Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Pet 3:13-16).
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col 4:5-6).
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim 1:5-9).
“Preach the Gospel!” It’s a phrase I hear over and over and over again. Many career preachers in particular enjoy using that term.
How do you picture “preaching the Gospel?” When you read those words, what image comes to mind?
For me—and I think for most Christians in America—I see someone standing in front of a crowd shouting about Jesus. That seems to be our cultural association with that term. But I think it means much more than that.
There is certainly a place for sharing the Gospel that way. Particularly in ancient culture, when public teaching was a much more common practice than it is now. And more recent centuries: it was often the style of many of the Great Awakenings, particularly those that gave birth to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.
But because it is our common cultural picture—and because our culture has by and large reacted extremely negatively to those associated with that style of preaching—many of you no longer feel like you know how to preach the Gospel. You know that you should, but you don’t know how you’re supposed to do it without acting crazy or shoving Jesus down someone’s throat.
So you don’t bring up your faith up as much, even when prompted. You get into the situation I talked about last week: you only act when you’re certain it’s the Spirit’s leading, and which trains you to not listen, and so you become comfortably numb.
But what did Paul tell Timothy above? God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Because God’s Spirit is with you, you must not be ashamed of sharing the Gospel.
And preaching the Gospel is so much more than standing somewhere and shouting about Jesus!
Take me for example. I am a career missionary, leading the international ministry at my campus. I share Christ as much as I can. But I hardly ever get up in front of people and talk. Only at our monthly large group gathering do I do anything that could be remotely associated with that picture of preaching the Gospel. But I don’t stand, I don’t shout, and I don’t just talk—it’s interactive.
I preach the Gospel constantly, but I hardly do anything that looks like our concept of “preaching.”
Instead, I spend time with people. I have made it clear that (a) I am a Christian, (b) I love them, (c) I want them to be Christian, too, because (d) again, I love them. I’m not always talking about God. I don’t drag the conversation to Jesus and theology and so on. And these people know: they aren’t projects; they’re my friends.
And because they’re my friends, and because they know what I’m about, they feel comfortable talking about God with me. They bring it up naturally. Or sometimes that’s just where the conversation goes. We’ll talk about the situation in Syria and Iraq (because I have people in my group from that area), and it’s quite natural to talk about the Christian response to such things. So I get to share Christ.
And yes, sometimes I feel the Spirit prompt me to bring up the Gospel at times it doesn’t feel quite as natural. And at times like that, I take a risk. People may respond badly to it. But how people respond isn’t my burden; following the Spirit’s leading is. It may or may not have been the Spirit’s leading, but I’m going to take that chance because I’d much rather follow the Spirit than not.
If there is just one thing to take away from this, I would say it’s simply this: Don’t overthink sharing the Gospel. Relax!
If you’re friends with people, they know that you value them, and they know that you believe in Christ. Follow the Spirit’s leading. Don’t become numb to the Spirit for the sake of your own comfort. Be bold. Share your view on things as a Christian. Share how Christ has changed your life. If they’re your friends—if they love you—they will be interested to hear! Just as you are interested to hear their perspective, because you love them!