My 6th and 7th grade guys’ small group started like most of our meetings…copious amounts of Mt. Dew, Starburst of only the red varieties, and wrestling. I got them all settled down and jumped into the exercise I had planned. I told them that I wanted them to explain to me what it means to be a Christian and how God has changed them. I have been working with students for about seven years so I fully expected them to be a little timid, but their reaction and response made me quietly whisper, “oh no.”
Why was it so hard for them to recount their faith? The gospel by its nature is simple…it is a simple message of God’s love and redemption for anyone who believes (John 3:16). I do not want it to sound like I am saying that anyone who struggles to verbalize their faith has an inadequate understanding of the gospel. I fully understand that faith starts small like a mustard seed and grows as we mature in relationship with Christ. I do not expect for anyone who is young in their faith to be as bold as Driscoll or have the depth of Spurgeon. This experience opened my eyes to something…the need to communicate the gospel and the truths of Scripture simply.
Over and over again the bible states that the gospel of Christ hinges on faith. Paul writes this very plainly in his letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV). This should be a huge comfort to all who hear because it isn’t overly complicated. There is no 10 step process for salvation…just faith. This message is concise. It is simple.
A few months back I had a conversation about the gospel and evangelism with Taylor, who was one or my best friends from college. Taylor expressed a need for simple communication. He said that when talking to someone about the gospel we only had about one minute to grab and hold their attention. Because of this limited amount of time there is a great need to express the message of Christ in a way that is concise and obtainable. He stated that the most accurate and simple way he knows how to communicate the gospel is through “bad news, good news”. The bad news is that we are sinful and because of our sin we are separated from a holy and loving God…but the good news is that God did something about this. He sent His perfect Son to this world to die on a cross and rise again so that if you repent of your sins and believe in Him you can have a new life…a life in a relationship with God.
The more that I thought about what Taylor said the more sense it made. How many times had I tried to express the gospel to a student and the end result sounded like a grad school paper. No wonder they just stared back at me with quizzical expressions. Students have a particularly short attention span…so why wouldn’t I do everything I could to break down our conversation so that it is simple and easy to grasp? We must strive to not over communicate or over complicate the message. Too often we feel the need to say more and really drive the point home, but this usually complicates what we are saying and takes us further away from the simplicity of the gospel. It is so comforting to know that when coming to faith we do not need to completely understand the complex doctrine of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). God asks us to believe and follow first. Do we really grasp this or are we trying to save and spiritually mature someone all at the same time. There is a growth process to becoming spiritually mature that takes time, but the starting point is faith.
We also must never forget that this is God’s gospel and that we are His ambassadors: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:18-21, ESV). We must come to an understanding that He is in control and that it is through His power that people are saved. We must be prepared to communicate the best that we can while knowing that the reigns are never in our hands, but in Gods. It is also of the utmost importance to allow Scripture to speak. The further we move away from Scripture the more complicated the message gets. Why not use the bible…the written source of this good news.
Communicating God’s word and His gospel is one of my greatest passions. The more I speak the more I realize the need for simple communication. Please understand that I am not saying that we should change our message or make it easier to swallow. What is being said is that it is our duty to present the fullness of the gospel, in accordance with Scripture, as simply as possible. I keep coming back to my experience with my students. What if each one of those 6th and 7th grade students was able to walk into their middle school and they could express their faith clearly, without hesitation. We need to communicate for their sakes…preparing them to articulate their faith in a simple way to others.