The landscape of evangelism, it seems, changes by the month. As the culture lurches ever further from a Judeo-Christian worldview, our ability to communicate the concepts of the gospel becomes harder, because our hearers have jettisoned the Bible’s framework of thought.
Thus we sense the need to lay more and more groundwork before “giving the message”. We want to establish friendship, and trust. We want to establish a holy, consistent life before the other person. We want equip ourselves with good rebuttals to objections beforehand. We want to organize our tactics well, in advance.
All of this is good. Do it. But I would like to suggest that the most important fundamental to get right, to bridge the gap, is the one that we are most likely to jettison in all our laying of groundwork. That is, what is most required is to have a passion and readiness to share the gospel right now.
This readiness is precisely what precedes and informs Paul, in Acts 17, in his famous sermon on Mars Hill. Prior to this moment, he is simply walking the streets of Athens. He is provoked by all the idolatry that he sees. So he begins reasoning with people, in a way that they listen - in a way that is not socially inappropriate for the moment - about God and the gospel. This gets him invited to the Aeropagus.
His readiness also informs how he shapes his gospel message. He is careful; he is gracious; he considers his audience; he lays a wise and useful groundwork. But that’s all because he looking and ready to share the gospel now.
The more passionate we are about the gospel, the more we want to share it. And the more we want to share it, the more we will walk into every situation with careful intentionality, to build a bridge to speaking the gospel. Give me a person who holds the gospel precious above all, and I will show you not a brusque boor, but a model of courtesy. Not someone who is distracted by politics and other lesser subjects, but who is laser-focused, to see the gospel heard.
A joyful passion to share the gospel now drives us to be alive and aware to what’s going on around us in the moment. It has been oft repeated: “Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.” Though it is less pithy, I would instead say: “Be ready to preach the gospel always. Therefore, do all that will lead to using words.”