The title is slightly misleading, I'm not going to chat about the importance of asking thought-provoking questions in evangelism (although this is great approach as I'm sure Randy Newman's 'Questioning Evangelism' book lays out). But rather my continuing questioning about how we 'do' evangelism.
It was really interesting to read my blog post from a couple of years ago. I still really agree that we should share the gospel out of a real sense of God's love for us personally. When we are thrilled by the gospel and feel secure in the knowledge that because we are united to Christ, the Father is utterly besotted with us, our evangelism will be warm, winsome, compelling and will sound like fantastic news! We won't share out of guilt or shame, but out of love for God and the person we are speaking to.
However, I feel like the Spirit has been challenging me recently about the content of the actual message that I've been sharing. I'm all for sharing the gospel creatively and not feeling like we need to stick to one particular gospel outline in order to explain the gospel. I definitely think that we can use a whole host of biblical imagery to explain the gospel - law-breaking/forgiveness from the judge; idolatry/ rescue from the creator; adultery/ reunion with the gracious husband; rebellion/ reconciliation with the loving father; leprosy/ restoration and cleanness from the healer, the list goes on... I don't think we need to limit ourselves to one way of explaining the gospel to feel like we've done it faithfully. I don't think that we need to talk about judgement lots in order for it to qualify as a genuinely evangelistic conversation/ talk. I don't even think we need to explain everything in one sitting, or really comprehensively, or at that very moment ask someone to respond to Jesus in faith and repentance for evangelism to be happening. But with all these caveats, I still have been challenged...
The Spirit has really challenged me about not just about the appealing, wonderful, heart-warming nature of the gospel - the perks, if you like of coming to Jesus. 'Come to Jesus, he really is brilliant! And knowing him will definitely bring joy and blessing now and for eternity. In fact your heart was created to know him.' But also the absolute necessity of the gospel.
The reality is judgement is real and deserved because we are sinful. People need to trust in Jesus' work on the cross in order to be saved. This is a critical part of the gospel to explain clearly. How can someone have a crisis moment where they turn to Jesus for salvation unless they are under no pretensions as to their current predicament?
My brother and his wife became Christians last week at Word Alive. It was the most wonderful thing ever and I'm so thankful to the Lord!
We had the great joy as a family of being involved in their journey to faith - my husband being able to answer some of their difficult questions, myself being able to give a couple of talks at the 'Just Looking' course for seekers, and my parents being able to pray with them as Jeanne gave her life to Christ. What a privilege!
However what the whole experience revealed to me was how difficult and painful I found presenting certain truths to them. It was hard to tell them about our sinfulness, Christ's undeserved death on the cross for us and God's eternal judgement for those who don't accept Jesus.
However they needed to see their necessity for Jesus, and not just that - it was so clear that the Spirit was at work in them bringing them to faith, when they responded positively to what was being said. That 'it makes sense' that we are sinful and deserve punishment, but amazing that Jesus pays it for us! It was amazing seeing the gospel message - the offensive gospel message, actually bringing conviction for sin, followed by faith and repentance, not offence and rejection. The gospel is the stench of death to some and the aroma of life to others - I really feel like I saw that firsthand last week.
So where does this leave me now?
Well I still feel committed to gentle, compassionate, winsome and creative gospel presentations - but the content does need, as a vital part of the process, to clearly present people's absolute need for Jesus, and the consequence of rejecting his offer of salvation.
What I found helpful in sharing the hard stuff of the gospel, was telling my brother and sister-in-law that I was really nervous about sharing this stuff with them, and that I personally find some of these things difficult to accept at times. I think that helped them - in fact my brother (pre-becoming a Christian) said that he understood how hard it must have been for us as a family to believe this stuff with him not being a Christian - then he gave his life to Jesus that night.
Praise the Lord that he uses our stumbling words and fearful efforts to bring people to himself. I don't suppose we need to have a sorted and super polished approach to evangelism in order to be used by God - and that's probably the whole point.
2 Corinthians 4:1-7
4 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeingthe light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.