How Do I Communicate the Gospel?
Zach Bradley & Nathan Garth
The gospel. It’s one of today’s biggest buzzwords. But what is it? “Ask any hundred self- professed evangelical Christians what the good news of Jesus is, and you’re likely to get about sixty different answers.”28 If this good news is worth staking our lives on, and also worth carrying to raging neighborhoods and nations, then we should know it and communicate it well. That’s why, regardless of your team’s destination, you’ll be memorizing a basic form of the gospel story called Creation to Christ (C2C).
Paul puts the gospel simply in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures..was buried...was raised on the third day.” Yet the most common way the gospel was communicated in Acts was through a story (see chapters 2, 7, and 17). Even though you read through several passages in "A Biblical Basis of Missions," it was actually just the story of God. The story of God isn't just for children's bedtime—it’s "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Every time you speak this story in a way that people can understand, God can peel scales off eyes to reveal "the only name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). That's why, regardless of your team's destination, you'll be memorizing a basic form of the gospel story called Creation to Christ (C2C).
However, sometimes it's challenging to get to tell the story. People aren’t just uninterested, they are “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). So start with a story they already know and love--their own. Everyone “has a gospel story that they believe."29 As you listen and observe their story, take note of the false gospel they have fashioned for themselves. Here's a framework for the false gospel stories people believe:
Creation My Identity What do you think the world should be like?
Fall My Problem What is your most pressing problem?
Redemption My Solution What will make your life better?
Consummation My Hope What is your ultimate dream in life?
28 See Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel? (18).
29 See Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ Everyday Church (124).
As you listen, you may need to fight the urge to interrupt them. Genuine listening builds relationships. On the other hand, you may have to fight the urge to only listen. Remember that they cannot hear without someone preaching (Romans 10:14).
You’ll probably have the opportunity to respond by telling your story. This will give them a front row view for how God can change lives. However, your story, though important, is not the gospel story. People can easily reply, "Well, that's great for you, but not for me." The gospel story clearly communicated will always either soften or harden hearers’ hearts toward God, and can ultimately help them cross from death to life. So always use your story as a bridge to the gospel story.
We know, C2C is big and takes time to learn. But this is crucial to your effectiveness as a short-term missionary. Do not try to learn it as a script. There’s nothing less genuine than bad acting. One the other hand, don’t include everything you can think of. You want hearers to be able to remember what they’ve heard so they can easily reproduce it to others (2 Timothy 2:2). Try memorizing the general outline of the story and then practice telling it in your own words. You probably know these stories by heart, so tell them confidently. The gospel gives you the freedom to speak of Jesus not in “words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).