1 Corinthians 2:1-2 “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
There are so many distractions in life. The busier you are, the less it seems you get accomplished. If you try and slow down, there is always something that comes along and beckons you to go faster.
Peace is rare in a world that thrives on Chaos.
When Paul would travel from town to town, spreading the gospel and connecting in local synagogues, he recognized the ease by which he could become entrapped by the world. There is always an event, a need, a protest, a political movement, or simply some social group that is wanting your time. Now, each of these topics can be pressing and should be addressed in their right time, they are part of life and if we are too narrow in our approach, we might miss opportunities. What Paul is recognizing is the necessity to stay focused on the goal.
1 Corinthians 2:4 "My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power."
One attribute of sharing the gospel is the risk of being pulled down a rabbit trail. I was warned of this in my training when studying Ray Comfort and Mark Pence “Biblical school of Evangelism” course. The idea is that we don’t get much time with people while sharing the gospel and if we aren’t careful, our conversation might take us down a path contrary to where we hoped it would go.
A couple years ago a brother in Christ named George was walking with me, sharing the gospel on a Friday night. We were moving up and down the streets of Olympia, through parking lots, behind buildings, and right into a group of people that had left a wedding party. George wanted to see a technique I was using so he stood back and watched as I approached one of the guys in the group. I had an illusion gospel tract I would use to draw people’s interest and then I would parlay that example into an illustration on how there is an illusion in how we see ourselves as good.
These gospel tracts are a great ice breaker and are effective in drawing interest from people who are already a little suspect of two people randomly walking up to them and starting a conversation.
As I worked through my gospel presentation, I began to initiate interest from different people in the group. One would comment on the path of the moral law I was taking them through, another would make a mocking gesture while someone else would be examining the Book of John I had offered them. As I was reaching the apex of my presentation that ends with Jesus and His redeeming power, I was interrupted by a question.
“What about evolution, do you really believe it’s not true?”
Now, I enjoy illustrating the many pitfalls of evolution, the completely false premise it was built upon, and the overwhelming lack of evidence by which it is purportedly supported by, but now wasn’t the time to start that dialogue. I knew from experience my audience wouldn’t allow me to go that deep into that discussion, I would lose people one by one as we delved into the myriad of pathways it could lead. The importance of illustrating the gospel took precedent at that moment, I had to assume they had never really heard the gospel in the way I was illustrating it to them at that moment.
The effectiveness of sharing the gospel is reliant upon staying true to the message, giving respect to the hearer but not allowing yourself to being pulled down a rabbit trail of conversation, and leaving opportunity for the Spirit of God to work in their lives after I leave.
The Moral law is the means by which Jesus is magnified.
Sometimes, when sharing the moral law in evangelism, people are so convicted by sin they begin crying as I’m speaking to them. The hopelessness of the law leads to the glorious hope that only Jesus provides. Other times, the defiance in a person’s heart doesn’t allow me to share the good hope that is to come and I lose my opportunity to speak further. Those in rebellion simply walk away and refuse to listen any further, sometimes they begin to defend themselves, and other times they turn up their music or just interrupt with accusation.
Galatians 3:14 "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
There was a time when I would reach the end of my week and think to myself that if I hadn’t shared the gospel to at least 100 people that week, it was a failed week. I met so many people from so many different points of view that I began to get better at my presentation. I learned how to address their concerns and then get back on track to the gospel message. If they had an underlying problem that had never been addressed, I would sometimes spend more time on addressing the concern before moving forward. There were times when they had some spiritual encounter they wanted to share with me, heartache from their childhood that left scars, or some false understanding of christianity that had galvanized their hatred for God.
When I met someone a second time, this brought more opportunity to continue a conversation in deeper measure. Usually, my encounters were singular events and so I determined that if I only had one chance to connect with someone, the purest form of the gospel is the message I want to leave with them.
The key to sharing the gospel effectively is walking in the Spirit.
No matter how well I’ve refined my message, how much experience I have in illustrating truth, or how dynamic my personality may be, if I am not walking in the Spirit, the message comes across like rancid water; stale, lifeless, and bitter to the taste.
Galatians 5:25 "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
I must begin each day with prayer. If the Spirit of God hasn’t prepared the way, the way is difficult. If I am not filled with the Spirit, I come across as offensive and my message lacks life. I know very quickly when I haven’t gone out with a right spirit. If I have unresolved sin in my life, if I neglect prayer or forget that it is God working through me, I see very quickly how dead my message really is. It feels like jumping into a fast moving river and attempting to walk upstream, it continually presses against me and the effort to move is slow and with much effort. When I go forth in the Spirit, the direction I go is with the river, the Spirit of God carries me where He wants me to go, the effort is easy, and the power of God supplies my journey.
When I go in the Spirit, I am always effective.
2 Corinthians 13:4 “For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.”
Effectiveness is not determined by your ability to reason, the delivery of your message, or finding just the right person to connect with. Effectiveness in sharing the gospel is solely upon the Spirit of God working through you. There were many times I would go downtown to an area known for homelessness and blatant drug use. I would share the gospel with anyone that would listen, but over time they didn’t want to hear it again. There were moments when I would be standing in the middle of the square wondering why God called me down there that day and someone would just come around the corner, walk up to me and the Lord would give me another opportunity to share the gospel.
I simply don’t have enough room on this blog to share the incredible moments I witnessed God’s power working through me for the moment. Every day I wrestled with fear, fear that it just wouldn’t go as well as it did the day before, fear that I would be rejected, ridiculed, or incite some form of anger against me for the message of Christ. Every day, the Lord was as faithful that day as He was the day before, He never left me nor was I forsaken.
Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The goal of God's people are to be Jesus to the world. We must strive to walk in righteousness, the image we present must be an image the world can't just step over and move on. The lives you come into contact with each day are the people you are called to be a testimony to. Pray before each day, ask God to open doors to share the gospel with others and watch God work! He will endow you with power, His Power, and your message will carry the weight of the Spirit of God.