When we were growing up, missionaries would come from time to time to visit our churches. They brought pictures and told stories of faraway people in faraway lands. It all seemed very exotic. It made people think, I love Jesus, but I’m not sure I want to be a missionary. Since then we’ve learned that we’re all missionaries to the places where we currently live, work and play. How many in our immediate area have never heard the good news that Jesus died for their sins and was buried, and that God raised him from the dead? Who is going to tell them? Every believer needs to see himself or herself as a missionary. In short, we have to redefine the word “missionary” in our churches.
Most people in our churches feel unqualified and ill prepared to tell people about Jesus. They can list all of the reasons why someone else is better suited for the mission. George Stott, a 19th-century missionary to China, served faithfully despite only having one leg. When asked why he, with only one leg, should think of going to China, his remark was, “I do not see those with two legs going, so I must.”
Imagine if we truly embraced the Great Commission and trained believers to take the gospel to a broken world in spite of our limitations and inadequacies. Imagine what it would look like if those who sat in the pew on Sunday were intentionally sowing gospel seeds all week. Imagine if the average believer were trained to turn everyday conversations into gospel conversations.
The average person has 27 conversations per day. A recent study revealed that both men and women utter an average of about 16,000 words each day. We can talk about sports, weather, clothes, shoes, movies and TV shows. We’re even willing to debate the nuances of politics, the intricacies of health issues or the complexities of national economic matters.
However, when it comes to bringing up the simple gospel, we shy away. We break out in hives, our palms sweat, our tongues are tied and we find ourselves talking about everything but the gospel. The idea of injecting Jesus into our conversations causes great anxiety and fear for ordinary believers and pastors alike.
Many believers are afraid that gospel conversations will be confrontational or argumentative. We think we have to be trained for every possible theological perspective we may encounter before we can share the gospel. We’re often overwhelmed by the need to memorize a dozen verses or anxious that someone might ask a question we can’t answer. Sadly, sharing the gospel has lost its simplicity. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Consider the natural flow of everyday conversations. Our conversations include laughter, introspection, empathy and body language. We speak and we listen. Ultimately, our conversations have an introduction, a general direction, and a conclusion. Our conversations are never completely random or altogether open-ended. People are often looking to us to offer meaningful responses.
When was the last time you had a conversation and the person with whom you were talking shared a problem, issue or concern? It happens a lot. These interactions are gospel opportunities, and we train people to recognize and seize them.
Here’s a message we got recently:
Today I stopped to get coffee, and the guy at the table next to me started a conversation with me, and it happened just like you said. He shared a problem, I asked if I could share something with him, and he said yes. He was so moved by our conversation that he took the napkin I shared the gospel on and went straight home to share it with his wife. AMAZING.
There you go! An everyday conversation turned into a gospel conversation that ended with a man crossing from death to life. Also, notice his immediate willingness to go and tell someone else. Every day is filled with opportunities like this one that will never again be captured. If we miss them, they’re gone. When we’re willing to turn conversations to the gospel, we’ll find that the gospel is robust. God is still reconciling the world to himself. “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isa. 59:1 NIV).
Let the gospel be the filter.
Eddie and Jacob are two young men who were holding each other accountable to share the gospel intentionally. They had been praying together for open doors and opportunities to do so. One day, while walking through the grocery store, they saw a man and quickly assumed that he probably wouldn’t be open to a gospel conversation.
He was a biker type: tattoos, leather vest, ponytail—the whole nine yards. Eddie and Jacob decided they would go ahead and approach the man despite their initial evaluation. To their surprise, he was very open to the gospel because his wife had been diagnosed with cancer only days earlier. The gospel gave this man great hope in the midst of his trial, and he repented and believed.
Another church member was sitting in a hospital waiting room with only one other man. The man was somewhat unkempt and seemed irritated and unapproachable. Plus, the man’s size was a bit intimidating: he looked fully capable of hurting anyone who bothered him. Our church member prayed for the man and thought about God’s arms not being too short to save. Then he mustered up his courage and spoke to the man, saying, “Sir, I know you don’t know me, but I’d like to share some good news with you.”
The man responded by saying he “sure could use some good news.” He came over and sat next to the church member, who shared the gospel with him using the 3 Circles. The man repented and believed in Jesus right there in that hospital waiting room.
Here’s a list of the least-likely people to repent and believe the gospel:
- Paul, who persecuted the church and killed Christians to stop the spread of the gospel (Acts 8:1).
- The man possessed by demons (Mark 5:1–15).
- The woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11).
- The thief on the cross (Luke 23:32–43).
There is often a scriptural paradox regarding those who followed Jesus and those who rejected Him. The people who we think would follow Jesus don’t (e.g., religious leaders, those who studied Scripture, rich young rulers, etc.). The people who we think would never come to Jesus do (e.g., tax collectors, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, etc.).
How do we know when someone is ready to hear and genuinely respond to the gospel? The fact is we really never know what God is doing in someone’s heart. We need to have frequent, intentional gospel conversations and then allow the gospel to be the filter.
Excerpted from Turning Everyday Conversations Into Gospel Conversations By Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright with Leslee Bennett. Used with permission. Copyright 2016, B&H Publishing Group.
Jimmy Scroggins is the lead pastor at Family Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. Steve Wright is the pastor of disciple and church planting at Family Church.