Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ways to Witness in Suburbia

Here are selected quotations from a thoughtful and helpful post from Illinois pastor Joe Thorn, who has a burden to evangelize and wisdom by which to discharge this burden (and to help the rest of us do so as well). (HT: Steve McCoy)

"I do not have the gift of evangelism, though I do share the gospel. Once a person decides the evangescript is not the best way to approach evangelism in their community the question then becomes, “How can I take a natural conversation about common things and connect it to the gospel without it coming off like an abrupt topic change?”
Any time we take the initiative to share the gospel with someone there is always a leap that has to be made to the gospel. Sometimes the leap is short and easy. Suppose you’re discussing the difference between Catholics and Protestants — getting to the gospel is easy. Sometimes the leap is long - very long, like when you try to move from your favorite Starbucks drink (Grande Americano) to the cross of Christ. The longer the jump, the more unnatural the transition, and the more awkward the conversation. So the key is having natural conversations that transition more smoothly to the gospel (smaller leaps).

To state it simply, the better you understand the gospel the easier the transitions become. If you are trying to share the gospel you will still sometimes make huge leaps that do not work. Sometimes the conversation will only connect to the Christian faith in part, without getting directly to the gospel. Sometimes it will all come together the way you imagine. The more you know the gospel (its essence and effects) and the more you practice this discipline the easier making comfortable transitions to the gospel will become. I have been asked a few times what this would look like practically, so here are 8 examples of topics that make for shorter leaps to the gospel or Christian faith.

1. Corruption, evil and sin. Conversations about corruption and evil are pretty common in my experience. Murderer’s go unpunished, children are exploited, racism continues on in more polite forms, mayors are busted smoking crack, etc. These conversations can naturally connect to the biblical issues of justice, judgment, forgiveness and redemption.

Transitions examples: “Even when the unrighteous escape justice in the courts, God says he will not let sin go unpunished…”
“My personal desire for vengeance is often quited by God’s assurance of justice…”
“In the end, I find that though I am guilty of different sins, I am just as guilty as…”

2. Community. This is a great conversation to have in the suburbs. Everyone wants it, but many are at a loss how to build it. Zoning laws have essentially destroyed the development of real, workable, walkable, communities. Conversations about community naturally lend themselves to the reality that we are made for community, that God himself dwells in eternal community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and that a central component of God’s saving work is the establishment of a community, a family, made up of every tribe, tongue and nation.

Transition example: “Part of why I am so passionate about the development of authentic community is because of how the Bible portrays the need for it. We are created by God to live in real community…”

Great post to read and reflect on. It's hard to share the gospel, which Joe acknowledges, but it hugely helps to have an approach to use in initially engaging people.

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