I remember the first time I tried to share the gospel like it was yesterday. I had recently become a follower of Jesus and I knew, almost instantly, who I was supposed to share with – someone I’ve known most of my life. With a lump in my throat, I stuttered and stammered my way through my testimony, the gospel, and asked for a response. That person looked at me and calmly said, “Get the [explicitive] out of here. I don’t want your Jesus drug!” I was a little shaken to say the least! Have you had that kind of response before? We’ve all seen people hear and respond to the gospel, but we’ve also seen many who hear and for whatever reason, choose to reject it. Are there things we can do to create an environment in order for people to hear and receive the gospel? We’ve noticed on our campus that there are three things that we can do in order to help people come to Christ.
SHARE THE RIGHT MESSAGE
This is going to sound over-simplistic, but we have got to get the gospel right! The gospel is God’s greatest gift to a fallen world so we have to make sure we present it! If our message isn’t God’s salvation to sinful, fallen man through Christ and Christ alone, then no wonder people are not becoming Christ followers! Bill Hybels in Becoming a Contagious Christian writes that clear communication is a vital role. Without a clear gospel presentation there can be no receiving of the gospel. Unless I give you a gift how can you receive it from me? What is it that Paul writes in Romans 10? How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
How are we preparing our students to share the message? We need to make sure that our students know the gospel forwards and backwards. The gospel is what we need to continually bring our students back to. If our students are familiar enough with the truth then they can easily recognize when something is off. Isn’t that how they train money handlers? They don’t teach them what fake dollar bills feel like, they make sure they are familiar with the real deal so the moment they come into contact with the counterfeit they recognize it. It feels different. It looks different. This is what the Galatians struggled with. They didn’t have the message clear so when the counterfeit came they accepted it. This is why Paul scolds them with “you foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” If we don’t share the right message, how can someone receive it?
USE THE APPROPRIATE METHOD
If the message of the gospel is the gift, think of the method as the wrapping paper. Different people respond to different ways of sharing the gospel. During Spring Break we partner with several ministries and do Beach Reach on South Padre Island ministering to spring breakers by providing free pancakes and van rides in hopes of sharing the gospel with them. It’s a great opportunity! Outside the main bar a group sets up with a bullhorn and literally screams the gospel at people! They say things like: “Jesus is the only way to heaven!” “If you don’t accept Jesus then you’re going to hell!” “The drunkard and the sexual immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God!” “Repent and be baptized!” Now, are all of those things accurate? Of course. They had the message right, but the method doesn’t connect with most people. In fact, it was more destructive than helpful to many of the students we ministered to on the island. Method matters!
Just like certain people respond to different kinds of correction or they give or receive love differently, they often are responsive to the gospel differently. Sitting one person down and talking through how cruddy their sin makes them and their need to repent may help them understand the message better while for others need to understand that God is the Good Father and wants to bring them back into the family. How are we equipping our students to be able to share the gospel in a variety of methods? How can we help them have several tools in the toolbelt in order to help explain and share the gospel with their campus and their families?
BE THE FAITHFUL MESSENGER
The gift we present is the gospel. The method we present has bearing on whether people receive it or not. Finally, the messenger carries enormous weight. I once listened to an enormously overweight preacher preach on how we are suppose to discipline our bodies and say no to the flesh. Honestly, I had a hard time with it. The message was spot on, the method was good, but I had a hard time accepting the messenger so I blew the whole thing off! He didn’t practice what he preached and the entire audience were all aware of it!
Sometimes our ungospel actions speak so loud that people can’t hear our gospel words! How are we training our students to live lives of integrity so that when they share, people hear the gospel in word and see the gospel in deed? Are we focusing on solely their outward results-based Christian disciplines or are we helping them walk in personal holiness as well?
Living a righteous life doesn’t guarantee us a voice in people’s lives though. Sometimes, we just aren’t the right person to share the gospel with a person. Maybe its because of a common history, a perceived wrong or maybe it’s just because they are family. You been there? Jesus has. How many times did his family come to get him? How many times did they think he was crazy? He went as far as to say that a prophet is without honor in his hometown! Sometimes the most evangelistic thing we can do is realize we aren’t getting anywhere is to realize we need to start being the server and the prayer-er, not always the sharer. That doesn’t mean we give up hope on that person! One of the most comforting things about Jesus’ family story is that while they thought he was crazy and didn’t believe him, two of them ended up writing books of the Bible! Somewhere along the line, the gospel won out!
Students walk our campuses everyday without the gospel interrupting their lives. How can we train our students, model evangelism for them, and cheer them on to be the faithful messenger, using the appropriate method, sharing the correct message?