Struggle to share your Christian faith without slipping into jargon? Felix Aremo shares his tops tips for choosing your words wisely
We’ve all been there. Well, I definitely have been. We pluck up the courage to speak with a friend about our faith, and we get caught up in ‘Christianese’:
“God convicted me of my sin and my idolatry. But I’m so grateful I’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb.”
“The gospel is all about the grace of God shown to us through Jesus’ work of atonement.”
As Christians, it’s easy to forget how familiar we become with these amazingly rich Christian words and phrases – and how unfamiliar non-Christians might be with them.
Even great evangelists like the Apostle Paul sometimes needed several attempts to share the gospel effectively
The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news to be shared. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul speaks of the wonderful message of salvation which he received and passed on to others: “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared.”
It is through understanding the significance of these events and by trusting in Jesus Christ that people are saved. But how will people understand the good news if it is not explained in language they can understand?
Here my top tips for sharing your faith well – and avoiding the trap of Christianese:
1: Learn a gospel outline
If we are to articulate the gospel in the most effective way, we need to have confidence in our knowledge of the gospel and our ability to explain it. A good first step is to get familiar with a gospel presentation such as Two Ways to Live. The best presentations outline how Jesus brings us into relationship with God now and gives us confident hope for eternity.
2: Practice with a friend
Once you’ve found a good gospel presentation, it’s great to practice sharing it with a friend. A Christian friend is an obvious choice but even better would be a friend who doesn’t yet know Jesus: “As a Christian, I’d love to get better at sharing what I believe with people. Would you mind hearing my presentation and telling me if anything doesn’t make sense?”
3: Don’t assume
One common mistake is to assume that others will understand the biblical words and phrases we use, such as sin, grace, faith, God, salvation etc. Often, people will recognise the word but understand it differently from the way we intend.
For example, before I understood the gospel, the word ‘grace’ either referred to the prayer we said at mealtimes or something like ‘if God allows’ e.g. “I hope to be there by God’s grace”. It was only as I came to understand the gospel message that I came to see God’s grace as his incredible, undeserved kindness in saving me.
4: Rejoice in the richness
I was once at an evangelistic event aimed at international students. After the talk, I realised that the young woman sitting next to me hadn’t really understood what the preacher said. So I did my best to restate their message: “Jesus died on the cross taking the punishment we deserve… but then he came back to life…”
She stopped me: “Wait! What?! He died? Then came back to life?! That’s AMAZING!!”
I was totally not expecting that. I was so focussed on explaining the content that my tone didn’t really match the message – I was stating profound realities as if I was talking about the weather. This young woman’s excited response made me realise that as well communicating the message, it’s also important to communicate our joy in God’s goodness. That’s not something we can manufacture – it needs to come from a deep appreciation for what God has done for us through Christ.
How will people understand the good news if it is not explained in language they can understand?
One of the dangers with our use of Christian jargon is that it doesn’t resonate with real life. We repeat the same formulas among ourselves and fail to truly encourage each other. At the same time, we also lose our ability to speak to non-Christians in ways which resonate with them.
5: If at first you don’t succeed…
I’m encouraged by the fact that even great evangelists like the Apostle Paul sometimes needed several attempts to share the gospel effectively. When he was in Athens, Paul’s attempts to speak about Jesus were met with confusion. In Acts 17:18 it says: “Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign gods.’”
Paul was preaching the good news, but he needed to start again, using concepts and language more familiar to the Athenians. We need to be willing to do the same. That means listening to people and discovering what isn’t yet making sense. In reality, some of the best gospel presentations are a two-way conversation that take place over an extended period of time – that was certainly the case in my coming to faith in Jesus.
Communicating the good news of Jesus is not just about having confidence in the mechanics of articulating the gospel however. We need to understand the importance of the gospel ourselves, to feel in the depths of our being that this is great news!
Want to learn more? Join London City Mission’s Practical Evangelism Training (PET) day on 4 March. To find out more and to book your space, head over to lcm.org.uk/pet