Believers often think that to effectively share the gospel they need a logical and persuasive discourse that proves the validity of the faith and convinces their listener to accept Jesus. Since most of us can’t actually pull this off we are left feeling inadequate and hesitant to even try. The Bible shows how the gospel can be presented in a simple, effective manner that every believer can accomplish.
Paul’s Approach To Sharing The Gospel
The apostle Paul was more successful in spreading the gospel to the world of his time than any man who ever lived. While Paul’s calling and grace were unique to him we would all be wise to study and imitate the simplicity with which he shared the gospel.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1Cor 2:1-5)
While many believers aspire to be persuasive and convincing, Paul was actually careful to avoid this approach. If you browse through the book of Acts and study the passages where Paul is presenting the gospel to unbelievers, you will notice that he doesn’t get very complicated in his message. He establishes the authority of God, the authority of Christ, man’s accountability to God, and how man can be reconciled to God through faith and obedience to Jesus. Paul communicates these things in an uncomplicated, straightforward manner, simply proclaiming them as truth.
Why do we feel so strongly that we need to present the gospel in an eloquent manner? Three primary reasons are addressed below.
1 – We Lack Faith In God’s Word
We have a misguided confidence in human wisdom and natural reasoning. We think that a discussion will go much better if we can just throw in some eloquent and persuasive words. We lack confidence in the power of God’s word to bring revelation, conviction, and faith. Coming to Christ is an issue of the heart not the mind and nothing has the power to reach the heart like the word of God.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12 NIV)
I don’t believe we need to be constantly giving direct Bible quotes complete with chapter and verse. I do believe that every Christian is called to be willing and able to communicate Biblical truths about who God is and how fallen man can be reconciled to Him.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15 NIV)
God doesn’t expect everyone to be a world-class theologian but he does expect us to put in the time and effort needed to competently share the truth of His word. Trying to be eloquent is misguided and frustrating. Getting grounded in the word of God is wise and is actually attainable.
2 – We Fear Rejection
If we get honest, the desire to have a logical and intelligent presentation of the gospel is more about us than the unbeliever. Anxiety about how we will be perceived is the real problem. We are fearful that we might look foolish if we simply present the Bible as truth. Looking foolish when sharing the gospel is something we need to get comfortable with because scripture says it is inevitable that some people will see us that way.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor 1:18 NIV)
but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23)
The good news is that if we are rejected for declaring the word of God, Jesus proclaims a blessing over us and also promises that we have an eternal reward in heaven. This is an amazing consolation for looking foolish!
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 NIV)
Scripture says that the fear of man is a snare (Prov 29:25). Worrying about what people think of us, and being afraid that they might actually make fun of us is a bondage. It holds us captive and makes it impossible to speak the word of God freely and boldly. The only cure is to resolve to live for God’s approval alone, and to find courage in the truth that in the end God’s approval is all that matters.
We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thess 2:4 NIV)
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1:10 ESV)
God calls us to be able and willing to present the truth of God’s word. He does not hold us responsible for how people respond. There will be those who respond with faith and humility, and are changed for eternity. There will also be those who reject the message and ridicule us as the messenger. This is not just a possibility, it is promised in the scriptures. In the scripture above, Paul presents an ultimatum; if we are trying to please man we cannot be a servant of Christ. This is huge! This issue has the power to define our life. By God’s grace and strength let us chose to be servants of Christ.
3 – We Don’t Understand Unbelief
It is God’s heart for the lost to hear the gospel message. They must have the word of God presented to them.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Rom 10:14 NIV)
However, if the word of God is presented and they don’t respond positively, we must see this for what it is; this is a faith issue not an intellectual issue. Unbelief must be seen as a choice not as a condition.
…those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thess 2:10 NIV)
There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. (Acts 14:1-2 NIV)
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. (Acts 19:8-9 NIV)
I’m not implying that we should just read John 3:16 to someone and if they don’t receive Jesus on the spot we cross them off our list and move on to someone else. Sometimes God brings people into our life who require years of sharing and being a friend. But we should always be endeavoring to present the word of God to them. As we present truths about God, they will chose either belief or unbelief and eloquent words will not overcome unbelief. Ultimately, this is not an intellectual battle but a spiritual battle and the most powerful weapon we have for spiritual battle is the word of God.
The Danger Of Persuasion
We would be wise to follow Paul’s example of sharing the gospel in a simple and straightforward manner. But the thing that must not be missed is why he choose this approach.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Cor 1:17-18 NIV)
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1Cor 2:4-5)
Paul didn’t chose his method of sharing the gospel just because it seemed the most effective. He choose it because leaning on man’s wisdom and persuasion are dangerous to people’s faith. If people are persuaded by man’s wisdom, that’s where their faith will be. If they are stirred to faith by the word of God and the message of the cross, that’s where their faith will be. Faith in man’s wisdom and ability detracts from faith in God and his power. How people initially come to know Christ will set the tone for the rest of their life. They can start their Christian journey with a strong dependence on man or they can start with faith in the power of God and confidence in the cross of Christ.
Feeling that we must be able to eloquently share the gospel is a burden that paralyzes many believers. Letting go of this approach and learning to depend on the simplicity of the scriptures is incredibly liberating. However, this comes with it’s own challenge. The big challenge becomes getting past our fear of man. I believe when we choose to honor God and put our confidence in his word, the Lord is ready to strengthen us for the task.
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:29, 31 NIV)
Comments and questions are welcome.
Follow me to be notified of new articles.