Most of us do not communicate very well about Jesus – but we can all learn how to communicate better!
Often, we do not make people feel like the ‘Good News’ is actually good. They are often unmoved by it. Whenever this happens, we probably haven’t communicated with them at a heart level, and so they haven’t really understood what we are telling them. As a result, they often feel more drawn towards other things – which do move them.
So, if we do want people to be moved by the Gospel, we have to help them feel like what we are telling them really is Good News. Doing this well is sometimes called ‘preaching the gospel to the heart’ (i.e. to peoples’ desires, imaginations and emotions), so that they understand it, viscerally. They should be delighted.
How do we go about this? It would help if we thought more about how we communicate, and what we are communicating. There are two areas to consider:
1. Surface Level Communication
It is helpful to refer to the things which people see, in their everyday lives (e.g. local phrases, local issues, local teams, local symbols etc.). We should celebrate the good stuff, and lament the bad stuff that’s going on with them. At the very least, people will then feel that we ‘get them’. They may then listen more to what we have to say.
2. Heart Level Communication
It is also helpful to find out what they appreciate the most, and why they value those things. We could then ask if those things are really reliable, and how consistently they ‘deliver’ what they promise. We should look for moments to share how Jesus never fails to meets our deepest needs, whereas all other things will (eventually) let us down.
How, though, does Jesus meet our deepest needs? We should communicate this differently, to different types of people, depending on what their most needs are. Try to consider the following things, the next time you are communicating what Jesus has achieved for us, on the cross (the heart of the Good News!):
→ People who feel guilty may understand that Jesus took the punishment we deserve – so we are now forgiven.
→ People who feel excluded may appreciate that Jesus was made an outcast instead of us – so we are now included.
→ People who feel enslaved may be relieved that Jesus paid the ransom to buy us out of our misery – so we are now free.
→ People who feel ashamed may be grateful that Jesus suffered the humiliation we should have faced – so we are now clean.
The message of the cross is always essentially the same, but different language and different emphasises will resonate with different types of people. There’s good news in there for everyone, from every background, and in every single human condition!
Most of us have only ever tried the type of Gospel presentation which offers forgiveness for sin. This is, of course, 100% true – but it only brings relief to those who feel guilty about mistakes they have made, and most people nowadays don’t really feel that way. They just don’t get it.
However, many people nowadays are aware that their hurts, habits and hang-ups have a tendency to sabotage their relationships. They would love to change, but they feel powerless to do so. Stuck. A Gospel presentation which offers freedom from sin would make much more sense to them. They might just get it.
‘Sin’, of course, is another word which needs careful explaining, and the best definition I have heard is that ‘sin is the act of trying to build an identity on anything other than Jesus’ (Keller). Everyone has done that, in different ways, and so everyone could do with hearing the Good News, as clearly as possible.
The Gospel really is good news. For everyone.
Our job is to help people to see how this is true, for them. We just need to spend a little more time preparing and practising what we are going to tell people, and crafting the messages that we bring them. What happens when we do this may surprise us all.
This blog contains the eighth principle taught to all new congregation leaders in the Joshua Centre’s Leadership Development Program (within the theme: ‘Lead A Mission’).