Q: Why do you think our conversations about Jesus sometimes feel forced?
Relationship and listening are key to how we interact with friends. We need to go in without an agenda. We sacrifice relationship and future conversations by trying to get all the Good News into one conversation. Not to downplay the urgency of the gospel and that every moment without Jesus is a loss, but we should assume that we are going to be in a continuing relationship with a person rather than doing an information dump.
Q: Evangelism training often focuses on theological points. Why is it important for us to be in touch with our own experience of Good News, in addition to the theology?
The theology of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf is Good News, but we are removed from it. People want to know what God has done for you lately and if you can’t answer that question, why should they listen? God’s activity in your life right now is compelling and provocative. The issue of what happens after you die may not seem as important to someone considering Jesus.
Q: Why is it important to contextualize the message of Jesus for our friends?
When Paul is talking to the Greeks in Athens (Acts 17), twice he quotes Greek philosophers and poets regarding Zeus. He isn’t afraid to talk about the theology of their city and respect what is true in their own philosophy. Then he tells them that there is so much more. Rather than telling someone everything that they believe is wrong, let’s highlight what is true and what we have in common and then share about what else is true. This context helps move them forward in understanding the Good News about God and Jesus.
Q: It seems obvious that we should avoid Christian jargon, and yet we still use “Christian” words, why?
Christian expressions provide simplicity of communications for an “in group.” It’s when we start using insider language with outsiders that it become destructive. If we have been in Christian circles for many years, we don’t even notice how unusual our language is—words like “Lord” and “redeem.”
Recently I heard someone respond to the concept of “redeem” with this question: “What, am I like a coupon that you would redeem me?” The only usage of the word redeem that he had ever heard was for coupons.
Jesus as Lord can sound terrifying to a young person. Their usage of the word “Lord” is associated with the Dark Lord Voldemort (from the Harry Potter books), and that isn’t an inviting concept. We need to carefully think through the implications of the words we use to share the Good News.
Q: How do we keep from making evangelism a program?
We focus on a program when we want efficiency. Relationships are not efficient, but we can see growth and transformation over time.
It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), so we need to reflect this kindness in our relationships and focus on understanding and responding to the needs of an individual person. That takes time and relationships are messy.
So much of what we’ve done regarding evangelism is to make people feel guilty that they don’t do it more. We need to think of evangelism as participating with God in sharing Good News about Jesus, the most fascinating person in history.
Matt Mikalatos lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and three daughters.
“Every time you see a tattoo this week, ask the person, ‘Why is that significant to you?’ It’s one of the greatest entrances to deep conversation that I know.”