‘You know you don’t believe that! It’s a load of rubbish.’

Two people reading together

What I Learned by Making Every Mistake in the Book as A Christian – a column by Charles Brammall

The great Peter Bolt (a Moore College lecturer now with the Sydney College of Divinity) was training me in how to chat to people about Jesus on the campus of NSW Uni as part of the Ministry Training Strategy, and his example was sage. We would approach someone having their lunch on the lawn, and he would introduce us and ask if they would like to talk about Jesus for a few minutes. If they said “No thanks.” he would gently ask, “Oh, okay. Is that because of a negative experience you’ve had with Christians in the past?” Several people found this disarming – that a Christian wasn’t defensive but willing to admit that Christians can hurt people – and they would often feel safe to share what had happened to them, which invariably led to a conversation about Jesus.

On another occasion,  a young ministry trainer came out to visit us from Wales – a tall, ripped Rugby player – to spend a week with us and share his experience. He and I were approaching people eating their lunch on the lawn, and we asked one older lady if she’d like to chat about Jesus. She said, “Oh, no thanks. I actually believe in reincarnation.”

I hadn’t encountered this before and waited to hear my Welsh friend’s Biblical(?), gentle(?), possibly challenging(?) reply. I could almost see his mind working, and after a few seconds, he opened his mouth and said with a grin, “No, you don’t. You know you don’t believe that! It’s a load of rubbish. You haven’t fooled us- you haven’t fooled yourself, and you certainly haven’t fooled God!”
The lady smiled sheepishly, chuckled, and said, “Yeah, you got me! Okay, sit down, and we can talk about Jesus.” Whatever it was about her demeanour, or his “inspired intuition”, or both, he “called” her, to God’s glory.

Many of us feel fear about chatting to people about Jesus, and rightly so. A clever solution is to memorise for yourself one of the many short, clear gospel summaries God’s given us through the insightful great ones who’ve gone before us.
• C.H Spurgeon’s “The Wordless Book” ,
• John Chapman’s “God, Man, God, What if I Do? What if I Don’t?” ,
The Bridge to Life,
2 Ways To Live ,
• Colin Adamson’s “Relationship Rejection Rescue Response Restoration”.

Memorising one or more of these (I have – they are written for a variety of contexts and audiences), has several benefits of them. For example, they are a good memory jogger, so you don’t miss out any of the crucial parts of the Gospel message. Eg, have I talked about creation and God’s rule, what sin means, the consequences of our sin, the resurrection, what hell means? etc. 

A Gospel summary is like a scaffold, “skeleton”, or checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the Gospel essentials and to give you confidence that you haven’t missed anything out. A bit like the “DRSABCD” first aid checklist- (check for DANGER, is there any RESPONSE?, SEND for help, make sure they have an AIRWAY, are they BREATHING?, start CPR, and use a DEFIBRILLATOR.)

 I have memorised this 7-letter First Aid summary, and find it reassuring to think about what I would do if I ever came across someone who was unconscious. 

A Gospel summary does the same thing: reassures me that I’d know where to start if I ever come across someone who’s willing to chat about what it means to be a Christian. It can take the panic away: “Oh no! What the dickens am I going to do?!”

1 Peter 3:15- “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

Even just memorise one thing on each page, that will jog your memory of the most important elements of the gospel. For example, the colours (Wordless Book), headings (“God, Man, God, What if I Do? What if I Don’t?” and Col Adamson), headings and pictures (2WTL and BTL).

Try and choose one with an “endgame” (eg 2WTL) – an opportunity to ask the person which of the two ways they would like to be living, which way they are living now, and whether they would like to make the change, or investigate further).

I find it very hard to bring things to a close (which is really a Gospel opening) unless I am prepared with questions that give someone the opportunity to surrender to Jesus. If the summary you choose doesn’t have an endgame, pinch one from another summary. If you’re anxious about something important that you think a particular Gospel summary leaves out or that is expressed unclearly, just memorise another one instead- there are no rules.

Incidentally, there is a plethora of ways in to talk about the heart of the Gospel. In one sense, these ways in are not the Gospel itself, but in another sense, we need to have a broad definition of the Gospel of Jesus. In the end, the whole counsel of God is the Gospel, including books that don’t seem to be as clear about the Gospel as others, eg Songs, Proverbs and Ruth. These ways in include talking about things like your church, what you did on the weekend, how, when and why you surrendered to Jesus, the Bible and its historicity, and their own negative experiences of church in the past. 

Image credit: pxhere.com