Have you ever struggled with knowing what to say to a friend who might be going through a difficult time? Maybe you feel like you can’t relate to their situation or you don’t think the words you have are appropriate for the moment. I’ve personally found myself in situations trying to support good friends (both believers and non-believers) who have gone through difficult situations and all I’ve ever known to do is just sit and be quiet. The words just don’t come to me. And while being quiet is not always a bad thing, learning how to fluently speak the gospel in love to these situations could likely prove equally, if not more, beneficial to both us and our friends.
Over the last several weeks, CoMission’s two community groups have been discussing the subject of gospel fluency, applying information from a book titled, Gospel Fluency, written by Jeff Vanderstelt. And interestingly enough, the subject of gospel fluency has tied in perfectly with our practice of B.L.E.S.S., which I talked about in a previous blog post. One of our group discussions back in late September focused on how if we listen carefully to the story of the person we’re engaging with, we might be able to figure out what part of God’s story his/her beliefs or circumstance lines up with. Through this action, we’re practicing the letter L in B.L.E.S.S. which means “listen and engage,” and this could potentially lead to “sharing stories” (the last S of the acronym) with those we’re engaging with.
When it comes to practicing these two B.L.E.S.S. action steps in a gospel-fluent manner, there are two methods that could prove effective in how we do this. Based on the story of the person we’re engaging with, we can start by 1.) sharing something from our story that might have something in common with the other person’s story and then 2.) share what the other person might not yet know or believe, which would be how the good news of Jesus affected that part of our story for the cause of His even greater story.
The apostle Paul gives an example of how to transition from the topic of sharing common ground to sharing about the truth of the gospel. In Acts 14:8-18, the people of Lystra start worshipping Paul and Barnabas after they heal a lame man and Paul says, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God….” As we can see, the common ground is obvious: it’s being human. Shoot, that’s probably the only thing every one of us has in common. Paul then transitions to telling them about the one true God who is worthy of our worship, as compared to the inanimate beings or legendary individuals (regardless of whether dead or alive because they were all imperfect in some form).
Here’s another scenario that might be more relevant to us in the 21st century. Suppose I have a friend who is struggling with loneliness and desperation for a spouse. Since this is something I also struggle with, I can share with the person how I relate BUT I can also transition to sharing how God’s love for me through Jesus is all that truly matters. I could also share how my identity is found in Him and not my marital/family status. Finally, I could encourage the other person by sharing how we can trust in God’s perfect plan for our lives, regardless of whether He makes certain details of that plan clear to us or not.
Another method that we need to make sure we incorporate into these conversations is something Jared Looney from Global City Missions emphasized, depending on how well we know the person we’re talking to. We need to avoid using “Christianese” language (i.e., “led by the Holy Spirit,” “fellowship” or “Lord willing” ) when sharing the gospel with non-believers because they’re not going to understand what we’re talking about. We also need to avoid using this lingo when we’re talking to people we don’t know because how will we know if they are believers (who understand our language) unless we have the opportunity to get to know them better? I realize that in most cases, it’s never safe to just assume something but when it comes to spreading seeds for the sake of the Gospel, it is better to assume every person we meet for the first time is not a believer. Having this awareness in the back of our minds ought to ignite a stronger sense of urgency so we can ensure that the Truth of the Gospel reaches every single person we interact with.
Finally, when it comes to wondering what we can say and when to say it, I want to leave a piece of scripture that the Lord encouraged me to memorize earlier in the spring. Jesus encouraged His disciples in Matthew 10:19-20, “...do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” May the power of God’s gift of His Spirit in us give us the right words at the right time.