Everybody is a theologian, but not everybody is a good one. And not everybody is interested in having conversations about their theology… especially if it is different than yours. The problem with this reality is that as Christians we’ve been given a mission to make disciples of all nations and this means engaging people who are far form God with the message of the Gospel. In order to see those who are far from God become the family of God, they somehow need to hear the Gospel. And them hearing the Gospel often requires us having earned the right to be heard.
The Gospel can and does work apart from being shared in the midst of relationships. But most often the Gospel does it works in the context of relationships. Relationships with family members, coworkers, or neighbors. The Gospel is most often heard the clearest when it is spoken by someone who cares about the individual, not somebody dropping off a tract as he passes by.
The reason this is true has nothing to do with the theological accuracy of the tract. The tract may actually clearly present the Gospel. The problem with the tract is there is no relationship. There is no conversation. There is no listening. There is no engaging in hearing the story of lost person. And there is no actual love for one another.
In order for people to think theologically, they need to be comfortable socially.
This is true for those who are far from God. This is even true for those who regularly engage in these type of conversations. Think about your own life; who do you have the best theological conversations with? I imagine it is somebody you trust and are willing to have the difficult conversations and ask the hard questions.
In your ministry, are you helping people be comfortable?
I don’t mean be comfortable with the scandalous message of the Gospel. I don’t mean be comfortable being confronted with their own sin. I mean comfortable with you. The cross is often a stumbling block and considered foolish, and I don’t suggest we change that. But that doesn’t mean you should be the stumbling block.
How do you make somebody comfortable socially:
1. Listen to them. When we have a desire to share the Gospel, we most often immediately think of what we need to say. And it’s true, we need to say something. But do not miss the importance of earning the right to be heard. As we listen to our neighbors, we might actually hear their hurts and pains.
2. Actually care about them. This isn’t about increasing attendance. It’s not about improving our bottom line. It’s about getting to know people. To hear their hurts and know their families. To actually love them with no strange attached.
3. Speak their language. It’s amazing how uncomfortable I can get when somebody is talking around me and I have no idea what they are talking about. If we want people to be comfortable enough in engaging in the conversation, we have to speak a language that they can speak. This means that some words will need to get explained and translated.