(*) Thankfully, it is much easier than that!
Not long ago I was explaining the Christian faith to someone and they said that nobody ever explained it so clearly before. While that is a very gracious compliment to me, I couldn’t help think of it as a charge against every other Christian this person has met. I know for a fact that at other times I, too, have not been clear.
Yes, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who opens the ears of the hearer, but from the opening pages of the book of Acts onward, we see that those who proclaim Christ do so in the power of the Holy Spirit and with human clarity. So how do we do this? Here are some thoughts:
1. Know the Gospel Message. Sometimes we might nervously ramble it out or get hung up on a point or two, but being able to summarize the Gospel message in about a minute or two is a good place to start.
2. Speak Clearly. In the corporate world, companies spend big bucks to teach their salespeople and leaders effective communication techniques. Don’t mistake that sentence! We are no more “salespeople” than the people in front of us are mere “prospects”–God forbid! My point is that learning how to speak effectively and listen actively are good, helpful things to do in life anyway, and they have practical value in our Gospel encounters too.
3. Speak Plainly. Plainly sounds like clearly, doesn’t it? It does, but it is different. By “clearly” I mean in how we articulate our words. By “plainly” I mean how we articulate our ideas. Plain speaking is using everyday words, not fancy ones. It’s taking the extra couple of seconds to define the theological terms we use like, “Lord”, “repent”, “faith”, “born again/new birth”, “sin”, etc. We might plainly speak Acts 17:30 to say, “God commands all people everywhere to repent–to turn from their sin–and believe the Gospel–the message about what Jesus has done in paying for our sins.”
4. Speak Prayerfully. I am indebted to Dr. Bruce Ware for this one. He pointed out to me that nowhere in the New Testament does it speak of praying for God to turn the hearts of lost people. Rather, Paul makes request that prayers be made for him to preach and speak clearly and boldly (Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:4). I’m not saying don’t pray for the person you are speaking with, but I am also saying we ought to pray like Paul, asking God to give our words clarity and power.
5. Speak Concisely. Yes we are talking about the most important topic anyone could ever discuss, but that doesn’t mean that we humans don’t get tired. Has the conversation so far been a monologue, one person talking (you); or a dialogue, a mutual give and take of ideas? Also, what is the other person’s body language saying? Is the person you are talking to showing conversation fatigue by looking away, attempting to politely interrupt, or faking being tortured by high frequencies? Those are clues to us to stop talking and wait for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
These last two points are not about communicating, but they are no less important.
6. Speak Expectantly. Expect God to act! Expect God to do what He delights to do–save sinners!
7. Press for a Decision. I did not always agree with this point. I was merely going to be faithful to “plant the seed.” I think it was when I recently read about D.L. Moody and how he always pressed his hearer to choose then-and-there what they would do with Christ that I realized there is wisdom in doing the same. This does not, of course, mean to badger or cajole the person. It means to compel him, to plead with her, challenging them to forsake all and follow Christ. If they say no, we can respect their decision and their time and be on our way when the conversation naturally allows. We never know how the Lord will one day use our words.
So, let us seek to know the gospel message, to speak clearly, plainly, and prayerfully; and to be concise about it. And may we look to the Lord expectantly as we press our hearers for a decision. These are not hard and fast rules, but they do help. Sorry I don’t have some pithy, cool acronym for you…
Well, unless you think “KtGMSCSPSCSEP4D” is cool.