evangelism

Communicating the Gospel: Speaking understandably

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” 1 Corinthians  14:8

trumpet

I don’t profess to be the expert on this subject but I’m sure you will agree its pretty serious and it requires quite a bit of thought. In a previous generation, if an army didn’t get the correct trumpet signal they wouldn’t be ready to fight, confusion would reign and perhaps a defeat would occur. How much more serious is this home-truth in how we spread the gospel of Christ to those who don’t know it?  If we don’t tell the people clearly they may perish forever.

Many of us have sat in Gospel meetings (“Evangelistic Services”) which have started with a speaker reading a difficult portion and failing to explain anything remotely akin to the gospel for the rest of the message, thus leaving the non-Christian (and sometimes well-read Christians) scratching their heads, and no more enlightened.

Think of the words of the wise Preacher of Ecclesiastes.

And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.
The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.  Ecclesiastes 12:9-11

It ill-becomes us to ignore how we present the message of Christ. We should remember that when the Lord spoke the “common (ordinary) people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:47) that is, no doubt, partly because He used language and illustrations that they connected to.

He spoke to people from a rural background, so his illustrations were often about nature such as: seeds, birds, lilies, foxes, or sheep. Or about agriculture such as: farmers, shepherds, sowing, reaping or vineyards. The illustrations and parables were of a rustic simplicity and yet with a deep and profound moral or spiritual meaning. He connected with His audience by using language and illustrations that they could relate to.

He spoke words of tenderness, that were true to the need at hand. We love to dwell on the servant songs of Isaiah, which relate to the Messiah, and so we listen in as he says ”  “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary” (Isaiah 50:4). He connected with His audience because He had spent time before His God and Father, and so he related to their specific need. The Lord GOD gave Him (in that human sense), the tongue of the instructed One. He had a word from heaven just to the need of the audience – whether that was one person sitting at a well or five thousand sitting in a wilderness. He had a word in season for the weary. Oh, that I might be the same! Let us pray that the Lord gives us a ready tongue – He who formed the mouth can certainly help us in this area.

The Lord also approached each situation with each audience thinking about the need of the audience. He often “answered the questioner rather than the question” (Ravi Zacharias). He connected with His audience because he wasn’t sidetracked by the smoke-screen that they put up.

Think of John 3 and John 4 for a moment.

In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Christ speaking as a teacher to a teacher. “Rabbi  we know..” (John 3:1) He presents the Lord Jesus with his knowledge, but the Lord answers him not according to his knowledge but according to his need.  Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The Lord, in effect says, you can have all the religion that you like, but if you haven’t been born again it will not matter how you dress it up. Flatter didn’t stop Him from telling the truth, and the straight truth at that. Religion never saved a man yet.

The Lord approaches the woman  at the well in a different way (John 4). She was, it appears, dissatisfied (5 husbands and 1 not a husband!), so the Lord speaks about water that can satisfy forever.  He gently leads her to admit her sinfulness and unfolds who He is to her. How beautiful, but also how different to the previous chapter.

So the Lord Jesus, the true “Prince of Preachers”, connected with His audience because he spoke to their heart’s condition, and wasn’t distracted by other side-issues. 

May the Lord help us to try, by his grace, to be like our Lord. Bringing the profound truths of the gospel into straight-forward illustrations, and understandable words. Spending time before our Father asking Him for “the tongue of the instructed”. So that, taking each situation as we find it, we might not be blinded by the smoke-screen that people put up, but rather might have the word, from His word, for their heart’s condition.