This is the fourth part of five in a series of posts about our desire to develop a culture of evangelism. These posts cover points in our recent sermon from Acts on the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch which focused on sharing the Gospel and having an evangelistic culture in our church. You can watch that sermon here if you need a review or were not in attendance. So far in these posts I have discussed ideas for evangelistic prayer, relationship building, and ideas for loving engagement to move people toward the Gospel. In this post I want to move us toward actually having conversations where the Gospel is shared with our friends, neighbors, and family.
I remember trying to teach our kids to dive into the swimming pool when they were younger. All of the Hubbard kids love swimming. Both their parents and grandparents had them in the pool before they were a year old. In fact, going to the YMCA or Maplewood Pool was an activity “Mimi and Papa” did with the kids virtually every time they visited. They liked jumping off the diving board and even being thrown in the air by their dad, grandpa, and eventually older brother. Teaching them how to dive was a natural progression for their enjoyment of and skills around water. Parents, you know the drill here. Diving is not complex. Stand them on the side of the pool, tell them to put their hands above their head, and then lean over the water, and jump in head first. Diving is simple and straight forward. So after a little coaching we would get their feet on the edge of the pool and have them assume the position. Inevitably though, taking the leap of actually going in head first was somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes they would just freeze, other times they would get in position only to start the jump but call an audible at the last second and go in feet first (usually still in the diving position). Other times the indecision lead to a belly flop which made the fear a bit worse. For a few of our kids it actually took several trips to the pool before they could muster the courage to lean in and do a dive. Our kids needed two things. First was the actual understanding of how to dive, they needed a little training. Second, they needed the confidence and courage to get to the edge of the pool, lean forward, and make it happen. No, their first dives did not look like Greg Louganis, rather their first attempts were a bit of awkward, barely getting their head and hands in first, feet spread wide. But over time they all figured it out. And eventually through practice and repetition they were even able to dive from the high dive at Maplewood Pool.
Often, in our attempts to share Jesus with friends, family, and neighbors, we resemble kids learning to dive. We might pray for those who do not follow Jesus, build intentional relationships, and even move those conversations in the direction of spiritual things. Metaphorically we get our feet right up to the edge of the pool. But when it is time for us to take the leap fear of failure and rejection combined with a lack of confidence has us frozen on the edge of the pool or calling a mid-air audible and switching topics instead of sharing the actual Gospel. All of us need some training so we are comfortable with what to do and then confidence and courage to actually put our head down and jump when we get to the edge of the pool.
The first thing we need as a church and individuals is to get some training to know how to actually and authentically share the Gospel of Jesus. The Elders have had conversations about providing some evangelistic training in the future and we are discussing options for this. But this post is designed to give you a little bit of preparation and an encouragement to choose a method, do some practice, and then give it a try. I also believe there are two key components in developing the skill to share Jesus. The first is the development of our own faith story or your personal testimony. By sharing your story you can present the basic ideas in the Gospel in a less threatening way as you tell people how you came to faith in Jesus and what His saving presence in your life means. The second component is to learn a simple format to share the Gospel itself, the basic story of Christ’s redemption.
Sharing your faith story
Every believer in Jesus has a story of how they came to faith. This story involves both a journey and an event. The journey on some level involves who you were before you came to Christ, and the process of God’s work moving you in the direction of knowing Him. But then, at some point, someone shared the Gospel with you and you repented and trusted in Jesus. Since that day you have had a journey with Jesus and the life-change that comes through knowing Him. The challenge here is to think about your own journey and moment, even writing it down, and developing it into a narrative of grace that you can share confidently with others. Once you have thought through your faith story and started to memorize how you can share it, you might even hang out with some Christian friends and practice sharing it in a setting that is safe for a first (and second, third…) try. I would encourage the following outline with sub-points. Once you are comfortable, you might even work on a one minute, three minute, and five minute version of your story so you can adapt it to different settings.
1. My life and attitude before I met Jesus – Begin by sharing a bit about who were you before you trusted in Jesus and the process God used to move you toward the need for Jesus. Some of us were young, others adults. No two stories will be alike, yet we there are some common elements. Here are some suggested aspects to share these that should be included.
- A set of beliefs and values that were handed down to you – whether you grew up in a religious irreligious setting, who you were was shaped by the beliefs and values that were given to you. These shaped who you were and how you viewed the world, and your understanding of purpose in life.
- A bit about who you were – Include a few details about who you from birth, and especially who you were and what was going on in the era of life before your conversion.
- The realization of your sin and that you were a sinner – While there is no need for graphic detail, don’t skip this. Awareness of your sin is a significant aspect in how the Holy Spirit draws us to our need for a Savior. By confessing that you are a sinner in the context of a conversation about faith, and the knowledge that your sin separated you from God, you actually create a safe path for the consideration of this issue with the person you are sharing. In other words, we have to get to the point where we tell people about sin and the need from forgiveness. But which is easier to say? “You are a sinner and you need Jesus.” Or, “I realized that I had disobeyed God and lived in a way that was against His purpose for me. This led me to know that I needed a Savior.” You don’t have to share all the specifics and failures, although if there was a significant area of sin in your life that was a major part of your journey to Jesus you might share that. The key is the realization that your sin left you separated from God, broken as a person, and outside of the family of faith.
- Some details about the journey toward Jesus that God used to lead you to faith – If you were a kid and your parents took you to church, share that. Or if a friend invited you to church one day, talk about that. Maybe you had a life crisis that caused you to search and question your meaning. Something and someone got you thinking and exploring spiritual questions.
2. I had a life changing experience – While you may not use these exact words (although it is not a bad transition), somehow you want to communicate that there was a moment when you heard the Gospel and believed. Some components of that.
- Where were you and who was it that proclaimed Christ? Were you in a church service or camp and heard it from the preacher? Or maybe having coffee with a friend? Maybe a parent shared Jesus with you in your home.
- A simple statement of the Gospel. Tell your friend that you heard that Jesus was the Son of God who came to earth to offer us a relationship with our Creator, that he died on the cross for your sin, and that He rose again on the third day.
- Acknowledging the work of the Spirit within – I would also encourage you to share a brief statement that expresses how God was speaking to you in the moment. You might say, “I knew at that moment God was speaking to me.” Or, “I could feel the love of God for me in a way I never realized before.” Or “All the things I had heard about Jesus before now made sense to me.”
- Your response – Share how you responded in faith. Each person’s response is different, so share the aspects of your moment that are yours alone. Yet, your journey does include repentance of sin, trusting in what Jesus did on the cross for you, and the surrendering of your life to Jesus as your Lord or King.
3. Your life and attitudes after you met Jesus – Share a few thoughts about how coming to Jesus has impacted your life. Some elements you might included.
- Some thoughts about the Christian life as a journey of knowing Jesus and having Him in your life.
- Honesty about struggles and doubts, yet with statements about how your faith and faith community have helped you navigate life in different ways.
- Share one or two benefits of faith that are meaningful. Those include the reality that you have been forgiven, the fact that you know you are loved by God and included in His family, the promise of heaven, the assurance that you are never forsaken or alone in trials. So many more, choose one or two.
- The final step in your story is a question that hopefully can lead to a Gospel presentation. At the end of your story simply ask, “Has anything like this ever happened for you?”
So here is the challenge. Write out your story, learn it, and then practice sharing it. This is a first step in moving our conversations from the edge of the pool and into a dive.
Learning to share a simple Gospel presentation
The next step then, is to learn a simple way to actually share the Gospel. There are a bunch of tools and Gospel presentations you can learn. There are now websites and apps dedicated to training you and for use in a conversation. There are tracts (small paper booklets) that you can carry in a purse or wallet that you can pull out at any time and use to walk someone through the Gospel. There are diagrams and images you can draw to illustrate our need for Jesus, His death and resurrection, and our response. If you already have a simple way you have learned, use it. If not, I want to point you toward two sets of resources, both of which have apps and other available tools at your fingertips. A little bit of browsing and video watching coupled with some practice and you will be able to share the Gospel using one of these tools. And you can share either with the help of your phone or a tract, or without it in your own words. All I am going to do here is point you in the direction of these two resources. I want to strongly encourage you to spend time on one of both of the websites and figure out which fits you the best, then spend time learning it and again practicing using the resource so you can share Jesus.
The Story (click here for link) – This Gospel presentation uses the grand story of the Bible and the four key themes to lead people to Jesus. Those themes are:
- Creation – introduces God, His design and purpose for us, and the harmony of all things in original creation
- The Fall – shows us how our disobedience has led to deep consequences and our need for a Savior
- The Rescue – points to Jesus as revealed in all of Scripture as God’s path to rescue and redemption
- The Restoration – reveals how faith in Jesus makes us new people and give us the promise of eternity
The website and available app for this Gospel presentation has a myriad of resources designed to make sharing the Gospel accessible and fairly simple. First of all, they have a video you could use, making taking the dive easy. The video explains the Gospel using these points in a visually beautiful animation. You can literally ask a person to watch the video with you at a coffee table or text it to them, ask them to watch, and follow up. They also have other videos that apply the key themes and ideas to some of people’s biggest questions and realities. Second, they have a tract (small booklet) version of the Gospel presentation. This tract is available in paper format and also through the app or website. They also have a myriad of other helpful things that are designed to train you or make it easy to share with others. These include several resources and videos designed to share on social media or via text to others.
The Three Circles (click here for link) – This evangelism presentation uses a simple visual illustration of three circles to explain the Gospel. Since it is a visual (see below to view an illustration), it can be easy to learn and remember, and simple to share. Three Circles also has a very good website and app with resources designed both to train you and to be used in a Gospel conversation. I know of many people who have begun using this simple to remember and recreate Gospel presentation with some amazing stories of success.
Of course there are other methods and tools you can use to share Jesus with people. Here are Genesis we have been using this image for years, which shares the story of God’s redemption speaking of Jesus coming and living the perfect life, dying on the cross for our sins, rising on the third day, ascending to be our King, and the promise that He will return. This is a great and simple tool that any of us can draw on a small piece of paper or napkin, or just show on a bracelet as we walk through the basic story of Jesus.
My point here is simple. In order to authentically share the Gospel we need a little training, some work in developing a clear and simple way to share the Gospel with others. We need to get familiar, comfortable, and gain confidence to share the method we choose and learn. It will take some work, but that work is so worth it. Without this development and training, well, no way we dive. Then, once we learn to use a tool we need to practice our presentation and develop boldness, stepping to the edge of the pool in a relationship with those who do not follow Jesus and gaining the courage to dive by sharing our faith story and presenting the glorious good news of Jesus to people. Lets stop getting to the edge of the pool only to call and audible or get frozen there. May God give us the boldness, knowledge, and presence of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with anyone who will listen.
Three Circles illustration