My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.
For me He died, For me He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives
— Hymn, For me he died, for me he lives
The greatest story ever
Jesus died for you.
His death paid the price for the forgiveness of your sins.
His death and resurrection paved the way for you to enjoy fellowship with God forever.
You have been reconciled to the Father and you can now discover the outrageous love of the Father for you.
It is the greatest story every told.
But we fail to tell the story
We think we know the gospel story.
But when we are put on the spot in some random moment that turns into a spiritual conversation, we grasp at a mental fog.
We stumble for words.
We are not sure where to start.
We start off in one direction, and then change direction in the middle of a thought.
Maybe you’ve been there, paralyzed by fear.
Most of us have fallen short when it comes to that moment of telling the greatest story ever told.
We might be good at telling stories
But telling people the actual gospel story leaves us speechless or disorganized.
Master the story before you need it
I challenged a teen in my youth group to tell the gospel story to a friend.
She was nervous about having that gospel conversation, just like many of us.
But she had mastered the major movements of the gospel story because we practiced telling the gospel story as part of youth group meetings.
- God loves us, but sin separates us from God
- God’s love didn’t leave us without a solution.
- God demonstrated his love in Christ’s death and resurrection.
- That if we believe and confess, receive him, we become a follower of Christ.
This teenager had mastered the gospel story before she needed it.
The day to meet her friend came, and the conversation turned on a question, “Would you like to here what it means that Jesus died for you?”
The gospel sharing conversation with her friend proceeded along the outline she had mastered.
There were conversational detours and questions, but having the master outline enable the teenager to confidently move with the detours and return to the outline.
At the end, her friend simply said:
How could this teen tell the story so well?
Even when there were conversational detours?
It is because she had memorized a gospel story and mastered the outline before she needed it.
We reviewed one quarterly in our youth group.
I made everyone practice it on a regular basis.
Because she knew the outline, she could calmly and clearly communicate.
When I hadn’t mastered the story before it was needed
I was visiting a neighbor. He is a self-declared non-Christian. In the midst of conversation about backgrounds and how we came to live in this town, he asked me an unexpected question:
I had the perfect opportunity to explain the gospel simply and clearly.
Excitement bubbled up within me. I’m an evangelist and this conversation was near and dear to my heart.
However, I got too excited.
The end result was confusing half-thoughts, punctuated with verbal commas: “ um, uh, it’s ah, hum.”
My explanation of the gospel was clear as the muddy Colorado River during a flood.
I left my friend more confused than satisfied.
After that moment, I decided that I needed to learn a gospel script so that I’d not be caught unprepared again.
To master this conversational story, find one of the gospel scripts and master it.
Here are a handful of gospel scripts.
- Four Spiritual Laws
- The Bridge (see How to Use the Bridge Illustration)
- Evangecube (see Evangecube video)
- Way of the Master
- Romans Road
- Do vs. Done (see Do versus Done, read it through this book)
- the Four Rs
- Evangelism Explosion
- Wordless Book and the Bead Bracelet
- The Good Person Test (a setup for the Way of the Master)
- The gospel in six words.
- The Big Story (see The Big Story James Choung)
- 3 Circles
- One Verse Evangelism
I personally have chosen the bridge illustration
The Key to Using a Gospel Story
The key to using gospel scripts is to know ONE “inside out”so that your explanation is crystal clear, but doesn’t seem scripted.
Meaning that you can use it
- at any given moment,
- can “do it in your sleep”
- without having to think too hard.
- without hyperventilating
- without forgetting where you are out.
- without a fear of lack of words or not knowing what to say.
Once you are deeply familiar with one, then add another one to your skill set.
Two problems with memorized gospel stories
1. Theological debates
Some will find fault with the theology of certain gospel presentations.
No script is able to capture the full richness of the gospel in 3 or 4 propositional points.
While I think all of us would agree on the main points, some of the theological nuances will be points of difference.
For example, I know people who think the Four Spiritual Laws is wrong because it starts in the wrong spot.
Others believe the gospel is all about law and sin, and so the starting point must be the 10 commandments.
Each of these scripts deal with the problem of sin, but how they discuss sin is often related to some theological presuppositions.
For example, read are you a Genesis 3 Christian? Would sin have been the best starting point for her?
Or for a different point, where would you start the gospel with a member of an indigenous tribe who doesn’t have a Western worldview, but worships an alligator?
The solution is to find a gospel version that fits your theological stream that you can be comfortable with.
2. Using scripts by rote memory.
Following a script as exactly as possible can be as impersonal as calling a 1-800 number for customer service.
The customer service person in the remote call center has a script to follow, who doesn’t cares what you really need or are really asking.
For the user who is following the script as strictly as possible, the give and take of the conversation messes it up.
This leads to interior anxiety and frustration because it’s out of line.
I’ve talked with some who think a presentation doesn’t work (as if the gospel presentation is a magic formula) unless it’s followed exactly, which means there can be no give and take of a discussion.
I’ve encountered others who place so much emphasis on the right presentation, that their “conversations” are actually monologues led by their own rhetorical questions.
When we follow a script, we have to listen to the “customer” (don’t get carried away with my analogy) and respond appropriately with love.
Conversational evangelism is sharing the good news of the gospel, not a canned product placement pitch.
Let me ask you this
Which script of those listed above do you know inside and out?
If you don’t know one, commit this week to learn one.
Better Evangelistic Conversations
Spiritual conversation is an art that you can learn. Over the years, I have learned to have more effective spiritual conversations with serious people searching for “something.”
I have learned and applied these four principles with great effectiveness in helping people discover Jesus.
- To watch for the nudge of the Holy Spirit
- To observe spiritual thirst
- To know where I am in their journey
- To help people take the next steps in their journey to Jesus.
You can learn these same principles and leave the formulas behind.
This Streaming or DVD set, Effective Conversations, is based on the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.