4 Things To Remember
This is a continuation of our discussion on evangelism being easy. We suggested that reading the Gospel stories is the best and easiest way to evangelise. But how do you start? Where do you start?
Here are 4 things to remember under the easy acronym of PRAY. After all the most important thing in evangelism is remember to PRAY. Get it?
The 4 things are: Pick the good passages. Read it out loud. Anchor your conversation. Yield to imperfect interpretation. Here we go!
Pick The Good Passages
All Scripture is God’s Word but even the Apostle Peter understood that some passages are easier to understand than others (2 Pet. 3:16). It’s no different within the narratives of the Gospel accounts. There are passages more suited for evangelism and others less so. Picking a good passage can set the stage for follow-up sessions as it allows us to trace a narrative theme at our discretion. For example:
The first chapter of Mark’s gospel can be read in four parts.
Verses 14-15 announces the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
Verses 16-20 tells us about the citizens of this kingdom, that they are fishermen not elites.
Verses 21-28 teaches us about the nature of this kingdom, that it is firstly a spiritual one.
Verses 29-39 shows us the work of this kingdom, that it advances by preaching rather than miracles.
Similarly, in Luke’s gospel we can paint a picture of Jesus using four passages spread throughout the narrative.
5:12-26 tells us what Jesus has come to do: forgive sins
7:36-50 teaches us who receives forgiveness: the morally bankrupt instead of the “good.”
23:1-56 shows us how forgiveness is accomplished: by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
24:36-49 explains why the gospel was written: so that forgiveness can be proclaimed to us.
Notice how we cover the entire span of Luke’s gospel in just four readings. It might not be a comprehensive unpacking of the gospel, but it is still a truthful and adequate unpacking. Therefore, we think it is not just helpful but perhaps crucial to pick the right passages.
Read It Out Loud
Having picked the passage, the next step is to read it out loud. It might feel awkward at the start, but we’ve found that meeting either in a crowded café where you’re less likely to be overheard or in a quiet place where there’s no one around to make it awkward, will help. We can easily under-emphasize and so miss the significance of reading the Bible out loud as though once it’s done, we can get to the real job of evangelism.
And yet the public reading of Scripture is visibly stressed throughout the Bible, being done (or instituted) by Moses, Joshua, Josiah, Ezra, to name a few. Paul writes to Timothy “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching (1 Tim. 4:13).”
Take your time. Read it slowly. Read it carefully. Read it out loud.
Anchor Your Conversation On The Text
Having read the passage out loud, the next step is to start talking. Easier said than done right? There are plenty of books written on this subject. David Helm’s One-to-One Bible Reading contains a great chapter on methodology (or you could simply google Swedish Method & COMA). Nevertheless, we suggest remembering just one thing – anchor your conversations on the text.
What we most want to avoid is turning Bible reading into a Bible study. A Bible study among Christians is fundamentally different to Bible reading with not-yet Christians. In the former, our aim is right answers to questions. But in the latter, our aim is not right answers but simply to form an impression upon people of the person of Jesus Christ.
Similarly, we also want to avoid tangents. Not least because they are often controversial topics, but also because they take the focus off the main issue. Rather talk about how Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb than defend and articulate the mechanics of creationism. Anchor your conversations in the text, keeping in mind a few helpful tips:
1. It’s always a good starting point to share your first impression of reading this passage. You could say something along the lines of “I remember when I first read this passage, I couldn’t believe how Jesus touches the leper. That’s gross isn’t it?”
2. Avoid open-ended questions. This might sound counter-productive but in our experience, it is simply expecting too much for someone who most likely is reading the Bible for the first time. “What do you think about this…” often leads nowhere because most people genuinely don’t know what to think about biblical issues. Remember not to default to a Bible study!
3. Try to be introspective. What we mean by that is allow yourself to be put under the spotlight. Don’t be too quick to focus on what the other person thinks or should think. Instead, challenge people’s thinking indirectly through our own convictions. For example, instead of asking “don’t you think you need forgiveness?”, say something like “there’s always this part of me that knows I’m not the person I can or ought to be. I know nobody’s perfect, but surely nobody can truly be content with imperfection, right?” This might be a grossly stated example but notice how in the first instance it is a me-vs-you situation and in the second instance it is an us-together sense.
Yield To Imperfect Interpretations
Lastly, there is no rule that dictates how every Bible reading should end. As we’ve said before, our aim is not getting right answers to every question but rather forming an impression upon people of the person of Jesus Christ. In many cases it is more beneficial to yield to imperfect interpretations. What we mean by yielding to imperfect interpretations is not expecting someone to understand and agree to everything on the first go. Try to curb the desire to correct people’s thinking all the time every time. Instead, trust that the Spirit of God is working as the Word of God is read. Obviously when asked a question we must give an honest answer. But know that truth takes time to hit home. Love requires room to grow. Faith is ultimately of the Spirit.
Be patient and PRAY.