September 16th, 2009 by Kristi Stephens
On Tuesday I posted God’s Big Story, which is something that has been rolling around in my head for years and finally has been making its way onto paper the last couple of weeks. I was thinking about writing this explanation post and then an old friend from college just called to say that she was thinking about giving The Big Story to a friend of hers, and we were talking about why I wrote it, etc. I think it would probably be appropriate for me to fill you in, also! :)
I have pondered for years the way we as believers typically share the Gospel with someone. If you were trained to share your faith in the past, you probably were encouraged to write out your testimony and then share the problem of sin and the solution of salvation through Christ. Sometimes we hand out tracts that summarize the Gospel into a few short bullet points.
The problem is, as time goes on our society is becoming more and more biblically illiterate. Add to that the postmodern bent to people’s thinking (who are you to say that I “sin”? Who defines what “sin” is and who “God” is? My truth is different than yours! I agree that Jesus was a good man but I think you’re being judgmental to say that He is the “only way”), and we are increasingly speaking different languages.
This was cemented in my mind and heart a few weeks ago when I was speaking with a friend who leads classes at our local Pregnancy Support Center. She had a particularly interested and spiritually curious group who had asked a lot of questions. She mentioned something about Adam and Eve at one point in their discussion, and then realized that many of them had never heard of Adam and Eve! How do you explain the Gospel to people with absolutely no Biblical foundation?
To answer this question, it is helpful to go to the book of Acts. The early church was sharing the Gospel both with Jews who had all the background and needed to connect the dots and see that Jesus was the promised Messiah they had been waiting for, and with Gentiles who had no understanding of the True God whatsoever.
Acts 17 is a fascinating study of evangelism. When Paul arrives in Thessalonica, he goes to the synagogue – “on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.” (17:2-3) His audience understood his language – the Jews had been expecting The Christ, the promised Seed. What they needed to understand was that Jesus was the Christ! So, he started right at what they needed to understand.
Later in Acts 17, Paul is in Athens and engages the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in conversation. “Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.’” (17:18-20)
They didn’t get it. It was “strange” to their ears, it sounded like babbling – it was as though they were speaking another language. So, when Paul spoke in the Areopagus, guess where he started? Not with Jesus, but with creation – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…” (17:24) He built a basis for understanding so that they could see who Jesus was and why it mattered.
We are surrounded by many people who not only don’t believe in Jesus, they might not even have heard of Adam and Eve, the fall, depravity, and the One True God who desires to have a relationship with them. When we walk by them with our Christian slogans on our t-shirts, or hand them a “four spiritual laws” tract, or tell them at Christmas, “Jesus is the reason for the season”… it sounds like you’re speaking a foreign language. Tell them they are sinners, that Jesus is the only True Way, and they are confused or angry – it doesn’t make any sense in their mental framework!
I have found that it is very hard to find resources that explain the whole story of Scripture – either for “unreached Americans” who haven’t been taught anything about Scripture, or for new believers who find it confusing to crack open the Bible for the first time and don’t know where to start or what in the world it means.
This is why I wrote out God’s Big Story – to give people some mental “pegs” to hang Truths on in further conversation. After explaining the whole story, creation, the fall, sin, Israel and the law, Jesus … it all makes so much more sense! It is my prayer that it will open doors for further discussion, further questions, further openness to the Truth.
Please feel free to download the PDF of The Big Story. Feel free to use it on your blog or church website. Grab the Big Story button on the right hand side – it will link readers back to the God’s Big Story post here on Run the Earth, Watch the Sky. Read it and use it in discussion with your unsaved friends.
Whatever you do, I pray that this will give you some ideas on ways to share and explain His Truth. We’re not in the synagogue anymore, folks – we’re in Athens. We’re surrounded by people who think we are babbling in a different language. Let’s stop babbling to ourselves and start helping it to make sense to the unreached around us every day.