Remember Clarity is Key
Written July 26, 2011
The other day I went to see one of my relatives in Burlington and laying in their living room was a newsletter from a church not far from their home. I’d seen it before as they receive copies whenever the church mails them out and many times the articles are well written and have good insights towards Christian living or current social or theological issues. The thing that caught my attention in this issue was a quote from James Montgomery Boice, a well known Presbyterian minister and author who went home to be with the Lord in 2000. I knew of Boice as I have many of his books and think highly of his writings. The quote was about the world’s view of theology and basically what they believe about the human race in general. Here’s the quote,
“The world’s theology is easy to define. It is the view that human beings are basically good, that no one is really lost, that belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary for salvation.”
Upon reading this quote I made a positive comment about the it and was surprised to hear that my relative didn’t like the quote. This took me back because I know this person to be a Bible believing, born again Christian with conservative values and a faith dedicated to Jesus Christ. Upon further investigation I figured out what prompted the comment. It seemed my relative took the quote as saying that we should believe and that theology should say that everyone is basically good, and no one is lost, and belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary for salvation. It was a simple misreading but it impressed upon me the reality that no matter how well educated or eloquent we speak we should always remember that we can easily be misunderstood and mistaken in our intentions and message.
This certainly hit close to home with me as one of my primary jobs is to communicate to others with words. As Christians we all have a calling on our lives to be good communicators. Scripture is packed with places that talk about the Christian life being one that communicates the truth of the gospel to others. Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (part of that is to communicate well) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it (make a defense – part of that is to communicate) with gentleness and respect.” We are called in Mark 16:15 to “Go into all the world and proclaim (communicate) the gospel to the whole creation.” One of the big jobs we have as Christians is to communicate God’s truth to others.
Now having said that let me get to the rough part of this article. If my relative that I think very highly of and who is educated, smart, and well read can accidentally misread a quote, how many times have I or others been misunderstood in our witness to Jesus Christ? I can think of quite a few times I have said something that has had unintended consequences and in turn garnished unintended results. Ask anyone who has been married for any length of time and they will tell you the frequency their spouse takes what they say “the wrong way.”
As Christians we have the most important, vital, and priceless message the world has ever known, therefore we should be ones who know how to communicate it well. The difficult part is that we live in a world where the message of Christ is more difficult to communicate because the culture by and large has created an abounding ignorance in the minds of people today that stands as a roadblock to the communication of the gospel. No longer do we live in a church culture that understands the concepts of sin, redemption, and the basic understanding of what a church is and what happens on a Sunday morning. There is little reverence for Christ, God, or the teachings of the Bible. This creates a communication gap between a witness for Christ and the lost.
So what do we do? Is this gap too great for us to bridge? Certainly not! What is needed is a simple acceptance of this truth and for the church to ask itself some very simple questions. Let me close this article with some of those questions that I hope will help you better communicate your faith to others.
Before ever trying to communicate your faith to another ask yourself…
- Can I accurately and in a simple way explain difficult concepts and terms like propitiation, sin, forgiveness, and salvation?
- Think about explaining these things to a 5 year old and you’ll come out with some pretty good definitions and examples.
- Is the way I witness to another more a memorized presentation than a genuine conversation about Jesus Christ?
- To help you determine this, a presentation doesn’t deviate from a set path it must go a certain way, a conversation is fluid, it can stop, back up slow down and is able to go in different directions just like any conversation between two people.
- Am I committed to answer any difficult questions a lost person might have about Christianity and be willing to find the answers to those tough questions if I can’t answer them from my current knowledge?
- Now this doesn’t mean you aren’t scared or apprehensive about questions because we will all receive questions we don’t know the answers to and are simply hard to answer. What this is asking is are you willing to be more than a passing acquaintance to a person because what many people need is someone to help them along and be a resource to them to help find answers to their spiritual questions.
While sharing your faith with another…
- Am I assuming that this person understands the concepts I am talking about or am I talking above their head?
- Many times we assume that someone understands what we’re saying but what we’re saying makes no sense to them. It might be a good idea to say something like, do you have any questions about what I’m talking about or does that make sense to you? (I guarantee it will not take long before you get some very interesting questions after you say that)
- Am I communicating a sense of genuine Christian love and concern for this person by my words and actions or do they feel rejected and worthless?
- You might be witnessing to the most vile and awful sinner in the world but Jesus loves that person and died for that person therefore they are of infinite value in the sight of Jesus treat them with respect not condemnation.
- Is my goal that this person understand the gospel and what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and their need for salvation or is my goal to get them to say what I want them to say and do what I want them to do?
- The goal of any witness is for someone else to understand the message of the gospel. We cannot save someone or push someone to accept Jesus as their Savior. Our goal is that they might knows what Jesus did for them and what God desires for their life. A manipulation of someone’s actions produces false conversions, hurt feelings, and unregenerate lives all three of which do not bring glory to God and hurt the cause of Christ.