Conversational Gospel (The Real Meaning of the Great Commission) Part 5

(Continued from Thursday)

To further demonstrate my point of the conversational nature of proclaiming the gospel I want to offer you some simple observations about the conversational nature of spreading the gospel.  I give you two examples:
  1. The prophet Jeremiah - The Book of Jeremiah is unique in that he is one of the premier prophets, yet there are no visions and there are no miracles.  The nature of His calling and His messages is really rather common.  All of Jeremiah’s prophecies are based on simple observations of everyday life. 

    Jeremiah 1:11 - What do you see?  Jeremiah answers, an almond branch.  This means he is simply walking a path he has probably travelled many times before, but God calls his attention to see a message in something he has grown accustomed to seeing everyday. 

    Jeremiah 1:13 - What do you see?  Jeremiah sees a boiling pot.  This is probably someone out in the open doing some sort of work that boils water and it is either boiling over or spilling.  God uses something that is once again, along the way, to speak into Jeremiah’s life and help him enter a conversation about his town.

    18:1-19:15 - This is probably the most well known of Jeremiah’s prophecies, but notice it is a conversation with God about Jeremiah’s town and people over something that happens everyday, a potter making pottery.  In the normal movements of making and molding pottery God has a conversation about the nature of Israel’s heart.  In chapter 18, as long as Israel stays pliable, soft, God can mold and reshape the nation.  Yet in chapter 19 if they harden against the message judgment will be final, they will be broken to pieces and beyond repair.  These are powerful images that birth powerful messages.  Yet we cannot miss the fact that these are conversations with God about things that happen in Jeremiah’s town every single day.
  2. Jesus and the parables - Luke 10:25 - The language of the parable is everyday “life-speak.”  This is not church lingo.  This is not religious rhetoric.  Jesus shared the gospel by telling stories.  These are stories told on the road, and along the way.  These are not proclamations from the pulpit, nor are they sermons.  They are stories that are told in conversations that begin with such mundane topics as, “How was your day?” or “Did you hear about ______’s son?” or “May I ask you a question?”

    We make a grave mistake to believe that the venue for bringing people to Jesus is the church worship service.  While God may use this venue, this is not the primary place people come to Jesus.  People come to Jesus in the highways and hedges.  The church is a foreign country to the lost.  It is full of foreign words and concepts.  It makes no sense to anyone in the world except church people.  The proclamations made in the church are necessary, but to the common Christ-less man they are not very user friendly. 

    This is why it is so dangerous to not only equate evangelism to bringing someone to church, but to also equate evangelism to sharing a pre-packaged “church” message.  Evangelism is not a presentation.  Evangelism is a conversation.  It is story-telling.  Evangelism is helping people to see what God is doing in the everyday.  It is pointing out almond branches.  It is having conversations about boiling pots.  It is going to the mall and talking about how clay pots are made.  It is talking about a father whose son left home and blew his inheritance.  Evangelism is about talking about lost coins.  It is watching shepherds deal with sheep.  Evangelism is the story of the search.  It is talking about life and introducing people to God.

    Conversations about God are not easy things.  Whenever we go to speak to people about these things there is a level of fear because it seems to intrusive.  How do you bring God into a conversation at the ball field?  How does the gospel become the discussion at Kroger’s?  This is why we must not allow evangelism to become the work of the institution - inside the church house and relegated only to the preachers and teachers.  What I do on Sunday is NOT what you should do on Monday.  You cannot disrupt baseball practice and give an exposition of Matthew 28.  That is NOT the place for the outline.  When we talk about God people have their own ideas and they become very defensive.  So how do we get around the seeming disruption of sharing the gospel and yet bring it into the conversation?

    I love the way Eugene Peterson talks about Jesus‘ masterful way of using conversation to bring people into discussions about Spiritual truth.  Jesus did not forsake preaching and teaching, but He knew the proper venues.  In his book Tell it Slant Peterson writes,

    “When Jesus wasn’t preaching and when he wasn’t teaching, he talked with men and women with whom he lived in terms of what was going on at the moment - people, events, questions, whatever - using the circumstances of their lives as his text.  Much as we do.  Preaching begins with God:  God’s word, God’s action, God’s presence.  Teaching expands on what is proclaimed, instructing us in the implications of the text, the reverberations of the truth in the world, the specific ways in which God shapes in detail the way we live our daily lives between birth and death.  But unstructured, informal conversations arise from incidents and encounters with one another that take place in the normal course of going about our lives in families and workplaces, on playgrounds and while shopping for groceries, in airport terminals waiting for a flight and walking with binoculars in a field with friends watching birds.  Many of the words that Jesus spoke are of this nature.  Most of us are not preachers or teachers, or at least not designated as such.  Most of the words that we speak are spoken in the quotidian contexts of eating and drinking, shopping and traveling, making what we sometimes dismiss as ‘small talk.’”
The point is simply this.  We have exiled evangelism from the simple conversation and in doing so we have not only failed to do what Jesus did, but we have failed to fulfill His commission and just make disciples along the way, as you go, while you eat, shop, play, and live.
We need to look around us and realize that discipleship is not to be quarantined to the church house.  Discipleship takes place in the highways and hedges, underneath the signs.  Bringing people to Jesus takes place behind the windows that advertise how much meat will cost us this week.  Discipleship happens in stores in which everything must go!  The gospel is spread where people are.  This is the place where God, in the gospel, collides with life.
I leave you with this.  Genesis 28:16.  Jacob is in the desert.  He is on the run from his angry brother Esau and in the middle of the night he has a dream.  God shows him a ladder that connects earth with heaven.  An otherwise barren place becomes a place where God intersects with humanity.  Jacob wakes up and says, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”  
I think that is a common problem for us.  God is having a conversation with our town that is all around us.  Look at the signs.  Look at the almond branches.  Go to the place of the potter’s wheel.  Enter into the conversation.  Every sign, every business, every slogan has a story behind it.  It is a conversation with us.  They are inviting us to talk, to respond to the message.  Let’s do what the Great Commission has told us to do - just live life, just go!  But while you are going and living  - tell the story of God.  We are not going to forsake visiting, outlining, or teaching.  But if we do not become conversational we are not “disciple making” and we will not be effective.  Let’s go into the venues of life where we can answer people’s questions.  Let’s develop relationships with people so that conversations about Christ begin with simple questions like, “How was your day?”  Invite them to know you and in so doing to know Christ.  Enter into the conversation of making disciples.

Full Manuscript -

to be continued


Anonymous said…
I had not heard that before, but it makes great sense.

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