Sharing Faith in a Way that Connects Part 1

I am working on a series of articles on the subject of effective gospel communication. Good communication is everything. Sydney J. Harris said, “the two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through. As Christians, our responsibility to announce good news is not to give out information. No, we’re called to share the gospel in a way that gets through. We’re not called to be conduits of information, but incarnation—so people can touch, feel, and experience the love and life of Jesus Christ. You would think that communicating the gospel would be easier in our social media age. However, in many ways, it has become harder. People are bombarded with so much information, constantly, that we seem to have learned how to block more information out. We get so spammed by unimportant information it is easy to miss the important stuff. This is why learning to communicate the gospel is more essential now than ever before. In the introduction of his book “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” John Maxwell tells the of one of his fans asking him what he thinks about before speaking to a group of people. “I think about the people” Maxwell responds. “Great communication doesn’t begin with WHAT you say, as much as WHO you say it to, and WHO you say it for.”  The same goes for effective gospel communication. In this first article, we’re going to learn the two most important details when delivering the good news, the two “who’s” of effective gospel communication.

Who #1, (sounds like The Cat in the Hat) is the audience we’re communicating to. We need to know our audience. We can have the best content in the world, (we do) or the best delivery style, but unless we think about the people we’re communicating to it won’t connect. Effective gospel communicators understand that people are the priority. They don’t let their politics, preference, or potency become the focus of their discourse. It’s all about the people! Think about the people you are talking to. What are their hopes, dreams, and fears? Good gospel communicators are good listeners. Too often we are giving answers to questions people are not even asking—because we fail to listen. Too often we assume we know what people need. We assume we understand them. We assume we know that segment of the population and can communicate the gospel to them the way we’ve always done with everyone else. Instead of assuming we know what people need, or what that population segment believes—because remember the problem with assuming— start listening. Stop assuming and start learning. If we just listened more we would connect more. An American psychologist by the name of Rollo May said, “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” Nothing communicates to someone that you value them like sacrificing your time to listen. In recovery meetings, they have a saying, “take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.” That’s simple, but not easy, don’t confuse simple with easy. 

Effective gospel communication recognizes the significant differences between different people, cultures, and ethnic groups. Os Guiness said, “Jesus never spoke to two people the same way, and neither should we. Every single person is unique and individual and deserves an approach that represents that uniqueness.” There is no one way of delivery that is going to communicate the same way to everybody. Timothy Keller in his Book Center Church makes the statement, “We need to stretch as much as we can to be as inclusive as possible. But we must also be aware of our limits. We should not live in the illusion that we can share the gospel so as to make it all things to all people at once. as soon as we seek to communicate, we will automatically be making all sorts of cultural moves. When we choose a particular way to communicate, we will unavoidably be adapting more to some kinds of people than to others. Lack of cultural awareness leads to distorted Christian living and ministry.”  God may not be calling you to communicate to a particular person or people group, he may be calling you to become a facilitator of communication by connecting them with someone who can more effectively communicate the gospel. Whether it’s you, or someone else, if you’re facilitating better connection, then you are becoming more effective at gospel communication.

Bottom line, we don’t want people leaving our churches, or conversations, thinking “what an amazing communicator” but rather “what an amazing God.” Think of all the time we invest thinking about ourselves, our delivery, our content, and research (all of which are important). Think of some of the reasons we often give as to why we don’t share our faith, initiate a bible study, host a small group, or plan an evangelism series? “I” 

  • “I can’t do that.” 
  • “What if I mess it up”
  • “What if I don’t say the right thing”
  • “I’m not a good speaker” 

Remember, It’s not about you!! It is about the people you’re talking to. Focus on them a little more, and on yourself a little less, and I promise you will see greater effectiveness in your communication. It’s not about you, it is about the people you are talking to. “Get over yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Be yourself so you can get over yourself”

This leads to Who #2 of effective gospel communication. In Exodus when Moses tells God why he can’t communicate with Pharaoh and Egypt, (I,I,I). God essentially tells him, “yeah, but I can.” God’s response to Moses’ “I can’t” was “I AM.”  Effective gospel communication doesn’t rely on natural ability, giftedness, research, or hard work, (all of which are important) but upon God. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts. It is the Holy Spirit that communicates and translates the deepest yearnings and groanings of our hearts to God. As the theologian, Dallas Willard put it, “One of the greatest joys came when I got up from the chair to walk to the podium and the Lord said to me “now remember, it’s what I do with the word between your lips and their hearts that matters.”

However, not only does good gospel communication focus on the people, and rely on God’s power, it points people to the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “when I am lifted up, that’s when people start showing up” It’s not our delivery, but Christ’s deliverance, that people want. We need greater gospel clarity. The gospel is liberating, not burdensome. Good gospel communication is good news. I don’t know how someone can make good news sound like bad news but I have met some preachers and people who can. People should leave our presence feeling better than they did when they got there. The Bible is not an owner’s manual or a book of rules, it is a love story of a God who gave everything in order to rescue and re-create humanity. We are not saved because of what we do or do not do but because of what Christ did, is doing, and will continue to do in the lives of his people. The gospel does not say, “obey and be accepted, it is I am accepted by grace and therefore I obey” It is a response, not a requirement.

The founder of every other religion, including humanism, says, “this is the way.” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He didn’t we could come to the Father by a particular rule, teaching, ethic, or doctrine —but by Him, a particular Person. Effective gospel communication is not about WHAT you say, or HOW you say it, but about WHO you are speaking to, (their needs, hopes, fears, and dreams). And WHO you are pointing them to, the Person that ultimately fulfills all of those things.

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