, so we played with the kids mostly in the front yard of our home. We’ve met countless neighbors just by being present in our front yard.
In addition, snippets of our conversations, of our play and of our faith have wafted next door and across the street, with the hope that as people watched us live our lives out loud, they’d see Jesus in us in some way.
How are you living your life and faith out loud so others can see Jesus in you?
Make It Plain
My wife and I had the privilege of attending a wonderful Black church in Bakersfield, California for three months while we were in training as overseas missionaries. During the service almost every Sunday, parishioners would call out from the pews, “Make it plain, pastor!” as they encouraged and exhorted the pastor during his sermons to preach with clarity and power.
Sometimes sharing the gospel can seem so complicated. Life is complicated and trying to connect Jesus’ message of love, hope and forgiveness in the midst of life’s messiness can feel rather complex. The gospel though is actually quite simple. My job is to make this simple message plain—clear and powerful.
As Greg Gilbert points out in his book What is the Gospel?, the good news can be summed up in four words—God, people, Jesus, response. That’s it! The gospel begins with God—that he exists and that he wants a relationship with people, which is the second point. People have a problem though—we fall short of God’s standard, what the Bible refers to as sin. But Jesus is the solution to the problem of sin through his death and resurrection. This all requires a response—either to accept it or reject it, or maybe to ponder it some more.
I have found this simple framework of God, people, Jesus, response to be extremely helpful and powerful, and I’ve used it many times as I seek to share the gospel with simplicity and clarity. For example, I wrote out these four words on a napkin along with some simple illustrations as I engaged in a conversation about God with my seatmate during a flight over the Midwest. Soon, he was bowing his head inviting Jesus into his life. Powerful!
How can you use this simple and clear framework of four words to share God’s redemptive message? Not everyone will open their heart to Jesus when you do, but hopefully they’ll have a clearer understanding of the gospel and will be one step closer to God in their spiritual journey.
The third thing I keep in mind is to keep praying! Simply offering to pray for someone can open the door to the gospel. I talk with lots of people whether that’s while running errands, meeting with people for coffee or having a meeting over a meal. I try to be mindful when listening to others for a need or issue I can pray for, and then to take a moment right then and there to pray.
For example, I asked the waitress who was serving me and my friend our meal how we could pray for her. I explained that we are people who prayed and were about to thank God for our meal and wanted to pray for her too, if that would be OK. At first, she was a bit surprised, but quickly expressed a heart-felt sense of thanks and gratitude that we’d pray for her.
I also know prayer taps into God’s power. And so, I keep praying! I pray for the people I meet; I pray for myself—that I would be open and available to be used by God daily; and I pray God would use my words and my life to draw people closer to God in life-changing ways.
How are you praying today? Who are some people you can pray for, and how can you pray for your own openness to be used by God?
Sharing the gospel—it can raise a host of feelings from full-on avoidance to deep excitement and anticipation. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of emotions, let me encourage you to give this simple framework a try—to live out loud, make it plain and keep praying! And as you pray, pray for yourself, that God would grow your confidence and use you in ways you never imagined!
If you want to learn more practical ways to share the good news, check out the Arrow Leadership Program™. It’s an incredible experiential journey that will help you grow as a Jesus-centered leader—as someone who is led more by Jesus, leads more like Jesus and leads more to Jesus.