When I was a junior in college I had transferred to a new (non-christian) university where I promptly found I had to take a speech class. I had already taken speech classes and, so I was told, was pretty skilled at public speaking. So like all brilliant college guys, I figured, “Why bother now? I know this stuff.” I never studied and never prepared a thing. I would “prepare” my speeches on my 5 minute walk to that class in the morning.
Being a recently re-fired-up Christian guy with a head packed full of biblical knowledge and theological quotes, and understanding (sorta) that I needed to be sharing my faith if I truly cared about people, I also decided it’d be an effective and rather God-pleasing challenge for myself if I intentionally tried to put the message of Jesus and the gospel into every speech.
Yep. No matter how big of a stretch it was, I believed it could be done (and it can to a small extent, but not done well on a 5-minute walk by a know-it-all kid).
It. Was. Horrible!
You know those times in life you look back on and you think, “Wow I hope everyone involved has forgotten that…,” and you pray things like, “God, please just wipe all those people’s memories of those times. I’m so sorry!”?
Yep, many of those speeches are those times for me.
Confused stares. Students awkwardly hiding behind others. Teacher not wanting me to get up and talk.
I took a God given skill I had, and in some sort of innocent but ignorant, noble but naive, honorable yet prideful way, I repeatedly did something dumb and likely pretty destructive for people.
I thought my intentions were good, because I was incapable of discerning anything greater. In fact, my intentions were strongly laced with pride, laziness, and egocentrism.
On one hand, I only knew what I knew, but on the other hand, what I knew was incomplete and jacked up.
I recognized it in that time though — at least a little bit. I could feel the awkwardness. I could perceive the tension, or dread, that I’d create with each speech — even from the other one or two Christians in the room that I knew.
Honestly though, in my brilliant immaturity, it would just make me frustrated and sorta angry, and I’d tell myself things like, “Well the world is going to be hostile to the gospel — I know that! It’s not my fault the others won’t ever speak up! It’s not my fault these people don’t know this stuff or can’t see these connections.”
So I’d do it again with more determination, more force, and more… bad. It was just so bad! Ugh…
Their Problem Is Our Problem Too
I can laugh at it now because God is good and full of grace, and he never leaves us where we are. I also completely rest in the fact that God can, and maybe did, use even the worst of our utter silliness to bring people and glory to himself.
There is nothing you or I could ever do that would be more powerfully harmful than God’s redeeming, loving, power to call someone to himself and repair all that is broken in their mind and soul.
Yet, we can do better. We should do better!
Consider Yourself Less Awesome
As young Christian men, we often jump in apache helicopters as far as our knowledge, because we so easily can these days with our tools and resources, but in reality, we should still be riding bicycles with training wheels as far as our maturity.
We’re blasting away at things, trying to win battles we weren’t asked to be a part of, when we should be asking for help and following others’ lead for many years still.
It’s harder than ever to discern maturity, especially in ourselves.
We can construct personas online and connect through so many editable communication mediums that we can fool even our own selves into believing we’re way beyond where we actually are in wisdom, spiritual maturity, and even simply, skills.
The reality is though, we’re not as skilled, knowledgeable, or even close to being as effective as we think. A little more meekness won’t hurt anybody. I promise.
Trying Being More And Doing Less
Sure we can sit around and blame the lost for being adverse to the gospel. “They’re hard hearts! That’s why there’s no one feeling drawn to Jesus from my ministry!” Or, we can acknowledge that there simply is this undeniable, calm, stable, warm, winsome and inviting aura to Jesus and the Holy Spirit that we’re not representing very well.
Jesus and the Spirit came to the lost and they seek them in love!
Jesus reclined and ate dinners with the lost. He gave up his life for the lost — and not just the foolishly lost, but even those who mocked and despised him.
To be clear, a person forcing the blunt gospel into every speech he can in a secular speech class, with no one asking him for it, is almost never going to be invited to dinner by those who don’t know Jesus already.
A person blasting social media posts that sound more like fire and brimstone to someone who doesn’t know the full gospel is not going to be a person who effectively shares an inviting meal with the same someones who may read it.
It’s not just their problem, it’s my problem and it’s your problem.
We have a problem of immaturity. We have a problem of wanting to play God and be important, powerful, supremely wise, and capable of doing God’s work for him.
We have a problem of focusing on the doing and neglecting the being.
Speak Their Language More Often
Too many of us make too little effort to speak the language of the people we’re trying to speak to because we have a mixed-motive agenda of shouting the gospel “for others” yet mainly thinking of ourselves.
We have not been asked to convict people, and we’ve not only been asked to tell people the words of the gospel.
We’ve been asked to love people and share the gospel in doing so — the gospel of sacrificial Jesus, the Christ.
Love and conviction are not opposed to each other, but it’s only the Holy Spirit who has the access and power to reach deep enough into a person’s soul to convict them and reveal their need for Him. It’s not our cleverness that will do it.
Our part is simply to speak truth in love. Love seeks to meet a person where they are and speak in a way they understand and can respond well to.
Consider Jesus’s dealings with Nicodemus in John 3 and the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus certainly didn’t shy away from pressing in and speaking truth, but he did it in a way that spoke to them where they were and could be received.
He did it in a way that helped them search their own hearts and ask to know more. He didn’t just smack them with an angry or disgusted message about who he was and who they were.
Love doesn’t speak in spite and disgust. Love doesn’t blindside people with a blunt “gospel” message.
Sin should make us angry, but like our Father, we must seek the Godly maturity that can still love in sincerity and sacrifice, viewing someone not as an enemy but a potential adopted brother and sister.
Let’s spend more time thinking how to view ourselves as lesser and others as more worthy of our considerate attention and care. Then, let’s simply spend more time caring.
Maybe we’ll be capable of, like Jesus, being called a “friend of sinners” (Matt 11:19) — sinners who are actually asking us to share our way, truth, and life with them as they come to our Father.